Private conservation conserves grassland forever

With less than 10% of NSW’s precious biodiversity secured in our National Parks and Reserves System, responsibility for protecting Australia’s natural heritage falls largely in the hands of private land managers. The Nature Conservation Trust of NSW (NCT), a not-for-profit organisation established under the NSW Nature Conservation Trust Act (2001), delivers innovative mechanisms encouraging private land owners to protect our most vulnerable and valuable plants and animals. Through an NCT in-perpetuity conservation agreement, private landowners are able to play a significant part in the ongoing protection of biodiversity across the state. The NCT Revolving Fund is one of the ways the organisation delivers these voluntary but legally-binding conservation agreements.

The Revolving Fund is a simple concept where properties of high conservation value are purchased and re-sold with a conservation agreement in place protecting the natural assets of the property. When the property changes hands, the new owner manages the property under the conservation agreement and joins a growing community of private land owners committed to creating a network of private conservation reserves. Funds from each sale are re-invested in further purchases. nct-severn-park2

Severn Park (East), a 1017ha merino sheep grazing and fine wool production property located 50km south west of Cooma on the Monaro plateau, is a recent addition to the NCT’s portfolio of properties for sale. It lies within the GER Kosciuszko to Coast (K2C) partnership region. The proposed conservation agreement on Severn Park (East) will add around 300ha of Natural Temperate Grassland (endangered under both the EPBC and TSC Acts) to the National Reserve System, increasing the total protected area in NSW by around 15%.  It also contains the nationally endangered Upland Wetlands of Monaro Plateau community (listed under the EPBC Act) and areas of Tablelands Snow Gum, Black Sallee, Candlebark and Ribbon Gum Grassy Woodland (listed as endangered in NSW under TSC Act).

“The endangered ecological communities on Severn Park (East) provide important habitat for one of Australia’s most endangered reptiles, the Grassland Earless Dragon,” says Nigel Jones, Conservation Manager with the NCT. “The former owners, the Massy family, had managed Severn Park sympathetically for some time which is why these important conservation values have remained intact,” says Nigel. “Charlie Massy fenced Severn Park into several paddocks to facilitate short term grazing at key times of the year, maintaining the native ground cover in good condition. The conservation agreement will seek to continue this grazing regime into the future demonstrating that conservation and agricultural productivity are not mutually exclusive,” he says.

“This model of private land conservation is a great way to protect one of the most threatened vegetation types in Australia. On such large areas we are really dependent on well-planned grazing of domestic stock as the main conservation tool,” says Nigel. “There are many landholders in the K2C region who are already carefully managing their native grasslands this way and we hope that the new owner of Severn Park (East) will be able to learn from their experiences,” he says.

The Severn Park (East) conservation agreement covers one-third of the total area of the property and will be supported by the NCT Stewardship Program which provides ongoing advice to conservation agreement owners as they manage their property into the future.

The Revolving Fund model is also used to protect private land in the Queensland and Victorian sections of the Great Eastern Ranges, through Queensland Trust for Nature and Trust for Nature Victoria, who are both GER partners. All three organisations play an important role in linking landowners and local communities across the GER corridor to support them to actively manage, protect and restore the habitat and biodiversity values of their own part of the Great Eastern Ranges.

For more information on Severn Park (East) visit www.nct.org.au/severnpark

Pictured: Checking out the Nardoo on Severn Park (east), with Charlie Massy, Rainer Rehwinkel, Lauren Van Dyke and June Wilkinson.