Abstract: The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) established the Community Nature Conservation (CNC) Extension Network in 1998 to assist landholders, community groups and local governments with nature conservation planning and management on private and leasehold land in Queensland. The network now includes 17 regional extension officers, six Bushcare facilitators, seven Land for Wildlife coordinators and seven NatureSearch coordinators. CNC staff work across 12 bioregions with diverse ecosystems and varying levels of landholder commitment and capacity to manage and protect areas of habitat. Nature conservation on private and leasehold land in Queensland (more than 90% of the state) has become critical for the survival of many plant and animal species, and their associated ecosystems. The conservation status of Queensland’s bioregional ecosystems currently shows that 32% of the total number of regional ecosystems are either ‘endangered’ or ‘of concern’. The new Vegetation Management Act 1999 protects ‘endangered’ ecosystems and those vulnerable to land degradation, and seeks to voluntarily protect ‘of concern’ ecosystems through a regional vegetation planning process. Only by working with landholders to encourage and enable them to retain or sell high conservation value areas, and manage other areas sustainably can Queensland prevent further loss of its natural heritage. In 1997 the ANZECC Working Group on Nature Conservation on Private Land identified best-practice initiatives and principles for achieving ownership and involvement of landholders in nature conservation on private land. These include building relationships with landholders; incorporating best practice nature conservation into existing extension and planning programs, and focusing on outcomes, monitoring and evaluation. The QPWS Community Nature Conservation extension program has developed an integrated framework for extension delivery based on these principles and meeting a range of client needs. In working with landholders and the community it is important to recognise the social, historical and financial context in which they live, and factors influencing their willingness and capacity to embrace conservation. Market research was conducted in 1999 using focus groups and a phone survey of 716 landholders across 12 industries to give a statewide, regional and industry perspective on issues affecting landholders in relation to nature conservation on their properties, their information needs and communication preferences. Findings revealed that landholders require access to practical, locally relevant information using best practice examples as well as financial assistance to carry out integrated nature conservation practices. Threats to production such as weeds, feral animals, tree regrowth and water quality were considered more important than habitat decline or endangered species, although there was considerable interest in wildlife issues. The challenges ahead for Community Nature Conservation in Queensland are to demonstrate the links between biodiversity conservation, threatening processes and farm viability; increase the availability of incentives; and build on existing landholder stewardship and experience.
Notes: In working with landholders and rural communities to build relationships, we believe it is important to recognise the social, historical and financial context in which they live, and factors influencing their willingness and capacity to embrace conservation. Regional extension staff live and work in rural communities where they gain an intimate understanding of these factors whilst endeavouring to tailor their extension approaches to individuals and groups. From the rangelands of western Queensland to the wet tropics of the north, they work with a huge diversity of landholders, local governments, industries and community groups whose level of awareness and commitment to nature conservation varies, as does their capacity to manage and protect areas of habitat (p.3). Market research was conducted in September 1999 using a statewide phone survey and regional focus groups to gain a perspective on issues affecting landholders in relation to nature conservation on their properties, their preferences for information and communication methods (Millar et al., 2000). The phone survey of 716 rural businesses across Queensland was carried out by the Department of Primary Industries Call Centre, with 12 industries represented. Focus groups and individual interviews with industry representatives were carried out by QPWS and Ice Media Pty Ltd as part of a project to develop a multimedia CD ROM on balancing production and conservation (p.3). The predominant industries were grazing and sugarcane, followed by horticulture and mixed grazing/cropping. Minor industries included cropping only, dairying and alternative enterprises such as aquaculture, organic crops, tea growing, emus, deer, alpaca/llama, coffee, herbs, mushrooms, nuts, teatree oil, vineyards and goats. The majority of landholders managed less than 500 ha of land, followed by those managing between 1,000 and 10,000 ha and more than 10,000 ha (p.3).