Farmers, landholders and conservation groups have come together to call for increased government investment to support landholders who choose to permanently set aside parts of their land for nature.
Our Natural Legacy brings together a growing broad coalition of individuals and organisations, led by the Australian Land Conservation Alliance (ALCA). They are calling on federal and state governments to increase investment to support landholders with a target to protect 5 per cent of privately owned and managed land by 2030, up from 2 per cent currently.
Jody Gunn, CEO of ALCA acknowledges the significant work already being done by individuals and organisations.
“Across the country there are already tens of thousands of landholders who have chosen to make space for nature – voluntarily committing to permanently protect wildlife habitat and iconic natural places on our land,” Dr Gunn said.
“These people are proud to protect and manage these precious places. They want to play their part in ensuring the survival of threatened native species and the health of our rivers, forests and farmland, for the benefit of all Australians.”
Landholders like Drew Gailey from Victoria are enthusiastic about the benefits of voluntary permanent protection.
“Here in Victoria, we have less than 1 per cent of native grasslands left. These grasslands are often home to a great number of plants and animals – it’s possible to find more than 25 species in a square metre,” Mr Gailey said.
To help support the existing wildlife and restore biodiversity within the grasslands, Drew is collecting seeds and planting endangered species.
“Protecting what’s left of these once abundant grasslands has never been more important. Species such as the critically endangered Golden Sun Moth survive on a specific type of grass found in the native grasslands – today many of these ecosystems are fragmented and isolated.”
“By placing a conservation covenant on this land, we’re still able to graze cattle and use the land but it means the area is protected for nature – even if the land is sold. Knowing that it will be protected into the future gives me confidence that this unique environment will survive,” he said.
Pew Charitable Trusts National Director Michelle Grady said that more than 60 per cent of land in Australia is privately owned or managed but less than 2 per cent of this is currently protected.
“Support for greater voluntary conservation efforts by landholders is an essential part of securing the future of our wildlife,” Ms Grady said.
“We all want to ensure Australia’s unique animals, birds and plants survive and thrive, but their future is threatened by feral animals and weeds, fire, climate change and loss of vital habitat. Growing the network of those individuals and organisations that volunteer to permanently protected land is a vital step towards addressing these threats.”
“With greater investment and support, we can build on the practical hard work of thousands of passionate and dedicated people who have a direct connection to their land and want to ensure its protection. Together we can increase the amount of privately owned land that is permanently protected,” said Ms Grady.
Investing in permanently protected private land enables landholders to diversify their income, fosters practical land management, creates local employment and supports the long-term productivity and resilience of Australia’s thriving rural landscapes.
Landholders and organisations are also exploring how existing mechanisms, practices and engagements applied on lands not owned or managed by Indigenous communities can adapt to ensure stronger recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and culture in their approaches.
“Healthy ecosystems protect the essentials for life – our air, our water, our soil, and our biodiversity. Supporting landholders who make space for nature will leave a valuable legacy and ensure a healthy future for all Australians,” Dr Gunn said.