Engaging communities to protect and care for nature: Privately protected areas in Australia.
There are many reasons why we should conserve nature. The pragmatic perspective would argue that we should protect nature because it provisions ecosystems services. Others argue that we should protect nature for the sake of nature, whilst some say we should protect nature to safeguard our relationship with nature. There are also a large proportion of people that just don’t highly value nature; at least not directly. There’s no denying that climate change is real (I’m looking at you Trump) and much of the world’s ecosystems and species are being lost at alarming rates. Many of these ecosystems are currently not captured within the national or global protected area systems which poses a problem for the ecosystem services they provide and the species they protect. There is growing pressure on public systems to grow and reach international targets. The parallel increase in engagement of the private sector has meant that privately protected areas have been propelled into the forefront of this land protection effort.
Privately protected areas are one of the ‘other effective area-based conservation measures’ used for complimentary or alternative landscape level protection to publicly or indigenous owned protected areas. With most of the land in Australia being under private land tenure, questions are raised surrounding how important these areas are for conservation. Privately protected areas are particularly effective in mitigating threats in highly modified landscapes, and to safeguard threatened species and ecosystems that rely solely on private properties to persist (e.g. night parrot, black-throated finch, yakka skink, red goshawk). These programs can be used as a pathway to increase conservation on private land, increase the protected areas within the national network as well as increase the conservation ethic within the community.
Focusing solely on public protected areas to conserve all of Australia’s species and ecosystems is unrealistic, and the need for privately protected areas is becoming more and more apparent. Understanding how these difference governance systems can be more coordinated, and what aspects of conservation privately protected areas are particularly effective at is important not only from an ecological perspective but also a policy perspective. My thesis aims to research conservation strategies such as privately protected areas to identify how traditional and alternative land protection strategies can be coordinated to achieve positive conservation outcomes. Alternative land protection strategies have many benefits that compliment traditional land protection. Engaging more people in conservation and tailoring conservation strategies to align with peoples’ needs is an important step to kerb the conservation crisis. Upscaling novel conservation actions and increasing the spread and the adoption actions are particularly important in areas under high degrees of threat.
This week the ALCA is holding their annual private land conservation conference in Melbourne (23th-25th November), boasting almost 250 attendees! The Australian Land Conservation Alliance (ALCA) is a network of NGOs and land conservation organisations that all operate under the collective goal to protected and restore nature. I am excited to be a part of this conferences as it is very relevant to my PhD work and I highly value the role of conservation and environmental management on private land engaging and empowering landowners and communities.
Photo credit Naomi Walters captured at the Mornington property owned and managed by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.