Abstract: Benefits of Biodiversity Conservation to Local Government Australians, and more specifically local government, are just beginning to see the value of biodiversity and ecosystem services to our everyday lives. Some of the primary benefits of biodiversity conservation to councils across the nation includes: # Boosted local productivity by maintaining the foundations of a healthy and sustainable environment; healthy soils, clean air, clean water, and biodiversity - especially important in the rural regions of Australia. This relates to agriculture, horticulture, forestry and fisheries. # Mitigation of potentially devastating and costly environmental problems, including salinity and erosion. Economic benefits to local government including increased land value resulting from improved landscape amenity, as well as contributing to the total landscape setting enjoyed by residents, and providing a valuable tourism and recreation resource for visitors. * Eco tourism, Recreation * Overall improved environmental health, influencing the health of your local community. * Conservation of heritage values, particularly relevant to indigenous communities and their close cultural association with the land. Our natural environment maintains many essential functions that form the foundation of a healthy and sustainable environment. These are often called ecosystem services and include: * Air and water purification. * Flood and drought mitigation. * Waste detoxification and decomposition. * Generation and renewal of soil and soil fertility. * Crop and natural vegetation pollination. * Agricultural pest control. * Dispersal of seeds and nutrients. * Protection from ultraviolet rays. * Regulation of climate. * Moderation of temperature extremes and the forces of wind and waves. While this natural capital is not currently valued in economic terms, the CSIRO estimates that the total annual value of ecosystem services within Australia is $1327 billion. This alone indicates the reasons for the urgency associated with the conservation of biodiversity and natural resources in general. Local councils are in a prime position to take a leading role in maintaining these vital ecosystem services. Opportunities for Local Government to Conserve Biodiversity Of all tiers of government within Australia, councils have the greatest opportunity to interact directly with the community. This gives local government the opportunity to show leadership within the community, and to offer vital support and encouragement to local land and property owners to conserve native flora and fauna. Key documents including the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biodiversity and the National Local Government Biodiversity Strategy recognise that local government has an important part to play in biodiversity conservation. Legislation such as the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 and various State Acts also prescribe the roles and responsibilities of councils to conserve biodiversity in their local area, including the: * Project proponent; * Manager of Public land; * Regulator and facilitator of development; and/or * Land-use and environmental planner. Proactive longer-term environmental planning and land-use management will have a beneficial flow-on effect to other aspects of the EPBC Act, such as assisting proponents making project referrals and compliance issues. * Further information on the EPBC Act Local government can and should use their position to: * Regulate land use; * Utilise available powers to influence community behaviour through implementing biodiversity friendly regulations and planning provisions. * Promote and demonstrate environmentally, ecologically and socially responsible behaviour; * Offer community education programs and staff training; * Provide incentives for sustainable natural resource management on private land. A proactive and committed council can influence great positive local change - examples of this are celebrated in the Case Studies section of the Toolbox. We hope that the Toolbox will provide the motivation and necessary resources to help your Council start that process of change.