Partnerships for Conservation – regenerating the wheatbelt and rangelands

The Opportunity

Western Australia’s unique wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth, but the future of many species is in question. While the list of endangered species in WA grows, climate change is adding further pressure to already stressed ecosystems. Unlocking the potential of partnerships, community, First Nations ecological knowledge, and cultural land management could hold the key to reversing this trend.

In a changing climate, the future of our wildlife and the health of our communities will increasingly depend on managing biodiversity and restoring ecosystem connectivity at a landscape scale, across different land tenures, and in a way that engages communities and Traditional Owners employing citizen science and Indigenous ecological knowledge.

Much of Western Australia’s remaining wildlife habitat exists on private and leasehold land. Large areas of this land are degraded and have declining agricultural productivity due to soil and wind erosion, loss of topsoil and declining rainfall. Weeds and feral animals cause further damage to the natural and cultural values of these areas. Currently, many landholders lack the resources, knowledge or support needed to restore and manage these areas.

First Nations peoples are increasingly being called upon to provide knowledge and expertise for land management. However, resources are rarely available to support this. Partnerships and resources to support landholders and communities to work together in partnership will be essential.

Conservation partnerships are not just about nature and wildlife. These programs can play an important role in supporting and revitalising regional communities, generating pride in cultural knowledge, and assisting farmers, landholders and Traditional Owners to adopt sustainable, diversified and regenerative approaches to land management.

When combined with carbon farming and regenerative agricultural practices, conservation partnerships can be transformative for landholders and regional communities by supporting a transition to sustainable agriculture, reconciliation, land restoration, and biodiversity conservation in a changing climate.

A partnership approach that engages local communities, Traditional Owners, landholders and others in co-management and regeneration programs on farms and pastoral leases can provide substantial social and economic benefits.

  • First Nations people are able to access traditional lands and practice and share cultural knowledge
  • Landholders see improvements to soil health and productivity, improved mental health and increased connection with local communities.
  • Youth, unemployed people and volunteers in local communities gain transferrable skills, knowledge and connection to country and community.

This package would deliver significant outcomes for conservation, communities and culture by providing stewardship payments and other incentives and support for landholders and support for Traditional Owners and community organisations to manage and restore conservation values.

Stewardship payments are proven to be effective in supporting critical management activities like:

  • Protecting sensitive natural areas by building stock fences;
  • Feral animal tracking, eradication and installing feral-proof fencing;
  • Protecting and restoring high conservation value habitats, including creeks, rivers and wetlands; and
  • Developing and implementing ecologically sustainable property management plans

There is great potential, through this package for:

  • Reconnection and restoration across farms
  • Repopulation of species
  • A transition to regenerative agriculture

Other support and landholders could be provided through reductions in land taxes, rates and other costs associated with land management practises which improve biodiversity.

Landholders in the WA Wheatbelt and southwest also have a critical role to play in wildlife and nature conservation. The Gondwana Link project is an example of connected-up land management across different tenures and landholdings in partnership with landholders and communities.

Landholders with remnant woodlands and biodiversity on their farms are excited by the prospect of bringing back wildlife species and ensuring the resilience of ecological landscapes in the face of changing climate. The Gondwana Link project is an example of connected upland management across different tenures and landholdings in partnership with landholders and communities.

 

Many landholders with remnant woodlands and biodiversity on their farms are excited by the prospect of bringing back wildlife species and ensuring the resilience of ecological landscapes in the face of changing climate.

 

Measuring and monitoring ecological condition is critical to understanding how ecosystems are changing and essential to the development of adaptive management practices that are responsive to these changes. While gathering this information is of great public value, the limited government-led monitoring programs are unable to fulfil this need. Instead, this proposal engages a community-based Citizen Science network, which builds community connection and understanding of ecological systems and engages volunteers and communities in a crowd-sourced approach to ecological monitoring and knowledge collection.

 

The Proposal

A partnership scheme will deliver the best results where a diversity of stakeholders are supported to participate in meaningful ways.

The key elements of this proposal are:

  • Introduce a stewardship and support scheme for landowners to undertake conservation and land management efforts, with payments, support and incentives connected to covenants and monitoring commitments that are secured for the long term. Private sector investment can be leveraged from mining and other industries to contribute to this scheme, either voluntarily or through enforceable conditions or offsets.
  • Provide funding and support to Land Councils and Native Title groups to:
    • Facilitate and resource the involvement of Traditional Owners and Aboriginal communities in conservation partnerships by employing Indigenous Conservation Coordinators
    • Develop and document Indigenous ecological knowledge to assist with planning and delivering conservation and restoration projects and partnerships.
    • Leverage existing programs including Aboriginal Rangers,
  • Support the WA Landcare Network, NRM Councils and community conservation groups to employ local Landcare Coordinators to:
    • Engage landholders and facilitate partnerships
    • Support landholders to access stewardship payments
    • Assist with the development of conservation management plans
    • Develop capacity through landcare conservation traineeships.
    • Aboriginal ranger projects and landcare coordinated delivering jobs through traineeships.
  • Support the Conservation Council’s Citizen Science for ecological monitoring program to establish a community-based statewide ecological monitoring network to provide a baseline and ongoing monitoring for conservation partnership projects with $1m funding.
  • Funding for principles of delivery

Jobs and Benefits

This initiative is estimated to create at least 200 jobs. However, with additional resources leveraged from the private sector, landholders and other partners as well as Commonwealth government, carbon farming revenue and other income streams, the employment generation is likely to be far greater.

Case Study: Queensland’s Nature Reserve Program and North Head Station

Queensland’s hugely successful ‘Nature Reserve Program’ provides a demonstration of the impact that can be achieved through conservation partnerships with landowners. The program has secured 500 nature refuges for an investment of just $4 million, translating to just 25 cents per hectare. Three of the largest nature refuges are on pastoral stations and protect more than 728,000 hectares of tropical savanna, woodlands and native grasslands

What would it cost?

Clean State recommends that this initiative is funded through a new Climate Emergency Services Levy (CESL) imposed on WA’s largest carbon polluters at a level proportionate to the pollution they release.  Applying this at the rate of $1.50 per tonne of carbon pollution to emitters over 100,000 tonnes per annum would raise around $50 million per year which would be sufficient to pay for a major overhaul and upgrade of emergency services capacity including the initiatives proposed above, and cover the ongoing costs of maintaining and operating the expanded systems

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