Victoria’s conservation parks and reserves cover close to four million hectares of public land and provide the cornerstone for preserving our unique flora and fauna. But private land holds some of the most intact vegetated areas of Victoria; more than two-thirds of habitat for threatened species.
Unfortunately only a tiny proportion of agricultural land is managed for conservation: just 0.5% is under a conservation agreement. Activities such as native vegetation protection and revegetation, and livestock exclusion, are occurring on a bare 1-2% of agricultural land.
The least formally protected subregions in Victoria have the highest proportions of vegetation loss, endangered ecological vegetation classes and ecological vegetation classes unrepresented in the reserve system. They also have a high proportion of land in private ownership and high diversity (as represented by numbers of ecological vegetation classes).
For example, eleven subregions have less than a quarter of remnant vegetation protected in the national park and conservation system. Eight of these have had more than half their native vegetation cleared, while nine have more than a quarter of their ecological vegetation classes endangered.
The five subregions with the lowest proportion of native vegetation have more than two-thirds of their area in private land tenure; in four of these there are more than one third of ecological vegetation classes endangered. Of the half of Victoria’s subregions that are more than 50% privately owned, all but one have lost more than 50% of their native vegetation and have less than 50% of their remnant vegetation protected.
This gap analysis shows the importance of private land conservation.
A detailed review undertaken by VNPA in 2014, Natural Victoria: conservation priorities for Victoria’s natural heritage, highlights the challenge (see chapters 3 & 5) .
On-title covenants or private protected areas increase the likelihood that remnant or restored habitat will be retained and maintained in the long-term; they are critically important in regions where remaining habitat is largely privately owned. In Victoria, these covenants are usually administered by the Trust for Nature, a statutory agency of the Victorian Government.
The Trust is one of Australia’s oldest and leading private land conservation agencies. Managed under the Victorian Conservation Trust Act 1972, it:
If we are to protect examples of native habitat across the state, we need to dramatically ramp up support for private land conservation and the work of the Trust for Nature, particularly in the highly cleared private landscapes.