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Posts from the ‘leadership’ Category

Keeping the bush in ‘Bush Capital’

Canberra Nature Park puts the bush in ‘Bush Capital’. More than 20,000 Canberra houses are within 250 m of this bushland  matrix, which includes nationally and regionally threatened and, now, previously extinct species.

Formally, the Canberra Nature Park protects 36 discrete nature reserves and covers approximately 6,000 hectares in and around urban Canberra. The close proximity of the Canberra community provides recreational, education and nature-based inspirational opportunities. But all of that comes with costs and impacts, these have been managed by the ACT Parks and Conservation Service, who recently celebrated 30 years of service to the Australian community.

Importantly, in the national capital, the Canberra Nature Park comes with additional baggage – it has the weighted responsibility of being the ‘front-of-house’ of biodiversity conservation for national policy makers and those that control the weightiest of purse-strings in Australian environmental investment.

Regardless of whether you think it is in as good-a-nick as it could be, I have been thinking lately about what it would be like if it wasn’t proactively managed by the Parks and Conservation Service.

And I keep thinking that it would be like the patch of scrub at the end of the road when I was a kid…

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Innovation and the ‘normal no’

there is a need to identify innovative models for ensuring protected area success; in other words, to encourage the wider community to take collective responsibility for protected areas’ (in the pre-eminent “Nature” this week – Watson et al 2014).

Presumably the publication of this article is designed to coincide with the World Parks Congress in Sydney. See the full passage copied in the image on the right.Nature Article Excerpt

This gold-plated publication has reinforced and confirmed my observations of, and concerns regarding, the institutional arrangements responsible for biodiversity conservation over the last 20 years of my professional interest, and longer, for my personal interest (in NSW, QLD and the ACT).

A couple of weeks ago, we published this for the Friends of Grasslands Forum, and presented it at Mulligans Flat during that forum. I seek to highlight the practical challenges facing leaders needing to develop innovative approaches to tired problems…

Innovation and the “normal no”

As the biodiversity crisis fails to abate, it is clear we need to reconsider historic approaches and try new ways of fixing tired problems. We don’t need innovation for the sake of innovation, we need innovation to make gains with dwindling resources. We need to do more, more effectively, with less… Read more

A Night on the Town at Mulligans Flat

“The explosion of the bettong leaving the bag and bounding back to nature provides a mixture of relief and amazement”

Last night I had the pleasure of being part of the Mulligans Flat – Goorooyarroo Woodlands Experiment; an internationally significant research program seeking to experimentally rebuild an ecosystem, with a focus on reintroducing each of the faunal components of the trophic system (and examining the flow-on, restorative ecosystem engineer affects).

I was merely a scribe in part of an annual monitoring program for the reintroduction of the Eastern Bettong to mainland Australia – but what a fantastic experience…  Read more

Turn a science degree into a license to make a difference

When discussing my career choice recently I was reflecting with friends how a whole generation of young Australians wanted to be marine biologists. I think it had something to do with Alby Mangles, Harry Butler and the Leyland Bros snorkeling together on the Great Barrier Reef, or Totally Wild. I got as far as choosing between terrestrial ecology and marine ecology for my honours thesis, and I chose terrestrial ecology because I liked scuba diving too much to make it my job…[more on that later]

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Looking forward for the National Landcare Program

So, an Australian Environment and Communications Senate Standing Committee is examining the “history, effectiveness, performance and future of the National Landcare Program”…

Looking backwards

There is a fair bit of material to draw upon about the history, effectiveness and performance of the Landcare program. There have been reviews previously, including by the Australian National Audit Office (it wasn’t pretty), other Senate Committees, the Departments themselves and the occasional think-piece from academia and stakeholders. Of course there will be the necessary attempts to understand the tangled nature of the Landcare movement, where the money has gone, and what has been achieved. This reflection is important, very important, but only really important as an enabler to help shape a positive future for the Australian landscape – its biodiversity and its people.

Previous reports have hinted at the need for further work in developing our approach to landscape investment

Previous reports have hinted at the need for further work in developing our approach to landscape investment

So what of the future? This is the bit where vision and leadership is required – and who better to help forge that vision than those elected to represent the States and Territories of our federated nation.

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Focusing on the bottom line to improve landscape health

We need a better business case for landscape repair…

The Australian landscape we were handed has much room for improvement; from aesthetic, biodiversity and production perspectives. Much of the work to be done needs a partnership approach between landholders – mostly primary producer businesses – and investors – mostly government agencies investing for public good.

In packaging landscape improvement opportunities we need to consider the investor audience, which given the scale of investment required, and shared equity in returns, there are really only two options to do this efficiently – government and large private landholders or institutional investors. To connect with these audiences effectively we need to use their language and decision making frameworks.

If we view the landscape as ‘green infrastructure’ requiring investment and maintenance like any asset, and package investment opportunities in a ‘business case’ framework, we may be better-placed to connect with decision makers. A further ‘small-p’ political consideration is needed when packaging the investment opportunity for governments and institutional investors – it needs to attractive to them and their constituents – voters and shareholders respectively.

How do we make that happen?

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Trusting Conservation Partnerships

“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:

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Some Cuts and Some Security – the Environment Budget

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…

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Landscape Repair – Who Should Pay?

“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…

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Species Reintroductions Provide Inspiration

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…

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