Tag Archives: support

Are National Parks enough?

Eighty years. A lifetime for us, but just a quarter of a life for a mountain blue gum – Eucalyptus deanei.  And only a fleeting moment for the Blue Gum Forest in the Blue Mountains, a community which stretches back over 30 tree lifetimes.

1932 – Building National Parks

But for a brief moment eighty years ago, the continuity of the Blue Gum Forest was threatened. What saved Blue Gum Forest eighty years ago was Do-It-Yourself conservation.

Shocked at the prospect of the forest being cleared a group of bushwalkers and conservationist came together to raise £130, more than $10,000 in today’s money, to buy the lease from local farmer Clarrie Hungerford.  All the more remarkable is that this happened in 1932 during the Great Depression.

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Eighty years on and Aboriginals, bushwalkers and conservationists came together in Blue Gum Forest to celebrate its continuity and remember those pioneers who were prepared to put their money where their conservation values were in 1932.

Eighty years. During this period the conservation efforts have focussed on the protection of large areas of public lands to build today’s conservation estate. The Blue Mountains personifies this. The sixteen hectares of Blue Gum Forests purchased in 1932 was swallowed up in the new 62,000 hectare Blue Mountains Nation Park in 1959. By 2000 more than one million hectares was declared as the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

Today nine percent of New South Wales, and thirteen percent of the nation, is protected in our national parks and reserves.

But this era of conservation is coming to a close. While battles over what can occur in the conservation estate will continue, the era of grand new national parks is drawing to a close.

The next 80 years – Conservation outside National Parks

Spending that October weekend in Blue Gum Forest provided the time to reflect on the next eighty years. What should we be doing in 2013 that would be celebrated in 2093? Maybe we also need to be looking beyond our national parks and reserves and at the landscape as a whole.

Our parks and reserves don’t exist in isolation. Increasingly our landscapes have been dissected into a patchwork of paddocks producing our food and fibre. Within this sea of agriculture sit our protected areas, increasingly isolated and vulnerable as surrounding production becomes more intensive and extensive.

If the integrity of these protected areas is to survive long-term, then conservation needs to increasingly occur across the bulk of the rural landscape managed by farmers.  We need our farmers to not only grow our food but also manage parts of their farmers for conservation. And the signs are promising.

A growing number of farmers are volunteering to put conservation covenants on their farms. In 2009 there were 4,900 conservation covenants, covering 3.6 million hectares. From Tasmania to the Northern Territory and across to Western Australia farmers have recognised the need to give nature some space in rural landscapes.  These farmers are not only producing our food but also building landscape-wide conservation required to look after nature.

But this is not something they can do on their own. They need our support, as the benefits are for all.

If you think State or Federal Governments will provide the ongoing support for landscape-wide conservation – think again. Recent cuts to Catchment Management Agencies and the biodiversity  and carbon farming initiative are part of a wider run down in the public investment in land management.

A leading ecologist, Hugh Possingham has called for a new order, where maybe more than half of all conservation of Australia’s wildlife needs to be done by individuals, not governments.  Clearly, a more sophisticated and ongoing DIY conservation approach is required.

Individuals again need to put their money where their conservation values are. This time not to buy a forest, but instead to support and encourage farmers to manage parts of their farms for conservation.

This could be to provide habitat for an endangered bird like the regent honeyeater, reduce sediment and nutrient run-off into your favourite waterway, to protect and restore bushland in a favourite walking area, maintain the landscapes aesthetic beauty and inspiration in a valley where you holiday, or to increasing carbon stored in the landscape to regulate the climate.  The gate needs to be opened to bring urban and country people together to support tomorrow’s landscapes.

Imagine eighty years on – 2093.

We have come together on a farm in Capertee Valley, west of the Blue Mountains, to celebrate and remember those who started supporting landscape-wide conservation.  The songs of the regent honeyeater can be heard as they feed along the now revegetated banks of the upper Capertee River.  Farmers, while still grazing the fertile flats, have reduced the invasive weeds, salts and sediment washing into the Colo River as it cuts through the Wollemi wilderness.  Regenerated corridors now connect the larger surrounding National Parks with remnant bush further west. This ongoing partnership between urban and rural people, started eighty years ago, now sustains both the people and landscapes where nature can flourish.

This article originally appeared on the ABC website

Conservation on Farms Survey

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This survey asks you how city and country people can come together to give nature a hand and support landscape-wide conservation. Just why we need to broaden our view of conservation is outlined below the survey and in articles on the ABC and National Geographic website and on my blog The survey will take around five minutes. If you would like the results sent to you make sure you sign up.

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Why do we need a conservation on farms?

Australia has a great parks and reserve system. But these parks and reserves don’t exist in isolation. Our landscapes have been cut up into a patchwork of paddocks to grow our food and fibre. Within this sea of agriculture sit our protected areas, increasingly isolated and vulnerable.

A move to landscape-wide conservation supported by individuals may be needed if the integrity of our parks and reserves are to survive long-term. We need our farmers to not only grow our food but also manage parts of their farms for conservation. But how can we encourage this?

If you think state or federal governments will provide the ongoing support for landscape-wide conservation, think again. Recent cuts to Catchment Management Agencies and the biodiversity and carbon farming initiative are part of a wider run down in the public investment in land management.

A leading ecologist, Hugh Possingham has called for a new order, where maybe more than half of all conservation of Australia’s wildlife needs to be done by individuals, not governments. Clearly, a more sophisticated and ongoing conservation approach is required.

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Your individual responses will be confidential (results are combined for analysis) and anonymous (no information is collected that will personally identify you). If you would like the results from the survey to be sent to you, in addition to be notified on any new articles, surveys and other activities, then head over to the sign up page.

Environment conservation, conservation on farms, landcare, support conservation, landscape conservation, farm conservation, on farm conservation, caring for country

Nature needs a hand – who’s going to give it?

Versions of this article have also appeared on the ABC’s website as “The new normal in nature” and the National Geographic Water Currents blog as A river recovering: Australia’s upper Snowy River

You could hear the roar. It reverberated between the soaring ridges of the Byadbo Wilderness in Kosciusko National Park. This was the sound of nature’s raw power as sixty thousand tonnes of water every hour crashed down the Snowy falls.

We felt vulnerable paddling the rapid above the roaring falls. Eight willow warriors, a voluntary adventure conservation group, setting out along a remote section of the upper Snowy River. It was easy to feel insignificant, and almost arrogant to believe our impact on nature was such that it needed a hand. For this was wilderness and weren’t we vulnerable and rare guests?

The “new” Snowy River tells us a lot about how our relationship with nature is changing. While nature is still ultimately in control, people increasingly manage that which we previously left to nature.

The Snowy River, once so big, irrepressible and powerful, virtually dried up overnight, after the Jindabyne dam was completed in 1968. The decision to take all of the water from the upper reaches of the Snowy River, is a decision from a different era. This was the Snowy Hydro scheme – nation building and taming nature was the mantra.

So began a battle over the next three decades. What began as an obsession for a few locals along the Snowy River, became a broader alliance, and ultimately cajoled New South Wales, Victoria and Commonwealth Governments to restore a fifth of the flow to the upper Snowy River.

After ten years of increasing environmental flows and riparian restoration, all that was needed was the drought to break. Finally flooding rains came producing a sizable natural flood and allowing greater environmental flows. Paddling on the back of these flows, our task was to help map and poison the remaining invasive willows in the more remote sections of the Snowy River.

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Being one of the few groups to paddle this section of the Snowy River in over fifty years added to the anticipation. And of course there was the mystique of the landscape through which the river passes. For the Ngarigo people Joona Mar Djumba was a giant spiritual area, more recently the Man from Snowy River imprinted the area on the national psyche, and local names like Wild Women Ridge and Devils Hole Creek makes you wonder what inspired such names.

What we found in autumn 2012 was a river starting to recover. The recent flushing flows had started to reshape the river bed. Below the Snowy falls, piles of dead trees, mainly willows, wrenched from the main channel by the river had been dumped high on the banks. A reminder of the power of the river.

One of the joys of being on a river is the wildlife. A highlight was catching a glimpse of a platypus surfacing for air and following their bubble trails as they foraged on the bottom. A promising sign. However, it is clear that the river and its catchment will require continued help.

The Snowy River is a new river. One entirely dependent on us – when it flows, by how much and even the water temperature. All determined by when the gates at Jindabyne dam are opened – by us. Whether the new Snowy River becomes a functioning and healthy river system is now in our hands.

The need to manage the Snowy River to try and mimic nature is not unique. Across this land and its waters, people increasingly manage that which we previously left to nature. Deciding when rivers flow, when bush burns, where animals wander, what grows across entire landscapes, and what is in the air. Our impact is everywhere.

The Snowy River personifies our rapid transition from inhabitants of a natural world to managers of complete landscapes. A hundred years ago the Snowy River, and the plants and animals dependant on it, followed the natural cycles. Now we control the water, struggle to manage our impact on the catchment, and are in the early stages of replicate the natural cycles with all their complexity.

Our challenge is to acknowledge and quickly come to terms with this new responsibility. For while we play an increasing role in managing landscapes, we are still dependent on nature to deliver the life supporting and nourishing benefits to all. New ways of supporting those managing our public and private landscapes are required, so that nature can continue to flourish.

Nature needs a hand. Increasingly our communities and individuals will need to give it as governments struggle. People power is required as conservation must spill out of our parks and reserves and into the surrounding privately managed landscapes. A new way is needed to connect city and country people to support tomorrow’s landscapes, through volunteering, and increasingly by financially supporting conservation. If we are to rise to this challenge, we must first acknowledge our new role in a human-altered environment.

Kelvin Montagu has worked as an agricultural scientist, forest labourer, knowledge manager and gardener, and recently started ecoXchange to try new practical ways of connecting city and country people to support tomorrow’s landscapes.


The author wishes to acknowledge the help from the following people:

Sara Phillips, ABC environment editor;
Annette Macrae, for discussions and proof reading;
Jeff Cottrell, chair of Willow Warriors and Snowy River leader;
Danny Henderson, Snowy River Rehabilitation Project, Southern Rivers CMA
Simon Williams, Aquatic scientist with the New South Wales Office of Water

Further background can be obtained from “Snowy River Story the grassroots campaign to save a national icon.” by Claire Miller, 2005.