Landholder perceptions of remnant vegetation on private land in the Box-Ironbark region of northern Victoria
S.D. Hamilton, P.D. Dettmann and A.L. Curtis -
Dookie College, Institute of Land and Food Resources
University of Melbourne
Environment Australia, 1999
ISBN 0 6425 4008 X
The Box-Ironbark ecosystem in northern Victoria has been substantially cleared, and most remnants are either on private land or adjacent public land which is effected by private land management. Landholders therefore have a major role in the conservation of Box-Ironbark. This report reviews what is known of Box-Ironbark remnants, the perceptions of landholders, and how conservation management on private land may be enhanced in the future.
The response rate to landholder surveys was 72% (358 landholders), covering a total 164000ha of land. Approximately 5900ha were considered to be Box-Ironbark remnants larger than 1ha, with the median area of patch 10ha. The majority (80%) occurs on proprieties larger than 150ha. Regional differences included Rushworth having the highest subcatchment proportion still Box-Ironbark (30%), while Bolangum had the least (3%). Of the properties surveyed 119 (36068ha) had no remnant Box-Ironbark.
Many Box-Ironbark remnants have been lightly to moderately grazed, or had other disturbance, with grazing of remnants being more frequent on properties >150ha. Over half the total remnant area was assessed by landholders as being in moderate to high habitat quality. Forty percent of remnants have had a moderate level of disturbance, but are still considered in moderate condition. Up to 10% of remnants
Factors such as property size, education, extent of off-farm income and linkage to farm profitability, were found to influence the presence, perception and management of Box-Ironbark remnants on private land. For example, larger properties were more likely to have Box-Ironbark remnants and in larger patches.
Two broad types of landholders could be grouped by their common perceptions, values and attitudes: 1) those with 150ha land. The 150ha value is seen as critical to the likelihood of profitability of the property. Two further groups of landholders were identified as having similar views, regardless of property size: 3) landholders with higher education; and 4) those who view Box-Ironbark for production (such as clearing).
Landholders with both smaller and larger properties appear to have the basic intent and interest to conserve and appropriately manage Box-Ironbark remnants, however the limitations to conservation differed according to the property size and income:
- smaller properties with mostly off-farm income - lack of time and/or knowledge, largely due to less time spent on the property and lesser reliance on property profitability; and
- larger properties without off-farm income - the need for the farm to be productive and profitable.
Landholders with larger properties, large areas of Box-Ironbark, high level of education and/or interest in Box-Ironbark are more likely to have high quality remnants. However, landholders with large properties and large areas of Box-Ironbark are those more likely to clear, and may be retaining Box-Ironbark as a potential resource.
Programs and organisations currently involved in the promotion of private land conservation were considered to be relatively poorly resourced, generalist, reactionary, and rarely recognised by landholders. These programs have not been successful in attracting large numbers of landholders with Box-Ironbark remnants or large areas of remnant. It is recommended that future programs more effectively target each landholder group:
- The smaller property landholders are more amenable to technical advice and extension, so a more proactive approach towards these landholders, such as 'Land for Wildlife', is likely to be successful. Sharing the cost of management of remnants may be more of an option, as there is more off-farm income and smaller remnants to manage. Priorities for resourcing interaction with this group need to be determined, since many of the smaller remnants are of lesser quality.
- The larger landholders are managing the largest areas of better quality remnant, therefore should be central to any programs or strategies. This group is more likely to respond to incentives for onground works associated with remnant management, and less likely to respond to legislative control or regulation of remnant management.
- The more highly educated landholders are more likely to seek advice, so provision of technical advice is appropriate. This group may currently be getting this information through the existing 'Land for Wildlife' scheme, and thus may not require any further targeting.
- Landholders who favoured considerable clearing valued habitat and wildlife significantly less than the other groups. In this case it is unlikely that a legislative approach will engender a conservation ethic, or that education will be successful, given the interest in utilising remnants for production, such as timber harvesting. Financial incentives for the management of higher quality remnants may be the only suitable approach for this group.
There are concerns about Box-Ironbark remnants in relation to weeds, pest animals and fire hazard across all landholder groups. Provision of resources for education and onground works, such as weed and pest control, is required to change current negative attitudes and to encourage appropriate conservation management.