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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Anangu Pitjantjatjara people of South Australia have declared more than two million hectares of their lands as Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) to protect their biodiversity and cultural heritage values.
The two areas known as Watarru (1,580,00 ha) and Walalkara (700,000 ha) will be managed by traditional owners as part of the National Reserve System in accordance with internationally recognised protected area management standards and guidelines.
The newly declared IPAs include part of the magnificent Birksgate Ranges and have one of the highest diversities of reptile species found in the world.
The Anangu Pitjantjatjara Council and traditional owners declared the areas as IPAs during a visit to the region by Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill.
Senator Hill thanked the traditional owners of both areas for the work they had done and for their commitment to manage the areas as part of the National Reserve System.
"Indigenous Protected Areas are Aboriginal owned land which are voluntarily managed to international standards to conserve the area's natural biodiversity," Senator Hill said.
"IPAs are crucial to ensuring that a representative range of Australia's environments is protected. The Watarru and Walalkara declarations together cover a land mass half the size of Tasmania. They take to eight the number of IPAs established so far in Australia, covering a total of almost 2.8 million hectares.
"Aboriginal lands and land management expertise are playing an increasingly important role in one of the most important environmental issues we face today, which is conserving habitats for Australia's rich array of native plants and animals," Senator Hill said.
"Through this declaration traditional owners will be sharing their traditional land management knowledge acquired over 40,000 years."
A senior traditional owner for Watarru Frank Young said the declaration gave the Anangu the opportunity to care for and manage their lands just like a national park.
" It will be an area for them to run and care for the land themselves and there on that land they will do things like burn off the land so that regrowth will take place, and care for the rock holes by keeping them clean and look after the sacred places, caring for them properly," he said.
Mr Young and a senior traditional owner for Walalkara, Robin Kankanpakantja, declared the areas as IPAs at Paw-Paw rock hole within the Walalkara IPA. Both Watarru and Walalkara IPAs are biologically significant areas containing populations of rare and endangered species including mallee fowl and the great desert skink.
The biological values of these areas have been maintained through traditional land management practices including patch burning. The traditional landowners have been working closely with scientists to understand more about the regions' biology and to develop plans for managing potential impacts.
Media Contact: Rod Bruem (Senator Hill's Office) 02 6277 7640 or 0419 258 364
20 June 2000