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Private Land Conservation Forum 2015: Fertile Ground for Collaboration

By Debbie Ashbolt (John T Reid Charitable Trusts)

The Australian Landscape Conservation Alliance was set up following an initial seed grant from the Trawalla Foundation to scope out the concept. The John T Reid Charitable Trusts provided a recent grant that enabled the first landscape conservation conference to be held in Australia. Amanda Martin (AEGN) attended the conference and hopes to lead a group of funders to the next one in December 2016. The following article by Debbie Ashbolt, Executive Officer of the John T Reid Charitable Trusts, explains how this funding came about and the subsequent results.

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Established in 2011, the Australian Land Conservation Alliance (ALCA) exists to promote and support the conservation of private land. Private landholders manage 77% of Australia’s land area, including ecological areas of critical importance, so the potential for far-reaching conservation achievements is significant.

ALCA represents the vast majority of landowners engaged in permanent private land conservation in Australia, bringing together:

  • The Nature Conservancy (TNC); and
  • Australia’s State level land trusts: Tasmanian Land Conservancy; Trust for Nature (Victoria); Queensland Trust for Nature; Nature Conservation Trust of NSW; Nature Foundation SA; and National Trust of Australia WA.

In December 2015, 150 delegates with an interest in private land conservation from across Australia gathered at La Trobe University’s Bundoora campus for the inaugural Private Land Conservation Forum. The Forum, hosted by Trust for Nature and organised by ALCA, aimed to build a network of people and organisations pursuing private land conservation country-wide and to share practice.

The John T Reid Charitable Trusts provided a grant of $50,000 through the Tasmanian Land Conservancy to enable this Forum to occur. This grant, together with contributions from the other state land trusts, The Nature Conservancy and in-kind support, enabled Alliance members to:

  • build on the momentum that had been created to date;
  • maintain and build upon the network of organisations working on private land conservation already established by the Alliance; and
  • support a forum to initiate a regular dialogue with other conservation organisations involved with private land conservation around Australia.

The gathering of ALCA along with other private land conservation NGOs, landholders, Commonwealth and State Government agency representatives, entrepreneurs and researchers in Melbourne was a sure sign of the momentum building within the private conservation movement in Australia and across the globe. The conference harnessed the energy and expertise within the sector, with the aim of joining forces to secure policy and legislative changes, boosting the capacity for private land protection.

One example of how a collaboration of private land conservation groups has made real progress can be seen in the Land Trust Alliance in the United States. This network brings together 1100-member land trusts, and advocates for policies and incentives that result in the protection of millions of hectares every year.

A private land conservation network in Australia would adopt a similar model. The collective voice would pursue better national conservation policies. This may involve such things as positive taxation changes allowing landholders who undertake conservation actions to deduct the expenses incurred (such as fencing), or gifting land for management to an organisation. The network would also promote the community, economic and cultural benefits of private land conservation.

Jane Hutchinson, Chief Executive Officer of the Tasmanian Land Conservancy, described the enthusiasm in the room. “The time is so right to build this network and to continue sharing conservation practice through an annual conference”, Ms Hutchinson said. “One hundred per cent of delegates said they want it to continue and wish to attend the next Forum in 2016. There is fertile ground for a strong, effective collaboration of private land conservers”.

The Trustees of the John T Reid Charitable Trusts were very impressed with the outcomes of this Forum and would encourage AEGN members to consider supporting the 2016 Forum.