At the highest level, there are 3 main approaches to private land conservation:
- Changing ownership. In this approach, the land is purchased or leased from its owner by an individual or private organisation with a primary intention of managing it for biodiversity conservation purposes.
- Changing property rights. Rather than outright purchase or leasing, the landowner agrees to forego some of their development rights for the purpose of conserving biodiversity. As an example, in conjunction with a land trust, the landowner may establish a conservation covenant over a part of their property, binding themselves and future owners of the property to protect the biodiversity values of the covenanted land.
- Changing practices. Rather than affecting property rights, this approach involves landholders changing their practices in order to protect, conserve, or restore biodiversity on their land. This may happen through supporting, educating, or informing landholders to change their outlook – and create a sense of shared responsibility for biodiversity conservation.
The private land conservation sector is formalising conservation efforts using a range of regulatory, educational, voluntary and market-based mechanisms.
The dynamic environment in which private land conservation operates means that mechanisms are continually evolving. The past decade has seen a rapid change in NRM programs,including a proliferation of private land conservation mechanisms. A useful way to look at the diversity of these mechanisms is as a spectrum or continuum, with each mechanism driven by different motivators and containing different levels of security, legal commitment, duration and management obligations.
The inherent flexibility in this continuum of private land conservation mechanisms, as opposed to a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, provides landholders with the flexibility in aligning their private land conservation entry point with their land management priorities and socioeconomic circumstances. In broad terms, private land conservation mechanisms take account of the conservation value of the land, the socio-economic and cultural values, the needs of private landholders, and the variety of participants as well.
As with public reserves, formal protection of conservation lands is a critical component of private land conservation, ensuring that what is conserved today will continue to exist into the future. Within the private land conservation sector, formal protection is used to describe secure, binding, legal protection of native vegetation, biodiversity, terrestrial, aquatic and marine ecosystems, or native habitat, for the specific purpose of biodiversity conservation. On the basis of the above, the private land conservation sector is working across three main tiers of conservation management protection, categorised according to the security and duration of the private land conservation agreement.
The Australian Land Conservation Alliance believes that more work needs to be done to develop a consistency of approach to promote, explain and execute conservation programs on private lands.