Reimbursing the future: an evaluation of motivational, voluntary, price-based, property-right, and regulatory incentives for the conservation of biodiversity
Biodiversity Series, Paper No. 9
M.D. Young, N. Gunningham, J. Elix, J. Lambert, B. Howard, P. Grabosky and E. McCrone
CSIRO Division of Wildlife and Ecology, the Australian Centre for Environmental Law, and Community Solutions
Biodiversity Unit, Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1996
ISBN 0 642 24429 4
Appendix 2.1: WA wheatbelt case study
Prepared by Bruce Howard
CSIRO Division of Wildlife and Ecology, Canberra
This document presents a case study to examine the potential of incentive instruments and mechanisms designed to promote the conservation of biodiversity in the wheat belt of WA. The aim is to encourage off-reserve conservation and sustainable resource use that will enable the biodiversity values and ecosystem function of the area to be maintained. The focus is on biodiversity conservation, not economic development.
The Western Australian wheatbelt is an area of about 140,000 km² located inland of the Darling Range in the south-west of the State. This region is utilised primarily for a system of agriculture that is based on crop production mixed with sheep and cattle grazing. The wheatbelt does not describe a natural region, but describes an almost entirely human modified environment that consists of cleared paddocks, pastures, salt pans and remnants of native vegetation (Saunders, 1989). Remnant vegetation is defined by Saunders et al., (1991) as any patch of native vegetation around which most or all of the original vegetation has been removed.
The clearing of native vegetation (and subsequent land use) has resulted in the WA wheatbelt degrading in its agricultural potential and nature conservation value (Hobbs and Saunders, 1991). Significant losses of agricultural production have occurred because of soil salinisation, waterlogging, and wind and water erosion (Malcolm, 1983). Remnant vegetation, wetlands and riverine systems on both public and private lands are being degraded by dryland salinity, silting, nutrient enrichment and weed invasion (George et al., 1995). Agriculture production and conservation values are both threatened by processes of land degradation. Conservation of biodiversity and sustainable resource use have in many instances common objectives for remedial action.
Clearing for agriculture has resulted in the removal of more than 90% of the native vegetation (Saunders et al., 1991). For instance, it is estimated that 93% of the central Avon district has been cleared (Beard and Sprenger, 1984) and because certain vegetation associations were regarded as good indicators of potential agricultural productivity they were cleared preferentially. For example, 97% of the York Gum, Wandoo and Salmon Gum woodlands, which had covered about 41,000 km², have been cleared. Flora
Prior to the widespread clearing of native vegetation, the area had a rich and diverse flora with a high degree of heterogeneity associated with the mosaic of different soil types. Native flora and fauna are now confined to remnant patches scattered throughout the wheatbelt (Saunders, 1989). Some 40% of the remaining native vegetation area is located on private lands. Remnants along roadsides also constitute a significant portion of the vegetation remaining in the wheatbelt (Hobbs, et al., 1993). The high density of rare and geographically restricted plant species and the presence of rare fauna in agricultural areas emphasises the importance of these remnants for nature conservation (Wallace and Moore, 1987). The distribution of known populations of rare and endangered flora species are shown in Table 2.1.1.
A study of 277 plant species recorded from the wheatbelt region showed that some 58 are possibly extinct, 56 are extremely rare and 154 species exist in very small populations (Patrick, 1985, cited in Wallace and Moore, 1987). About one third of the State's Declared Rare Flora occur within the wheatbelt (GOWA, 1992). Of the '1386 populations of the 238 taxa of declared flora in Western Australia in 1989 only 30 per cent of the populations occurred within conservation reserves, while 16 per cent were found only on freehold land' (Burbidge and Wallace, 1995). These data indicate the importance of remnants as holdings of important species; they also indicate that the cooperation of a wide range of government agencies and private landholders will be required to protect them.
|Road reserves (Shire)||130|
|Road reserves (Main Roads Dept.)||5|
|Vacant Crown lands||30|
|Education ministry reserves||1|
|Per cent of State's flora||25.1%|
Source: From Hopper et al., 1990
A few fauna species have adapted to or been favoured by the changed habitat. Most however depend on remnant vegetation for their survival. Thirteen species of mammal have disappeared from the wheatbelt area and less than half of those original species are now regarded as common (Wallace and Moore, 1987). Of the 148 species of landbirds recorded in the WA wheat belt, two species have become extinct over the past 80 or so years. At a district level more species have disappeared, the degree of local extinctions depending on the extent of native vegetation loss (Saunders, 1989).
The results of a community-based bird atlassing scheme (Saunders, 1993) showed that since 1937, of the 139 non-passerine (non-perching) species recorded from the wheatbelt, 31% have decreased in range and/or abundance and 8% have increased. The perching species are considered to be greater affected with 75% of species decreasing in range and/or abundance. No perching species showed any increase.
Kitchener et al. (1980) suggested that most of the surviving mammal species in the wheatbelt are suited to existence within patches of vegetation, such as Nature Reserves, because they are adapted to surviving within the natural matrix of soil and vegetation types that characterise the wheatbelt of SW Western Australia. However, they suggest that a minimum reserve area of about 40,000 ha is required to conserve that part of the regional assemblage of mammals likely to persist in the face of human disturbances. Areas as small as 30 ha may have value for conserving specific mammal species and are certainly valuable conservation areas for lower animals and plants. The value of these small areas is likely to be greatly enhanced if these areas can be closely positioned or have connecting corridors. They also suggest that reserves (and remnants) would tend to lose more species as they become further isolated.
Current resource use
Agricultural production is the dominant land use activity in the Western Australian wheatbelt. It was worth some $1.85 billion (gross value of agricultural production) in 1991/92 (ABS, 1994). Agriculture and its related industries are the main employers and are the providers of the physical and social infrastructure in much of rural WA. The nature, extent and cost of land degradation in the agricultural area of Western Australia is shown as Table 2.1.2. The types of degradation presented are all exacerbated by the lack of (native) vegetation in the landscape.
The region has over 639 Nature Reserves ranging in size from 0.5 to 309,000 hectares; most reserves are small; the median size of remnants designated as Nature Reserves is 114 hectares (GOWA, 1992). There are over 300,000 small and scattered remnants on private land covering about 2.6 million hectares (Beeston, pers com. 1994 cited in Biodiversity Unit, 1995).
|Degradation||% of cleared area||Cost ($m/yr)|
|Salinity - land||3||61|
|Salinity - public works||-||41|
Source: Adapted from Department of Agriculture (1991)
Potential resource use
Retention of remnant vegetation and revegetation with native species is undertaken primarily for conservation of biodiversity and to combat land degradation. However, farmers will be further encouraged to maintain and manage remnants and revegetate with native vegetation if they perceive these areas to hold other real or potential economic values. Identification of economic value may encourage farmers to consider remnants as a valuable farm resource. A study delivered by ACIL (1993) to the Western Australian Department of Conservation and Land Management identified a number of 'sustainable remnant vegetation enterprises' being undertaken on WA wheatbelt farms. The study listed the following as possible economic uses of remnant vegetation:
- wildflowers and native seed collection;
- timber and brushwood;
- honey production;
- tree fruits;
- essential oils and tannins;
- stock and crop shelter; and
- water quality, salinity control and soil stabilisation.
An example of financial returns gained from some of these enterprises is presented as Table 2.1.3. The ACIL (1993) report notes that not all farms would be capable of achieving the stated returns; the property location, and type of remnant vegetation obviously influence potential income. Many remnants are located in areas deliberately left because of their low agricultural productivity and it is likely that these areas are incapable of supporting profitable agricultural enterprises. In these circumstances any return from the remnant areas would be in addition to, and not in competition with, the agricultural activities. It should also be noted that these returns exclude environmental benefits that remnants may provide in the form of maintenance of hydrological balances and control of dryland salinity, windbreaks, soil stabilisation, water conservation and natural pest control.
|Use||$ per operator day worked||$ per hectare|
|Wildflower production||Up to 250||125 - 230|
|Ecotourism||50-90||5 - 1,500|
|Timber products (fence posts)||150-575||NA|
|Timber products (firewood)||65||20|
|Brushwood||NA||10 - 100|
|Seed collection||15 - 120||NA|
NA - not available or not applicable.
Source: ACIL (1993) Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Use Objectives
Biodiversity conservation and suitainable use objectives
About 40% of the remaining native vegetation exists as remnants on private lands. Conservation reserves are also generally in small blocks, having a median size of 114 ha. Because of their small size both privately held remnants and many conservation reserves are prone to degrading effects caused by farming practices on the surrounding land. The conservation of biodiversity values in these areas is dependent upon sympathetic farming practices on the adjacent lands, indeed it may require sympathetic practices on a catchment wide basis to protect these areas from the effects of land degradation. Objectives for biodiversity conservation are therefore closely linked with objectives for sustainable agriculture, and policy measures to address biodiversity conservation need to recognise this. Lambeck (1995) and Wallace and Moore (1987) provide the following objectives and requirements for biodiversity conservation and sustainable resource use in a fragmented landscape.
Identification and protection of conservation values
Land managers should have access to standardised procedures for assessing the nature conservation values of their remnant vegetation, and consultants may need to be employed if insufficient resources are available from government agencies. Actions to meet this objective may include fencing of existing remnant vegetation, with preference to those identified to make the greatest contribution to conservation priorities. The use of buffer zones to prevent fertiliser and spray effects near sensitive areas may also be a requirement. Where these actions represent an incremental cost to the landholder, compensation may be required as an incentive to these actions.
Rehabilitation of existing conservation values
Rehabilitation of existing conservation values may require seeding or replanting of appropriate species in degraded remnants, and the implementation of appropriate disturbance regimes where this is known to facilitate the regeneration of vulnerable species. Again assistance may be required if the direct costs to the landholder exceed benefits.
Re-establishment of lost or inadequate conservation values
Revegetation may be desired where plant species occur in non-viable populations and where they will not regenerate as a result of rehabilitation actions or where plant species are required to provide habitat for fauna identified as in need of conservation. Lambeck (1995) notes that reintroduction of fauna species should only be considered after successful management of those processes that lead to their loss in the first place.
Land conservation and sustainable agriculture
Land conservation is required in some areas for the control of soil erosion and dryland salinity. Remedial measures include planting trees as alleys or localised plantations, stock control and strategic matching of cropping enterprises to soil type. Other actions may include engineering solutions for hydrological control. Some of the requirements of sustainable agriculture are similar to those needed for the protection of remnant vegetation and the revegetation of degraded areas.
For the purposes of this report we found it useful to group the threats to biodiversity values into the following classifications:
- ecosystem and habitat loss,
- ecosystem and habitat decline,
- direct species loss, and
- gene loss.
They were chosen as useful indicators of activities which alter ecological systems and processes and which may lead ultimately to an irreversible decline in biodiversity values. They are also useful in that they align with definitions of biodiversity that are based on the levels of ecosystem, species and gene. It is appropriate to discriminate between the types of threatening processes because this helps with an understanding of the physical processes occurring and the targeting of policies to address them.
Previously the greatest threat to biodiversity in the WA wheatbelt was probably the clearing of native vegetation. The primary threats are now from exotic flora and fauna species, diseases, land degradation and inappropriate fire regimes (CALM 1992). The fragmented nature of remaining areas of native vegetation is in itself a threat as it predisposes the remaining areas to external effects and alters the dynamics of surviving species.
Ecosystem and habitat loss
The network of Nature Reserves and remnants on private lands is a poor example of the original vegetation as the native vegetation was cleared preferentially on the basis of soil type. Some woodland types have been reduced to only a few per cent of their original areas. Soil resources have been affected by salinity, erosion, and waterlogging as a result of excessive clearing and resultant changes to local water balance. The water quality and wetland and river habitats have been affected by increasing concentrations of salt, nutrients and sediment. Groundwater levels are rising and generally becoming more saline (GOWA, 1992). The almost complete loss of natural bodies of freshwater caused by salinisation, has had a significant impact on the region's biota (GOWA, 1992).
In May 1995 the Western Australian government announced a new policy on clearing and management of native vegetation that was to take effect immediately. This policy contains a mix of regulation, education, industry development, rebates and grants that should in effect control the further clearing of native vegetation, at least in shires with less than 20 per cent of the area as remnant native vegetation. In fact previous restrictions and the extent of clearing already undertaken have reduced clearing rates to a relatively low level, as shown by Table 2.1.4.
|Year||Applications to clear||Total area (ha) applied for||Area (ha) without objection to clear||Area (ha) to be retained|
|1989/90||410||59 211||45 356||13 980|
|1990/91||237||36 173||22 952||13 221|
|1991/92||160||12 337||10 293||4 974|
|1992/93||118||6 066||5 254||2 240|
|1993/94||143||13 078||9 443||7 066|
Source: GOWA (1992) and Biodiversity Unit (1995)
Ecosystem and habitat decline
Two primary effects of fragmented ecosystems are the alteration of the microclimate within and surrounding the remnant, and the isolation of each area in the landscape. Effects of microclimate changes include altered radiation fluxes associated with cleared surrounds (this may cause higher daytime temperatures, and lower night-time temperatures with an increased chance of frost), increased exposure to wind, and modification of water balance as a result of increased run-off and decreased interception (Saunders et al., 1991). Modification of water balance is a cause of widespread dryland salinity, increased soil erosion and sedimentation of river systems.
Time since isolation, the distance between remnants and the connectivity between remnants are important factors in determining the resultant response of species to fragmentation (Saunders 1991). As it may take many years for fragmentation to show effects on long lived species, the presence of a species is no guarantee of continued survival. The ability of species to recolonise an area after fire, for instance, is determined by the distance from other native vegetation and the connectivity between areas.
In general the smaller the remnant the greater the effect external influences will have (Saunders et al., 1991). Management of smaller remnants is correspondingly more dependent on the management of external influences.
Watertables are rising beneath both cleared land and remnants in many areas at rates of between 0.05 and 1.0 m/yr. In some cases watertables have risen by as much as 25 m since clearing (George et al., 1995). The primary cause is the removal of deep-rooted native perennial vegetation and its replacement with shallow-rooted annual vegetation. This change in vegetation results in the rate of inflow of water into an area being greater than the rate of outflow. If current rates of recharge remain unchanged, George et al., (1995) estimate that:
up to 25% of many landscapes, and as much as 40 to 50% of some specific regions (most of the lower slopes and valley floors) will become salt affected within the next century. All remnants occupying those areas, along with adjacent lakes and wetlands, and most riverine aquatic systems, will either decay or be permanently altered.
McFarlane et al., (1993) suggest that agricultural development has probably irreversibly changed some aspects of the hydrological cycle. They also consider it necessary to understand these changes if sustainable farming practices are to be developed and if viable areas of remnant vegetation are to be retained. To successfully address dryland salinity and rising groundwater levels will require the revegetation/use of plants with higher rates of water use to reduce recharge and to increase the rate of discharge.
Native vegetation is generally more effective in intercepting rainfall (reducing recharge) and in drawing water from deeper in the soil profile. Vegetation that can decrease the rate of groundwater recharge include: annual crops such as cereals and lupins which use significantly more water than annual pastures; trees, mainly Eucalyptus species; perennial fodder shrubs; and remnants of uncleared or regenerating native vegetation. Vegetation that can increase the rate of groundwater discharge includes: salt tolerant trees; shrubs; and grasses (McFarlane et al., 1993). Solutions include measures that require change to agricultural practices, maintenance of remnant vegetation, and revegetation with native species and salt tolerant species.
Replacement of some of the cleared vegetation is necessary to reverse the degradation process. Rehabilitation of salt affected areas requires revegetation on or near the affected area whilst prevention of further salinisation will require revegetation on recharge areas (Hobbs and Saunders, 1991). Revegetation with local native species may serve to address land degradation as well as provide buffers and corridors to remnant native vegetation.
Major differences exist between fenced and non-fenced remnants. Non-fenced remnants have less litter (vegetation), increased numbers of dead trees, are wetter, have more compacted soils and show elevated levels of soil nutrients. In addition non-fenced remnants are characterised by having reduced tree and scrub abundance; species richness; height and cover; as well as having a greater portion of non-native plant species. Livestock are considered the principal cause of the decline of environmental quality in unfenced remnants (Scougall et al., 1993). Rehabilitation to encourage regeneration will require fencing to exclude stock and possibly weed control, seedbed preparation and seed addition (Hobbs and Saunders, 1991).
Fire plays an important role in maintaining natural ecosystems in the south-west of Western Australia; fire management is therefore fundamental to the management of Nature Reserves (and remnant native vegetation) (Burrows et al., 1987). Some species will not regenerate without fire but frequent fires will favour plants with short life spans and remove fire sensitive species. Inappropriate fire regimes may have significant biological consequences, (Main, 1987), especially for remnant vegetation that is isolated and without corridors to facilitate recolonisation from unburnt areas. Fire management objectives should be based on the conservation objectives of each remnant. This may be dependent on the species present and the size and location of the remnant with respect to other areas of native vegetation. It will be important for managers of remnants on private lands to be informed of the consequences of fire management.
Direct species loss
No vertebrate species are thought to have become extinct on the Australian mainland because of hunting by humans since European settlement. However, several fauna species, particularly medium sized mammals, have become extinct because of predation by foxes. The survival of many species is threatened by foxes and cats and fox baiting is undertaken in some areas to protect conservation reserves (GOWA, 1992). Work by Kinnear (in Burbidge and Wallace, 1995) showed that foxes could be controlled with the use of 1080 baiting, and that this method of control led to the recovery of predated species. For example in WA, a fox control has been shown to assist the recovery of numbat numbers. However, feral cats are not adequately controlled by this method and research into cat control techniques is urgently needed (Burbidge and Wallace, 1995).
Indigenous species can also pose problems to agriculture and native species when their population increases as a result of habitat disturbance. Kangaroos and galahs are two examples. Expansion in the range and number of galahs is likely to be detrimental to the breeding success of less common local species and they often cause damage to native vegetation (Burbidge and Wallace, 1995).
As well as competition from agricultural weeds another issue of concern is the use of non-local species, such as introduced exotic species (eg tamarisk), and introduced Australian species (eg Tasmanian blue gum), to address land degradation and move into alternative enterprises such as agroforestry. Although some of these species are useful to address land degradation they are of little benefit to biodiversity and have the potential to become problems as weeds themselves.
In the wheatbelt, two of the 148 species of landbirds recorded in the WA wheatbelt have become extinct over the past 80 or so years, but at a district level more species have disappeared (Saunders, 1989). Gene loss will have occurred with regional and local extinctions, primarily as a result of habitat loss and fragmentation. This loss is related to the degree of habitat loss and fragmentation, and severe fragmentation will result in species loss which can continue long after the initial clearing (Biodiversity Unit, 1995).
The Remnant Vegetation Protection Scheme was established in 1988 to maintain or improve the condition of remnant vegetation on private land. The scheme provides government grants to cover half the cost of fencing the remnant. Over the three years to 1991, some 21,000 ha were fenced under the scheme (GOWA, 1992). The Save the Bush Grants Scheme funds community based organisations, local government and regional planning bodies to undertake projects to protect native plant communities outside of conservation reserves.
Responsible management agencies
There are many small Nature Reserves in the region that adjoin and are surrounded by land held by private landholders. As well the wheatbelt contains some 42 local government authorities. This means that liaison between State agencies, local government and private landholders is an important function of on-reserve management (Wallace and Moore, 1987), and correspondingly it will need to be recognised with off-reserve management programs.
Western Australia's flora is protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 and the Conservation and Land Management Act 1984, which are administered by the Department of Conservation and Land Management. All classes of native flora are declared as protected flora.
All vertebrate fauna in Western Australia, except fish, are protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 which is administered by the Department of Conservation and Land Management. Fish species are protected and managed by the Fisheries Act which is administered by the Department of Fisheries (GOWA, 1992).
Land clearing and management of remnant vegetation
On the 17 May 1995, the WA Minister for Primary Industry announced a new government policy on clearing and management of native vegetation that was to take effect immediately. The policy contains a mix of regulation, education, industry development, rebates and grants. Regulations applying to restrict clearing include:
- land clearing being restricted if less than 20% of an individual property is covered with remnant vegetation or deep-rooted perennial vegetation;
- land clearing being restricted if less than 20% of a country shire is covered with remnant vegetation (including Nature Reserves), but will be allowed where landholders can clearly prove that further clearing will not cause land degradation or threaten native species;
- if the property has more than 20% but the shire has less than 20% of area as remnants then clearing will be allowed only when the landholder can demonstrate that the clearing will not threaten important conservation values or cause land degradation.
Financial incentives that provide for education, industry development, infrastructure and management to protect remnants include:
- increasing the Remnant Vegetation Protection Scheme to $900,000 annually over the next five years, this scheme provides a 50% subsidy for fencing off areas of remnant vegetation, as well as funds for fencing waterways and wetlands as part of the Remnant Vegetation Protection Scheme;
- an additional $500,000 annually for three years for the State Landcare Program to be used for revegetation activities on farmland, as well as an additional $250,000 annually for three years to encourage regional enterprises which support revegetation activities, for instance, eucalyptus oil manufacture;
- a State revegetation strategy to be developed by a taskforce including the Soil and Land Conservation Council of WA, Department of Agriculture, Department of Conservation and Land Management and other relevant agencies; and
- Landholders that receive funding under the scheme enter into a 30 year management agreement to maintain the remnants and have a 'memorandum of understanding' attached to the land title to retain agreed actions with future landholders. Land with attached 'memorandum of understanding' is registered with the Valuer-General and eligible for council rate rebates.
Recently announced clearing control programs will help to address the threat of habitat loss and assist with the protection of remnants through the encouragement of fencing, management agreements and revegetation. However, other issues remain. Ideally they could be addressed and prioritised as incentives by encouraging the combined goals of:
- Identification and protection of conservation values;
- Rehabilitation of existing conservation values;
- Re-establishment of lost or inadequate conservation values; and
- Land Conservation and Sustainable Agriculture.
It needs to be recognised that because the effects of biodiversity conservation, land conservation and sustainable agriculture are somewhat interdependent, so will any benefits that arise as each of the components are addressed. For instance, some benefit will arise for agriculture from better biodiversity conservation, as will benefits accrue for biodiversity conservation with improved land conservation and sustainable forms of agriculture.
Ecosystem and habitat loss and decline
If there is one overriding point to be made from the literature, it is that management of remnant native vegetation cannot be attempted in isolation from the surrounding agricultural landscape. The following policy opportunities should be considered within that context.
Policy opportunity 1
The recently announced mix of clearing control incentives now limits the opportunity to clear native vegetation where the shire or the farm has less than 20 per cent of the area under native vegetation. The clearing controls (see above for details) contain a mix of regulation, easements, management agreements, grants and rate rebates. This type of mix is recommended for other regions as well.
However, although these measures are likely to provide an important contribution to the conservation of biodiversity values they are primarily targeted at addressing land degradation issues. They do provide an opportunity to dovetail other policies and funding into the clearing control program. For instance, additional funding could be added to the fencing and management components, as well as the provision of information on how to manage these areas for their biodiversity value. The blanket 20% criterion does not appear to discriminate between the condition and type of uncleared native vegetation, therefore additional criteria based on regional conservation priorities may be relevant in those few circumstances where clearing may still be possible. This may make efficient use of an existing scheme and provide a framework whereby conservation and land degradation funding can be combined to achieve a common goal.
Policy opportunity 2
Tradeable revegetation obligations
The problem of scale is central to integrated landscape management (Hobbs and Saunders, 1993). The physical processes of land degradation, and the actions that are required to address land degradation, go beyond paddock and farm boundaries. The causes and effects of land degradation are such that treatment measures may be need to be undertaken on the basis of a catchment wide approach. Revegetation and other actions may need to be targeted at specific sites within a catchment but these sites are unlikely to be equitably distributed within farm boundaries. A catchment management plan (CMP) that provides the greatest overall benefit to the entire catchment (or to society) may result in an uneven distribution of private benefits and costs among the catchment landholders. Because of this distribution and the gap between private and social values, a solution that relies on altruism and private goals will be inadequate.
For cooperation to occur above the level of shared goodwill and any incentive provided by government injection of funds, a mechanism that facilitates a transfer of these gains and losses between the players may be required. A system of tradeable easements and management agreements could be administered by an empowered catchment committee. This may enable landholders who stand to receive benefits within the catchment to pay/encourage others who will bear the costs in a situation where the success of the CMP requires the cooperation of all landholders within a catchment.
The aim is to internalise benefits and costs within all members of the catchment and to avoid freeloader effects. Government funding and a level of goodwill may be expected to encourage expenditure to a level that provides what may be termed the appropriate level of social benefits. However, before this type of trade can take place, a prerequisite level of understanding and institution building will be required.
These may include:
- a working understanding of the timing and resultant effects of the degrading physical processes;
- an understanding of the values (and their distribution) that these outcomes will represent to landholders and to society;
- a State Act to empower the Catchment Committee;
- administration via the Catchment Committee, to provide an agreed forum or procedure under which the trading and regulation of agreements can take place; and
- government grants to act as an incentive for catchments to set up an empowered Committee and to achieve a socially acceptable level of benefit.
Policy opportunity 3
Assistance to identify conservation values
Land managers should have access to standardised procedures for assessing the nature conservation values of their remnant vegetation. The lack of understanding of biodiversity values is an impediment to improved management and altruistic action. Funds for consultants may need to be made available if government agencies have insufficient staff/resources to meet this objective directly.
Policy opportunity 4
Income tax deductions for expenditure incurred on activities that assist biodiversity conservation, such as fencing of critical areas offer one mechanism to encourage some land managers to protect biodiversity values. Tax deductions are not always considered appropriate given the income tax position of many primary producers so it is suggested that a tax deduction be allowed for Landcare for an amount of up to 150% of qualifying expenditure in the year it is incurred (Esperance Land Conservation District Committee, pers. com.).
Policy opportunity 5
Tax credits, more than tax deductions for expenditure on works to conserve biodiversity, may provide some incentive to landholders, especially if credits could be available for expenditure on actions not deemed to increase farm income.
Policy opportunity 6
Remnant vegetation in property management planning
Property management planning is gaining prominence as a management tool and as a prerequisite for some forms of government assistance. Recognition of biodiversity could be improved if these plans were to incorporate management requirements for remnant native vegetation. This may place remnant vegetation as part of the farm system in the minds of landholders and government agency staff.
Policy opportunity 7
A revegetation program to provide buffer zones for remnants, with the focus on protecting biodiversity values, could complement the existing revegetation component of the clearing control program. Funding could be tied to the placement of an easement and supplemented with rate rebates, as with the existing clearing control program.
Policy opportunity 8
State policy on protection of roadside vegetation
Native vegetation that remains as part of roadside reserves, railway reserves, water reserves, vacant Crown lands and other such areas, form a set of important sites for threatened plant communities (see Table 2.1.1). It is important that agencies responsible for the management of these areas are fully aware of the biodiversity values they manage and that management and development in these areas is coordinated and part of a planning procedure that is designed to give due consideration to the biodiversity values these sites may hold.
Policy opportunity 9
Grants to councils with rate rebates
Most land rating systems are based on "unimproved capital value" which is generally assessed by deducting the value of improvements necessary to place it in its most profitable use, based on local market values. As well, areas used for primary production may receive a concession in valuation. These approaches provide a perverse incentive for people to clear land. These perverse effects may be reduced by offering rate rebates on areas with recorded conservation covenants and easements that apply over native vegetation. Where Local Authorities lose rate revenue, compensation could be made by the broader community through funds from the State or Commonwealth governments.
Policy opportunity 10
Reimburse for incremental costs (agroforestry)
Landholders should be encouraged to plant local species where plantings are made to address land degradation or to develop agroforestry areas on the farm. Landholders may be tempted to plant species that are exotic to that area where suitability is judged on productive value alone. Landholders could be reimbursed for incremental costs (the difference between production from exotic and native species) if revegetation with local-provenance, native-vegetation species (with biodiversity value) is less productive than exotic agroforestry species.
Policy opportunity 11
Reimburse for incremental costs
Society should contribute, and be seen to contribute, towards incremental costs associated with protection and management of remnant vegetation, control of land degradation and the adoption of farming practices to maintain biodiversity values.
Policy opportunity 12
Private management of public conservation reserves
In the wheatbelt region (as at 1987) there was one management person (including clerical staff) for every 64,000 ha of Nature Reserves (Wallace and Moore, 1987) or one for every 40 reserves (Saunders, 1989). This is inadequate if active management is required and especially as all remnants should be considered as part of the conservation network (Saunders, 1989). There may be financial advantages to government by using local landholders to perform certain management operations on public conservation reserves. Cost efficiencies are especially likely in situations like the fragmented wheatbelt landscape where many reserves are small in size, dispersed, and distant from government agency branches.
Policy opportunity 13
Opportunity also exists for the use of management agreements to encourage landholders to undertake specific tasks; for example the control of ferals such as foxes and cats to create a buffer zone in areas surrounding Nature Reserves with fauna susceptible to predation.
Policy opportunity 14
To encourage the community to contribute directly (as individuals, not via government) to the protection of biodiversity values, schemes that enhance an individual's sense of ownership of the problem, and of any remedial action taken, may increase the level of community participation. For instance, schemes could follow along the lines of those used by overseas aid agencies, in this instance, photos of identifiable areas and a description of action undertaken could be sent regularly to donors. Contributors of cash and those who actively participate in work could be part of this process.
Policy opportunity 15
Incorporate biodiversity in farm management planning
A National Property Management Planning Campaign was launched in 1992, following consultation between the Commonwealth, the States/Territories and the National Farmers' Federation. This occurred in recognition of the fact that sustainable management of agricultural and associated natural resources depends on sound farm management practices. An opportunity exists to incorporate management plans for on-farm biodiversity values with farm management plans. Their use could be linked to preferential access to government assistance in order to encourage acceptance. Property management plans are increasingly used as a gateway for financial assistance. For example, a 20 per cent rebate under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 for expenditure on prevention of land degradation is limited to that identified in an approved management plan. Management plans are used as a condition for assistance under the Rural Adjustment Scheme.
Policy opportunity 16
Self assessment, and accreditation for government assistance
The National Landcare Advisory Committee is part of a process that is investigating strategies for advancing productive agriculture and sustainable environments. Part of a suggested strategy includes the development of a set of self assessment criteria that form the basis of an accreditation scheme which if passed would deem the applicant eligible for certain concessions. The idea is to use a stepwise assessment and accreditation process to recognise and provide incentives to leading land managers. This procedure would include:
- voluntary self assessment via a detailed questionnaire that may include questions relating to sustainable land management practices and conservation of on-farm biodiversity values;
- the seeking of accreditation from recognised and credible agents if the self assessment procedure indicates criteria are met; and
- access to government benefits being made preferentially available to land managers who achieve the accreditation requirements.
This approach could have merit provided the accreditation process is properly conducted and monitored. It is important that biodiversity criteria are part of the accreditation procedure as well as those for sustainable agricultural practices.
Policy opportunity 17
Use of native plant species
Opportunities exist for Australia to gain economic benefit from its unique and diverse plant species. A concern is that 'others' will be quicker to seize the initiative in the utilisation of this resource. It is recognised that funds are available and work is under way to investigate the potential of native plant species especially, but it is still important to encourage infant industries that are utilising native flora plantations/revegetation and to promote potential economic benefits of native vegetation as a sustainable resource.
Addressing general issues
Policy opportunity 18
Empowerment of local communities
Positive community attitudes can be harnessed, especially when people are placed in a position where they have a sense of ownership of the problem and the solution. This is flagged as one of the successes of the Landcare program. Positioning the community to allow them to help themselves could well be successful if applied to biodiversity conservation as well. The success of the Landcare program may well indicate an appropriate approach to community empowerment. Although biodiversity conservation is dependent on many Landcare objectives, further investigation is required to decide if 'Biocare' should be added to Landcare or be a separate initiative. Empowerment may also involve local communities in the management activities associated with on and off-reserve remnants, rehabilitation projects, as well as research and monitoring activities.
Policy opportunity 19
Explain biodiversity values (community education)
If the broader community is expected to assist with the cost of protecting remnant native vegetation then it needs to be made aware of its value to the community and the threats to this value.
Policy opportunity 20
Explain biodiversity values (landholder education)
Existing government department extension programs could be expanded to highlight the economic value of local native species as saleable products, as well as the benefits of remnant vegetation to the farming system.
Policy opportunity 21
Biodiversity protection (landholder education)
Farmers often maintain remnants and undertake management practices with good intentions in regard to biodiversity conservation, but they may lack information that describes the biodiversity values that may exist on their properties, and how best to protect them. Providing information could act as an incentive for biodiversity conservation and help landholders carry out their good intentions more effectively. Landholders should have access to, or be provided with, reference material to help land managers identify flora and fauna.
Policy opportunity 22
A better integration of extension messages delivered by departmental advisers may assist in promoting the benefits of remnant vegetation. The Department of Agriculture of WA has the greatest contact with farmers in WA and could provide an avenue to extend the message about the value of biodiversity and how to best protect it. However, at present, staff in the agriculture department and those in conservation departments are likely to be promoting a different message. Training for existing agricultural, farm management, and soil conservation extension officers in remnant vegetation management requirements and the values of these remnants may help a shift in attitude away from a purely production orientated point of reference. These staff would then be better prepared to integrate biodiversity conservation principles into sustainable agriculture extension messages.
Policy opportunity 23
Encourage staff transfers between government agencies
Staff transfers between government agencies may improve the communication and understanding between professionals working in related but different disciplines. Encouragement of multidisciplinary approaches to address a problem which requires an integration of sustainable agriculture and biodiversity conservation could be facilitated with staff secondments or transfers.
Policy opportunity 24
Review of Landcare as an approach to conserve biodiversity
It may also be appropriate to review Landcare as an approach to conserve biodiversity. There is evidence that Landcare will not be sufficient by itself (Burbidge and Wallace, 1995) and in its present form it may not represent an appropriate allocation of resources. For instance, less than 6 per cent of the National Landcare Program's budget is directed towards the protection and management of remnant vegetation (Lambert and Elix, 1993).
Policy opportunity 25
Environmental school camps
Environmental camps could be organised to provide facilities for school children (and others) to appreciate the values of biodiversity and the need to provide for its protection. Environmental camps could provide for recreation, education and work experience. This type of experience could provide city based children in particular with a sense of the value of natural experiences and the opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities 'in the bush.' Such programs may facilitate the development of an environmental ethic and an understanding of the value of biodiversity.
Recommendations and suggestions for management
Many valuable recommendations and suggestions are put forward by various authors. They may not all be classified as incentive instruments but they suggest a way forward and a type of approach that combines the resources and commitment of local communities with the assistance of the broader community. These suggestions may provide a direction for the type of actions that incentives and mechanisms should elicit.
Saunders et al. (1991) suggest that management of fragmented ecosystems has two basic components, the management of the internal dynamics of the remnant areas and the management of the external influences. For small remnants they suggest priority should be given to management of external influences. Following on, it may be a priority for policy and incentives to address external influences rather than the processes affecting the internal dynamics of remnants.
George et al. (1995) suggest the following:
- action plans should be based on community involvement and not bureaucratic intervention;
- it is only when remnants are seen to be important to landholders, and rehabilitation guidelines are available, that remnants will be properly managed;
- the community should contribute to the cost of protection if it receives part of the benefits;
- the general community needs to be better informed;
- no action should occur without the support of the farming community, land conservation groups and land owners in particular;
- there is little time to act, therefore long-term research may not always be possible and best practice solutions may be all that can be used in management plans;
- partnerships between the community and technical advisers are essential;
- committed farmers provided with sound scientific advice can achieve rapid results;
- government departments and farmers can blend expertise and local knowledge to develop strong working relationships; and
- farmers will manage remnants better when the economic and environmental values of remnants are appreciated.
This study highlights the importance of addressing the conservation of biodiversity as a joint approach with action to address land degradation and sustainable agriculture. This will require a number of strategies to simultaneously address the particular set of threats and social conditions. These strategies are likely to operate through each of the different levels of government and non-government agencies and community groups. A suggested mix of incentives and mechanisms that targets factors such as institutional change, regulation, education, specific threats and community empowerment follows:
- Add criterion based on regional conservation priorities to the existing clearing controls. This may make efficient use of an existing scheme and provide a framework whereby conservation and land degradation funding can be combined to achieve a common goal;
- Develop a program to facilitate tradeable revegetation obligations. Such a scheme may be necessary to accommodate problems associated with externalities and the gap between private and social values;
- Land managers should have access to standardised procedures for assessing the nature conservation values of their remnant vegetation;
- The integration of conservation easements and management agreements with existing clearing controls;
- Management agreements for the control of feral fauna and exotic flora;
- Income tax deductions or tax credits for expenditure incurred on activities that assist biodiversity conservation, even if such expenditure is not deemed to increase farm income;
- Coordinated State policy on protection of roadside vegetation under the jurisdiction of government agencies;
- Society should contribute, and be seen to contribute, towards incremental costs associated with protection and management of remnant vegetation, control of land degradation and the adoption of farming practices to maintain biodiversity values;
- Private management of public conservation reserves;
- Commonwealth or State government funding of Local government rate rebates;
- Awareness training for existing agricultural, farm management, and soil conservation extension officers in biodiversity values and remnant vegetation management requirements. Encourage staff transfers between government agencies;
- To encourage the community to assist with the cost of protecting remnant native vegetation a community education program is required to make society better aware of the value of biodiversity to the community and the threats to this value;
- Environmental camps could be organised to provide facilities for school children (and others) to appreciate the values of biodiversity and the need to provide for its protection.
The demand from urban Australians and overseas tourists for rural and nature based holiday experiences is increasing. This may provide an opportunity for some farm businesses to take advantage of alternative forms of land use and diversify their income base. Farmstay accommodation is popular with visitors and seen by farmers as a complementary revenue source to agricultural enterprises, especially during times of reduced farm profitability. The availability of native vegetation areas on the farm can provide an added draw-card for rural based pursuits especially if guided walks are offered. Farmstays can also play an important role in providing accommodation adjacent to conservation reserves where other forms of service are unavailable or inappropriate to local development guidelines. The farmstay type of service can encourage a style of visit that is longer term and sympathetic with the aims of ecotourism and understanding of complementary issues associated with land degradation.
A report by ACIL (1993) provided two case studies of on-farm accommodation enterprises that relied in part on remnant vegetation being an attraction. Each property contained sizeable areas of remnant vegetation and the operators provided a range of guided tours for individuals, groups and tour buses. To maintain confidentiality the profitability of the operations was somewhat disguised. The operation of a caravan park and nature walks returned a net cash operating return of about $1500 per farm hectare. The second example, providing guided walks and meals only, was shown to return a net cash operating return of $50 per day (or $5 per hectare per year). This was based on activities related to remnant bush only. These examples serve, at a minimum, to provide an indication of the potential to generate revenue from on-farm remnants and the potential value to the community of tourists visiting conservation reserves and staying in local accommodation.
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