“National Parks will always be fundamental to landscape conservation, but very few are created in Australia these days. Innovative Trust arrangements, bespoke for the local or regional needs, are becoming more common”.
Conservation costs money. From routine land management practices that provide safe places for community to restoration and reintroduction of missing species and to research and monitoring – it all requires financial support. The original model for conservation was, aligned with the definition of the term, to create a National Park and have it managed by a government agency.
The rate of formal State-managed National Park creation has slowed appreciably in the last decade, as other conservation instruments or approaches have been used to secure similar outcomes. The variety of common models for maintaining and improving high quality environmental assets, now includes:
Before we lament cuts to individual programs in the Australian Government’s environment portfolio – let’s put it all into perspective…
According to the Commission of Audit (CoA) (for 2012/13) the Environment Department’s portfolio is approximately 11% of the size of the Department of Defence. To put this in perspective, I scaled the cool constellation infographics the CoA used to show the relative investments in these portfolios the Australian community is making.
The Environment portfolio is the constellation to the left, within a green dotted circle, so you don’t miss it…
“expenditure on programs to restore the landscape shouldn’t be accounted as an ‘expense’, these costs should be capitalised, recognising they are investments in the Australian landscape asset that will harvest returns for generations”
Australia is an ancient continent. After tens-of-thousands of years of indigenous use of the already-old land, we decided to ramp up our impacts…
In pursuit of agricultural development, for the expansion of the national economy, we cleared the land of its native ecosystems and processes and tried to impart a Euro-centric farming system. We used the full suite of policy levers available to effectively clear the land…
- We used “direct action” – paying people to ring-bark and clear trees.
- We used “incentives” – by providing landholders tax-deductions for clearing native vegetation (as late as the early 1980’s these were still available).
- We used “regulatory instruments” – when people took up leases over land they were required to ‘develop’ their blocks (clear more native vegetation).
We did a great job too…
Drawing inspiration from averting an ‘extinction crisis’ in Australia is not easy – especially when the crises never seems averted. New leadership and evolving science are underpinning a wave of optimism spawned from successful species reintroduction programs around the country.
Yes, Australia has had a very poor rate of extinction over the last 200 years, but the current rate, since the 1980’s for example, is not what it once was (e.g. the Australian Government reported three species were declared extinct from 2000-2009). Of course all extinctions are irreprehensible – and proactive investment in, and management of, biodiversity is required to keep the rate down and ideally eliminate the prospect of extinction.
Living with lowered expectations
If you moved to Canberra in the early 1900’s you could expect Bettongs in your backyard. Before broadscale grazing and agricultural development we could pick native Australian daisies instead of European flatweeds and dandelions in regional towns. Bandicoots were once common in Sydney backyards. If you were a kid growing up on the farm in NSW in 1800’s Pygmy Perch probably provided an easy-caught baitfish for bigger native perch! Our baseline of expectation has been reduced by the lower level of quality of landscape that we now broadly experience.
A novel and exciting future…
Landcare is celebrating it’s twenty-fifth birthday this year. But what is Landcare today?
For a background on the development of Landcare, this publication is great, it highlights the organic development of the Landcare movement, especially the individuals and groups involved.
If you want to engage in Landcare, who do you talk to?
The Green Army could play a vital role re-engaging the Australian community in their landscape…
When the billion dollar biodiversity fund was announced earlier this decade it was, in parts, derided as another “missed opportunity”. Within a few short years about half of that billion dollars evaporated.
With the clarity of hindsight we now recognise the real missed opportunity – not the targeting of those investments per se – but rather failing to secure half a billion dollars for biodiversity management. When programs are not welcomed by key constituents, and then don’t have a particularly high public profile, it is much easier to make a decision to terminate a program.
Environmental programs come in different shapes and sizes, with different priorities. No single program will fix all of our environmental challenges in Australia. So what good could come of a modern-day Green Army?