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Tasmanian Midlands landscape. By Amelia Caddy
Tasmanian Midlands landscape. By Amelia Caddy

Natural capital in agriculture

We work with farmers and other landholders to deliver landscape-scale conservation outcomes beyond our reserves' boundaries.

Published 25 Aug 2023

Growing a plan

The way we grow food and fibre has a significant impact on biodiversity – both positive and negative. Agricultural land accounts for over 58% of Australia. These lands contain species and habitats that might not exist on public lands or within the boundaries of dedicated conservation reserves.

Collaboration with farmers and pastoral corporations helps to ensure these important habitats are managed sustainably for production and ecological outcomes. Bush Heritage has been active in the agricultural sector for some time.

This work began in 2011, when we partnered with the Tasmanian Land Conservancy to support landholders in the Tasmanian Midlands. A collaboration now known as the Midlands Conservation Partnership that protects approximately 7500 hectares of threatened native grasslands and woodlands.

And as the need to conserve Australia’s biodiversity becomes more urgent, Bush Heritage has resolved to expand the scope of our work in this space.

Embedded in our 2030 Strategy is a goal to enhance biodiversity across 10 million hectares of agricultural land, and, in doing so, help foster more sustainable and resilient production systems.

Importantly, this work will be fully funded by contributions from the farmers, corporations, governments and landholders with whom we work.

In 2022, Bush Heritage developed a strategy for how we will achieve our 10-million hectare goal by focussing on five key areas. The first of these are partnerships with pastoral corporations on large-scale properties, such as Bush Heritage’s partnership with Hewitt on Napperby Station in the Northern Territory, and with AACo on Headingly Station in central Queensland.

We are also building a select network of partnerships on smaller-scale family farms in more fragmented landscapes which includes our work in the Midlands of Tasmania. This is our second focus area and both help to improve landscape health and productivity.

Senior Ecologist Dr Matt Appleby and Midlands farmer John Atkinson inspect a remnant bush in the Midlands. By Amelia Caddy

Thirdly, natural capital accounting – whereby natural assets including everything from soil to water quality, fauna and flora are accounted for over time according to their natural value – will be another focus area.

Our fourth focus area sees Bush Heritage supporting carbon developers to help optimise carbon projects for biodiversity as well as carbon outcomes.

And finally, we will value the natural capital on our own reserves, and undertake carbon sequestration projects to develop diversified and sustainable income streams to fund our enduring work to achieve healthy Country protected forever. Examples of this include the revegetation of Ediegarrup Reserve, on Noongar Country in Western Australia, and the harvesting of native grass seeds on Carnarvon Station Reserve, Bidjara Country in Queensland, to help restore threatened native grasslands throughout the state.

“If we can improve the baseline condition of all agricultural properties, we’ll improve the sustainability of our food and of the clothes we’re wearing, and we’ll provide greater resilience to the protected areas that already exist."
Angela Hawdon, Bush Heritage Business Development and Strategic Projects Manager.

Lessons from the Midlands

It is night in the Tasmanian Midlands, palawa Country, as a Spotted-tail Quoll emerges from a hollow log to hunt and an Eastern Bettong ducks between grass tussocks where sheep lie sleeping. Their habitat and home are kept safe, supported by a partnership between landholders, the Tasmanian Land Conservancy (TLC) and Bush Heritage.

The collaboration was initiated over a decade ago by three farmers who cared deeply for this part of the world and understood the importance of having healthy natural systems to support their operations. Since its inception, the partnership has flourished and proven a successful alliance.

“The monitoring is showing that we are heading in the right direction. And that feeds back to the landholders, so they’re better able to manage the areas of land that they have under these agreements."
Dr Matt Appleby, Bush Heritage Senior Ecologist.

The Midlands Conservation Partnership gives farmers the opportunity to receive reliable income, in the form of stewardship payments, in return for management that protects and restores the Midland’s woodlands and grassy lower plains.

Tasmanian Midlands farmers discuss conservation. By James Hatta, Tasmanian Land Conservancy

Working alongside Bush Heritage ecologists, farmers use a combination of rotational grazing, fencing, weed and feral animal control to conserve approximately 7500 hectares of land.

Pierre Defourny from TLC is the Midlands Conservation Partnership Coordinator,  “Although 11 years ago it would have seemed odd to have partnerships with farmers, this program has shown we can work together to achieve conservation outcomes. We all care about the Midlands and our partnership allows us to increase our resilience to climate change and protect our native species.”

Bush Heritage gratefully acknowledges the support for the Midlands Conservation Partnership from the Sidney Myer Fund, the Myer Foundation, the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, the John T Reid Charitable Trust, the Elsie Cameron Foundation, the Thomas Foundation and a number of private supporters.

A station with a vision

In August last year, Bush Heritage Senior Ecologist Dr Matt Appelby carried out a five-day ecological monitoring survey at Napperby Station. Napperby, on Anmatyerr and Arrernte Country, is as varied as it is wide – within its 550,000 hectares are melaleuca and samphire shrublands, spinifex country, open mulga plains striking ranges and Lake Lewis, one of the few large ephemeral lakes in the Northern Territory.

Bush Heritage Senior Ecologist Dr Matt Appleby and botanist Andrew Schubert complete ecological monitoring at Napperby Station, Anmatyerr and Arrernte Country, NT. By Nick Mogford

It’s not just the landscape that varies. Station owner Hewitt sees Napperby as a place where cattle can roam and, with Bush Heritage’s help, biodiversity can thrive. Early in 2022, the leading agriculture company approached Bush Heritage to find out how the two organisations might contribute to each other’s goals.

“Over 58% of the country’s landscapes contribute to food production. If we can find ways to improve the health of those landscapes, then that’s a great step forward for native flora and fauna."
Nick Mogford, Bush Heritage Executive Manager Strategy & Growth.

One of the first outcomes from the beginnings of this promising partnership was the pilot project conducted at Napperby Station by Matt and local flora and fauna experts. Bush Heritage has begun work to monitor and plan for the delivery of best-practice environmental management and ecological services at Napperby where approximately 8000 cattle graze.

Restoring Ediegarrup

Western Australia’s south-west corner is a globally renowned biodiversity hotspot where millions of years of geological stability have resulted in the evolution of thousands of unique plant and animal species. 

In early 2022, the protection of these species was bolstered with the purchase of Bush Heritage’s fifth reserve in the area, the 1067-hectare Ediegarrup Reserve, on Koreng Noongar Country.

Over the past 12 months, our staff – in collaboration with Greening Australia – have developed plans to revegetate more than 600 hectares of cleared land on Ediegarrup. The restoration work will double the amount of habitat on the reserve for species such as Malleefowl, Tammar and Black-gloved Wallabies, and the nationally threatened Carnaby’s Black-cockatoo

Working closely with the Nowanup Noongar Boodjar Ltd., we will apply lessons learnt from the highly successful restoration of the nearby Monjebup Reserve to recreate, as close as possible, the complex mix of native species that once existed on Ediegarrup.

Over the coming three years, at least 150 native plant species will be either directly seeded or planted as seedlings on the reserve. As the plants grow, rock and log structures will be installed throughout the landscape to encourage native animals to move back in.

Ediegarrup Reserve on Koreng Noongar Country, WA. By Alex Hams

It’s expected the project will sequester approximately 85,000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, the equivalent of taking 80,000 cars off the road over the project's lifetime.

“The revegetation at Ediegarrup, on Koreng Noongar Country, is important to create connectivity between Bush Heritage’s Red Moort Reserve and other large bushland areas nearby,”
says Alex Hams, Bush Heritage Healthy Landscapes Manager WA.

The restoration plan for Ediegarrup Reserve was developed thanks to the generous support of Peter and Maxine Wilshaw.

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