When our first nature conservation review was published 42 years ago, in 1972, just 1.2% of Victoria’s land area was protected in national parks.
There were no marine parks, the annual management budget for protected areas was just $141,000, and little was known about the state’s biodiversity.
We know a great deal more now, and about 17% of Victoria’s land area and 5% of our state waters are now protected in the national park estate.
However, there is no doubt that, while Victoria has made progress since the first nature conservation review in 1971, our current system of environmental stewardship is failing and we still have a huge amount of work to do.
Pressures on nature have also grown. On current trajectories they condemn our seas, lands and waters to growing biological poverty and ecological dysfunction.
Nature Conservation Review Victoria 2014
The objectives of the 2014 Nature Conservation Review were:
- To review new information, knowledge and approaches to nature conservation as applied to Victoria.
- To identify priority areas for nature conservation and national parks.
- To review threatening processes and identify reforms to improve nature conservation in Victoria.
Nature Conservation Review Victoria 2001
Our third nature conservation review, published in 2001, concluded that extinction processes were continuing in Victoria largely unabated.
High priority recommendations were to protect all vegetation remnants in highly fragmented landscapes and establish protected areas for south-western Victoria, riverine forests and woodlands, the Strzelecki Ranges, and box-ironbark woodlands and forests.
Nature Conservation in Victoria: Study Report (1987)
The second review, by Doug Frood and Malcolm Calder, assessed the adequacy of the reserve system and identified species and communities in need of further protection.
By this time, the Land Conservation Council had completed the first round of regional studies and made over 4000 recommendations for the reservation of public land for different purposes.
Most high priority areas identified in the 1971 review had been protected in national parks. Frood and Calder described major land uses and the extent of alteration in each of Victoria’s vegetation provinces. They estimated that about 60% of the state had been cleared, a third of wetlands had been drained, and close to 80% of rivers and wetlands had been much modified.
They reviewed major management issues such as fire regimes, timber harvesting, grazing, introduced species and disturbance factors. The issues and dilemmas they discussed still largely apply today. Lowland grasslands, grassy woodlands, mallee woodlands, saltbush shrublands, wetlands and riparian communities were in urgent need of conservation, they said.
Nature Conservation in Victoria: A Survey (1971)
At the time of the first review by Judith Frankenberg, only 1.2% of Victoria’s land area was in protected areas, and little was known of their values or the status or biology of the state’s wildlife.
The National Parks Act, which established a National Parks Authority, was only 15 years old. Prior to that, most national parks and nature reserves were managed by local committees, which often had to lease them for timber cutting and grazing to finance management.
To assess the adequacy of the reserve system, Frankenberg compiled the first systematic description of vegetation communities in Victoria, listing 62 ‘vegetational alliances’ and recording their distribution.
About 40% were assessed as reasonably well protected, while 27% required ‘urgent measures’. Frankenberg warned that it could be difficult to locate ‘relatively undamaged examples’ of some communities, especially grasslands.
She compiled the first state list of flora and vertebrate fauna and their likely conservation status, and found that 39% of native plants were not recorded in any reserve. Highlighted threats included fire, fertilisers, invasive species, pollution, spear fishing, river improvement schemes, dams and grazing in alpine areas.
The review recommended the establishment of large reserves in 11 regions and eight multiple-use national parks, the conservation of 11 other areas and extensions to eight national parks. It also advocated the establishment of marine reserves, particularly in coastal waters.