Mt Tabor Indigenous cattle station

Mt Tabor Station is currently owned by the Indigenous Land Corporation with the intention of returning the property to Bidjara traditional owners over the next few years.

For the last 11 years Mt Tabor has been managed by Keelen Mailman, a Bidjara woman who in 2007 was a Queensland-Australian of the year finalist, and is considered to be Australia’s first female Aboriginal cattle station manager. Mt Tabor Station is situated on Keelan’s traditional country in the Carnarvon Ranges in central Queensland and covers an area of around 70,000 hectares with 2200 head of cattle leased to a business which also leases cattle on other properties in the district.

Mt Tabor is not a designated conservation area, but the management of the property occurs in such a way as to make conservation of environmental assets, and cultural sites a critical outcome, along with the economic and social benefits Keelen is a Native Title applicant and a current member of the Bidjara Traditional Owners Group. She is strongly committed and passionate about the protection and preservation of Bidjara culture, including the return of the remains of deceased Bidjara to their country. Keelen has worked with various organisations within the local region such as Aboriginal Health, schools, Landcare and Bush Heritage Australia. One project at Mt Tabor is based on a natural spring system surrounded by artefact scatters. The spring complex was being heavily impacted by feral horses, feral pigs and cattle. Pools were churned into a mud and manure slurry and no free standing clear water remained. In cooperation with the Indigenous Land Corporation, South West Natural Resource Management Inc. and the Bidjara people, the area was fenced off.

Based on field visits and knowledge sharing with neighbouring Carnarvon Station (a Bush Heritageowned property) pig-proof, buried mesh fencing was used and a solar powered pump and trough installed in a more stable area, away from the springs, outside the fencing. This means that larger native animals still have access to water here and feral animals will be less likely to damage the new fencing trying to get through to their well-known watering hole. The site will be maintained in the long term to maintain a viable primary production enterprise while protecting the cultural and natural values of the area. Further fencing to protect other springs, cultural artefact scatters and Indigenous artwork is part of the long-term management plan for the property. A property management plan is currently in preparation for Mt Tabor which will address the range of considerations important to Bidjara people including cultural, social, economic and environmental considerations, and ensuring elders and young people are able to visit and maintain connection to traditional
country.

Binding versus non-binding conservation

Humane Society International’s Wildlife Land Trust (WLT) is a network of privately owned lands dedicated to conservation. Although the agreements are non-binding, many members have in-perpetuity covenants on title through various bodies, and a large number are actively involved in wildlife rehabilitation and community environment efforts.

Wildlife Land Trust Case Study 1 – non-covenanted
active

photo:Toby Zema

photo:Toby Zema

Scott and Susan Reilly – Lomandra – QLD

Lomandra is a wildlife sanctuary and residence used for wildlife rehabilitation, and features a habitat garden open to the public. The owners continue to reinstate the original vegetation associations of Lomandra, both terrestrial and aquatic, and to use the property as an environmental education site. Despite Lomandra being the smallest WLT refuge (0.2
hectares) the owners are heavily influential on their local environment, being responsible for the revegetation of the section of Yarraman Creek adjoining their property as well as up and downstream. Their significant efforts have been recognised through inclusion as a finalist in the Seqwater Rural Award section of the Healthy Waterways Awards for 2012.
Vegetation on Lomandra is of high conservation value (Queensland Endangered Vegetation Area 12.3.7) and more than 130 bird species have been recorded on the refuge throughout the last 6 years, as well as a wide range of other wildlife such as yellow-bellied gliders, platypuses, northern brown bandicoots, eastern longnecked turtles, and a rich variety of butterflies and invertebrates.

Wildlife Land Trust Case Study 2 – non-covenanted high conservation value

photo: Louise Docker

photo: Louise Docker

Ken and Sandy Loveland – Kenandra – WA

Kenandra is a wildlife sanctuary and release site used for wildlife rehabilitation, education, recreation, tourism and agriculture, and is currently set up as an Agroforestry Enterprise and farm-stay. It is the owners’ intent to remove all feral pests from the property, enclose it with a vermin-proof fence, and for it to be a release site for endangered species. The property covers 308 diverse hectares adjacent to the Hill River and Hill River Reserve, with landscape features including undulating sand over clays, river silts,
mound springs, and outcrops of sandstone, limestone and ironstone. More than 50% of the property is natural bushland dominated by species such as Corymbia calophylla, Eucalyptus camaldulensis and E. loxophleba. Known wildlife inhabitants of Kenandra include western brush wallabies, emus, various snakes and lizards, long-necked tortoises, and bird species such as Carnaby’s black cockatoos, western corellas, New Holland honeyeaters, splendid fairywrens and Australasian grebes.

Wildlife Land Trust Case Study 3 – with Voluntary Conservation Agreement

Photo: Glen Fergus

Photo: Glen Fergus

Aki Green and Marg Wetsteyn – Glen Eden – NSW

Purchased as a conservation education block and small-scale farm, Glen Eden is an 850 hectare property largely covered by a Voluntary Conservation Agreement with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. The owners are allowing the land to naturally regenerate and have received funding for feral species and weed monitoring and control, and fencing stock out
of wetlands and riparian areas. After being approached by a mining company recently, the Wildlife Land Trust supported the owners by contacting the company on their behalf. Diverse habitat types on Glen Eden encompass montane wetlands (ephemeral), heaths, eucalyptus and casuarina woodlands, and vegetation associated with granite outcrops. Vegetation species present include several that are listed as threatened in NSW such as the Torrington pea, Tenterfield eyebright, Torrington mint bush and Rupp’s wattle (also listed as endangered
federally.) Ephemeral and mound springs provide a permanent water source for wildlife species present, which include pretty-faced wallabies, a variety of frogs, snakes, lizards, spiders and microbats, and a wide range of bird life such as boobook owls, wedge-tailed eagles, yellowfaced honeyeaters and nankeen kestrels. The property also provides shelter for several species listed as vulnerable in NSW: the diamond firetail; powerful owl; glossy black cockatoo; hooded robin; barking owl; and brown treecreeper.

Commonalities:

These three case studies provide an example of the broad range of property uses, sizes and locations within the Wildlife Land Trust. Despite the non-binding nature of the program they demonstrate how active engagement and regular communication with members fosters and encourages pride in individual efforts. Appropriate covenanting opportunities are not always
available to, and sometimes not desired by property owners managing their land for conservation purposes, and non-binding agreements such as those offered by the Wildlife Land Trust offer a suitable alternative.

Measuring management effectiveness

As with most investments in private land conservation, we want to know where our investment has the highest return against the lowest risk. Private land conservation needs to determine the extent to which it is working – and diagnose why some actions succeed whilst others do not. Recent years have seen a convergence among environmental NGOs and other groups with an interest in conservation in thinking about how best to prioritise, plan, implement and measure conservation actions.

Whilst acknowledging government efforts to develop/lead the thinking behind measuring management effectiveness, there is a real danger that such initiatives will be seen as an additional regulatory burden by landholders and will hence lack the necessary buy-in.

One of the most promising developments in measuring management effectiveness has been the adaptation of the Conservation Measures Partnership (CMP) “Open Standards”. The term open standards was borrowed from the information technology field to reflect standards that are developed jointly through public collaboration, which are not the property of any individual or organizationorganisation and can be freely available and freely distributed.

These proposed standards are common property, thus they can be freely adapted to the needs of individual organisations. Because of the dynamic nature of the practice of conservation, a wide array of practitioners contribute to the constant evolution of the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation.  The main attraction of the open standards is its flexible yet consistent nature and the fact that it is a bottom-up approach to measuring management effectiveness. Many organisations are now adapting the approach. Conservation Action Planning (CAP) is the Nature Conservancy’s institutional approach to applying the open standards and is currently being trialled by Greening Australia, the Wilderness Society and the Naturelinks program in the “Living Flinders”. The project aims to increase conservation efforts on privately held land as well as reduce invasion by feral species and reconnect existing reserve systems.

A variety of other organisations are starting to use the open standards as well, ranging from covenanting organisations such as the Trust fir Nature Victoria and the Tasmanian Land Conservancy, to Bush Heritage Australia and various indigenous groups. One of the main benefits of the CAP process was that it highlighted the benefits of private public partnerships in addressing environmental issues. As such CAP, and through it the use of open standards, is a powerful, adaptive and inclusive approach to measuring management effectiveness. Importantly, private landholders need to buy into using frameworks to measure management effectiveness. This will only happen when the process is being driven bottom-up and the first signs of this happening in Australia are there.

Dockers Plains

Dockers Plains Pastoral Company Landscape Covenant: Trust for Nature

DPPC livestock grazing with riparian remnants in backgorund
Dockers Plains Pastoral Company livestock grazing with riparian remnants in the background (Photo: J. Blackney)

The Dockers Plains Pastoral Company holding consists of 3,000 hectares with two main enterprise activities, a self replacing Angus herd and share cropping principally canola and wheat.

After several years of development, based on work carried out by a river tender grant and some months of negotiation, a deed of Covenant was signed with Trust for Nature in September of 2009. Designed specifically to achieve sustainable land use, the covenant protects significant conservation values whilst allowing sustainable agricultural activities.
The Dockers Plains Pastoral Company Landscape Covenant is the largest covenant in Victoria. The Covenant totals 916 ha and is located in North East Victoria on the Lower Ovens River, approximately 10 kilometres north of Wangaratta. Additionally the northern section of the covenant is an adjunct to the adjacent the Warby Range Lower Ovens National Park.

Ovens River frontage Dockers Plains Pastoral Co Landscape Covenant
Ovens River frontage at Dockers Plains (Photo: J. Blackney)

The covenant protects a high conservation landscape of riparian native vegetation, over 70 to 80 separate wetlands and with 17kms of frontage to the Ovens River. There is an additional 10kms of Reedy Creek frontage and the landscape is the confluence of these two streams. The site is significant in terms of flora and fauna with remnant Floodplain Riparian Woodland, intact wetland systems and significant numbers of wetland birds.

DPPC Wetland photo by J. Blackney
A wetland at Dockers Plains (Photo: J. Blackney)

The covenant has two tiers, 331 hectares is classified as Protected Land and 585 ha is classified as Modified Land. The two tiers reflect differences in conservation significance and land use. The Protected Land conserves the most intact and extensive areas of native vegetation. The Modified Land conserves more modified vegetation areas and wetlands and allows a range of agricultural land uses but critically precludes intensive land use development.

In partnership with the owners and farm management, a system of three grazing zones has been established. Zone one is total stock exclusion in high conservation value areas. Zone two is modified grazing of higher value areas where a set of prescriptions have been developed to minimize grazing impacts on the environment. Zone three is normal grazing where there are no restrictions on grazing levels and restrictions apply on pasture development and intensive agricultural development.

Speaking of his motivation towards private land conservation, co-owner and principal of the Dockers Plains Pastoral Company John Paul states: “The thing that encouraged me to look at the landscape in a different way was the rate that we were losing our large old red gums and how long it would take to replace these paddock trees and monarch gums: hundreds of years”.

“After doing a number of environmental projects including covenanting individual wetlands, we were looking for some way of further protecting the environmental values of the property” John states. “Jim Blackney the Trust’s North East Regional manager aided by developing the Landscape Covenant with us, the first for the State”.

“Our partnership with Trust for Nature has allowed us to continue in developing both the agronomic and environmental aspects of the enterprise. The environmental development continues and is a major focus of the activities of the property. Recent initiatives include a major environmental project via Caring for Our Country project to extend and develop corridors and protect riparian remnants.”

(Thanks to Jim Blackney and John Paul for their preparation of the above story)

Connorville

Roderic O’Connor is a landholder with broad-ranging business experience in agricultural and other commercial fields, with his property, Connorville, covering 17,600 hectares of land in Tasmania. Passionate about the environment, Roderic has taken a pragmatic approach in ensuring that his Tasmanian Midlands family farm business remains exceptionally managed during his stewardship.

Connorville is one of a dozen Tasmanian farms that have been entered in carbon crediting schemes. In 2011 the property was issued with verified carbon credits that are being sold on the international markets. The switch from being a farmer of trees, sheep and irrigated crops to one with a large focus on carbon trading came over the past few years, as Roderic observed the changing viability of the Tasmanian timber industry and the emerging global carbon economy.

RIMG0071
Connorville (Photo: D. Sprod)

Roderic has divided his farm into distinct zones: intensive irrigated production, extensive cropping and grazing (9,400 ha), in perpetuity conservation (4,300), carbon forestry (3,500 ha) and areas voluntarily managed for conservation (500ha). The in-perpetuity conservation zones have attracted capital payments from conservation investors under programs run through the Tasmanian Land Conservancy (TLC).

The carbon enterprise returns income from carbon credits as they are sold on the international market.

“Too few Australians realise that you can already trade carbon and farmers like my family are now being paid to do so,” Mr O’Connor said in 2011 (source: The Australian).

“By registering my forests for carbon offsets, I’m getting the same income as if I had harvested the trees, but I’m also delivering outcomes for the environment and for my family’s farming future.” (Source: The Australian)

(Thanks to Daniel Sprod and Roderic O’Connor for their preparation of the above story)