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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

8 April 2003

$247,000 in Natural Heritage Trust Funding to Establish Charles Darwin Reserve

Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today announced $247,000 in Natural Heritage Trust funding towards the purchase of the White Wells Pastoral Lease in Western Australia's northern wheatbelt, which will become the Charles Darwin Reserve to protect endangered flora and wildlife.

"The $247,000 - from the National Reserve System (NRS) program funded by the Natural Heritage Trust - will go to the Australian Bush Heritage Fund (ABHF) which will use $200,000 to help purchase the 68,619 hectare property valued at $300,000, and the remaining $47,000 will go towards establishing a protected area to conserve the area's rich biodiversity," Dr Kemp said.

The ABHF will also contribute a $300,000 donation from the great, great grandson of famous naturalist, Charles Darwin, Chris Darwin, towards the purchase and long-term management of the property. In recognition of the work of Charles Darwin, and the family's generous donation, the property will be renamed the Charles Darwin Reserve.

Dr Kemp said buying the White Wells Pastoral Lease, on the edge of the Avon Wheatbelt region, is an important step towards conserving the rich biodiversity of this important property.

"The location of the new Charles Darwin Reserve, on the northern boundary of the Western Australian agricultural zone, provides protection for many native plants and animals in a region recognised internationally as being one of the most diverse in Australia, but one of the most impacted by European settlement," he said.

"The property contains a great range of ecosystems, including ancient eucalypt woodlands and sandplain acacia shrub lands that have been substantially cleared for agriculture with only around 20% of native vegetation remaining. It is also home to many rare or vulnerable plants and animals such as the mallee fowl, which is listed as vulnerable, and the Australian bustard, which is listed as near threatened in the Action Plan for Australian Birds."

The property also provides habitat for a significant guild of woodland birds which are in decline, including Major Mitchell cockatoos (specially protected in WA) and Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, and contains many rare and threatened ecosystems including species such as acacia, casurina-york gum, salmon gum and bowgada shrubs.

Dr Kemp said these important ecosystems will be protected under the NRS as part of the Charles Darwin Reserve.

"Under the National Reserve System, new protected areas of ecological significance will be established and managed by a partnership represented by the community, private and indigenous landholders and all levels of government," he said.

"This is an excellent example of how the Natural Heritage Trust is maximising conservation outcomes through working with conservation groups, such as the Australian Bush Heritage Fund, and the community."

Since the Trust was established in 1996, 6.4 million hectares have been approved for acquisition under the National Reserve System Program and a further 13.7 million hectares has been declared as Indigenous Protected Areas.

Dr Kemp said the NRS is the most significant investment made by an Australian Government in protected areas to conserve Australia's biodiversity.

"I congratulate everyone involved in the purchase and establishment of the Charles Darwin Reserve, and pay special credit to the Australia Bush Heritage Fund who is working hard with the Howard Government to ensure the conservation of this important natural environment," he said.

"It represents a fitting tribute to a man who dedicated his life to the exploration and documentation of biological diversity and a testament to the generosity of the Darwin family who have made a substantial contribution towards the establishment of the reserve."

Chris Darwin added: "The purchase of White Wells to establish the Charles Darwin Reserve will help conserve one of the 25 highest priority conservation areas on earth. I wanted to make the maximum conservation impact with my gift, and this is it."

Media Contact:
Catherine Job 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia