Natural Heritage - Journal of the Natural Heritage Trust
Issue No. 33, Winter 2007
A joint publication with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
- Natural Heritage - Journal of the Natural Heritage Trust No. 33, Winter 2007 (PDF - 2.4 MB) | Need another format? Contact us
About the document
Known as Australia's natural safety net, this network of protected areas conserves examples of Australia's unique landscapes, plants and animals for future generations, and has an estimated ecological worth of more than a trillion dollars.
The National Reserve System (NRS) is an important conservation partnership between all levels of government, Indigenous landowners, farmers, and community and conservation groups.
With Australian Government support, partners have added more than 7 million hectares to the NRS since 1997, ranging from new national parks to private reserves managed by conservation non-profits and parts of private land protected under perpetual conservation covenants. There are also 23 Indigenous Protected Areas covering more than 18 million hectares. The ultimate goal is to protect examples of each of Australia's 85 bioregions, the scientific framework for conserving our rich variety of ecosystems.
The NRS is providing an essential service to future generations, helping to maintain the atmosphere, provide clean water, protect against floods, control soil erosion, pollution and pests and pollinate plants. CSIRO estimates these ecosystem services to be worth around $1,327 billion a year.
Since 1997, the Australian Government has invested almost $80 million to build up the nation's system of protected areas through its National Reserve System Programme. In most cases, the program provides funding to help partner organisations buy land with high conservation value, which the partner owns and manages for conservation. However, some of Australia's most valuable habitats occur on land which isn't for sale, so the program also supports private landholders like farmers to sign perpetual conservation covenants, where they agree to conserve key parts of their working properties.
The funding comes from the Natural Heritage Trust (the Trust). As the biggest financial commitment to environmental action in Australia's history, the Trust plays an important role in protecting and enhancing Australia's unique biodiversity, the viability of rural and regional communities and the future of agriculture.
The National Reserve System Programme, Bushcare, Landcare, Rivercare, Coastcare, the Endangered Species Programme and the Murray Darling Basin 2001 initiative are well integrated within the Trust. This ensures that a whole-of-landscape approach to conservation can be implemented, maximising on-ground outcomes.
Reserves like Ned's Corner Station in Victoria's Mallee region are hubs of natural resource management activity, providing a focus for community engagement. Many are managed in line with their regional body's natural resource management plan and bring together Landcare and community volunteers to manage their local landscape.
The National Reserve System Program gives priority to protecting the most vulnerable ecosystems, and scientific studies determine the gaps that need to be filled to protect a comprehensive spread of habitats. With symptoms of climate change already appearing, care is being taken to prioritise regions that are most under threat from global warming.
The program has proved to be an extremely cost-effective investment. Every dollar the Australian Government spends to establish a new reserve leverages extra investment from partners like conservation groups and State and Territory agencies. But the investment doesn't end there - each reserve is owned and managed by a partner organisation that commits resources to care for its special landscapes into the future. Add to this the thousands of unpaid volunteers who get their hands dirty planting trees and monitoring wildlife and water quality on reserves, and the collaborative spirit of the National Reserve System Programme is clear.
From local environmental groups to national conservation organisations, Australians are working through the National Reserve System to identify and preserve areas of significance, so future generations can access the richness of the country's natural and cultural heritage.