LOUISE GILFEDDER OAMTo investigate partnership models that encourage farmers to incorporate conservation into farming practices - USA, Canada
Louise Gilfedder was in her 50’s when she decided to apply for a Churchill Fellowship. She had two sons who were studying interstate and there was more time in her life to pursue her passion for conservation in rural and agricultural environments. Louise is an ecologist with over 20 years’ experience in vegetation management and is the author of a range of books and publications on conservation ecology and management. She is currently a conservation scientist with the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment and also is a knowledge broker at the Centre for Environment with the University of Tasmania, both in Tasmania, Australia. In 2012 Louise was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for her services to conservation and the environment in Tasmania.
Louise travelled for two months in the USA looking at approaches to private land conservation issues. She investigated a range of projects with ranchers and farmers, the US Federal Government, State Agencies, and non–profit conservation groups and policy think-tanks in Washington DC, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Tennessee, Arizona, Oregon and California. She looked at both financial and non-financial incentive approaches, property conservation planning, certification and accreditation schemes, along with conservation policy and programs. She was one of 1700 delegates at the Land Trust Alliance rally – the largest private land conservation conference held each year in the USA, and also attended a number of workshops and the USDA’s post–graduate Management School.
Highlights for Louise, with a passion for grasslands, was time spent on the prairies which once covered 40% of the continent and were home to bison, wolves, elk and grizzly bears. On the Flying D Ranch, one of 14 bison ranches owned by media magnate Ted Turner, 2,000 bison roam in a single herd on prairies extending to the snow-clad Rockies. Turner runs a chain of “bison-burger” fast food outlets, but the driver for the business is conservation and sustainable land management.
FELLOWSHIP CONCLUSIONS & OUTCOMES
Exploring the theme of conservation partnerships took me down many and varied pathways during the time of my Churchill Fellowship, and the challenge is to distil this into ways forward for Tasmania, and for Australian private land conservation approaches more widely. The projects I visited and the people I met with provided the inspiration and motivation to apply some of these partnership principles to my own work in Tasmania. It is clear that community biodiversity conservation objectives cannot be achieved on public land alone, and these goals will never be implemented across a range of land tenures without strong partnerships.
Some key learnings from the Churchill Fellowship include:
- There is an increasing development pressure on agricultural lands, with significant areas being taken out of agricultural production. This has economic, environmental and social implications. There is an agreed government and non-government policy position on the urgent need to protect agricultural land from development. This task will require a variety of mechanisms and approaches.
- Conservation programs in the USA have a broader focus than those in Australia. There is an emphasis on ecoregional planning to underpin conservation planning and projects, where possible, are implemented at the landscape scale. Conservation is also concerned with the protection of broad community values, including the protection of farmland, scenic amenity and rural communities. There is considerable philanthropic support for this approach.
- Partnerships between government, industry, private conservation organisations and landholders are the most successful and enduring conservation actions. Those projects that are developed and implemented by landholders with community support have the best chances of longterm success.
- Conservation planning for incorporating the potential future impact of climate change is urgent. There is considerable activity in this area with private conservation organisations and foundations developing major initiatives in this area.
- There is also growing consumer awareness about the environmental credentials of both food and fibre, and the role of accreditation systems, while in its early days, is rapidly developing.
- Tasmania’s private land conservation programs are on a par with the equivalent programs in the USA, and Australia is amongst the leaders in the development of market-based instruments and conservation finance.