Taking conservation into their own hands, hundreds of donors rally to buy the peninsula bush block

Taking conservation into their own hands, hundreds of donors rally to buy the peninsula bush block

A swath of bushland home to endangered vegetation on the peaceful Tasman Peninsula, southeast of Hobart, will now have continued protection after a huge community fundraising effort raised the money needed for the purchase of the block.

The 425-hectare sloping main reserve looks like any average bush block, but is home to seven threatened plant communities, including a significant area of ​​critically endangered black gum forest.

The land will be protected for future generations after being reclaimed by the Tasmanian Land Conservancy (TLC) with the help of community donors.

A total of 539 donors helped raise the funds needed to purchase it, with each donation matched dollar-for-dollar by the Elsie Cameron Foundation to reach a total of $3.4 million.

A wide shot showing bushes, pastures and water and mountains in the distance
The main sloping reserve on the Tasman Peninsula features critically endangered black gum forest.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

The TLC says these donors were mainly Tasmanians, including former residents who now call the mainland home to support the cause in large numbers.

“We know people want to protect endangered animals like swift parrots, forty-spotted pardalotes and Tasmanian devils,” said TLC general manager James Hattam.

“But seeing this level of enthusiasm for endangered plants was, for a botanist like me, a real thrill.”

What makes the reserve so special?

Wetlands with brown water, green reeds and trees
The reserve is home to at least seven different threatened ecological communities.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Previously, the reserve had been owned and managed by a private family for generations, who left the site essentially untouched to preserve its conservation values.

That means for TLC there’s a lot to explore – with early visits to the site having left the team excited, according to botanist and head of conservation science and planning Cath Dickson.

“They came back to the office and they just couldn’t stop talking about it,” Dr. Dickson said.

A woman sits on part of a dead tree in a wetland surrounded by gum trees
Dr Dickson says the bush here may look common, but it’s actually very diverse and teeming with important species.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

“When you look across the property, there are seven different threatened ecological communities, which is quite rare – so it’s really very diverse in what looks like a fairly common landscape.”

She said what was particularly exciting was coming across an untouched Black Gum forest – with this type of critically endangered ecological community.

“And having that understory of all our shrubs and rushes, and especially not having weedy patches, is also a very important factor.”

An aerial view of wetlands, with brown water and some trees
Tasmanian Land Conservancy now owns the land.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Hope for endangered species

It’s not just botanists who are excited.

For TLC conservation ecologist David Hamilton, the focus is on determining how many animal species inhabit the reserve.

A man standing in the bush holds a pair of binoculars
Dr. Hamilton’s team is trying to find out how many different animal species live in the reserve.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Already, wallaby trails and wombat holes had been spotted, along with a diverse community of woodland birds and an expectation that bandicoots and bettongs will use the land.

His team also hopes to find a population of Tasmanian devils, with the Tasman Peninsula being one of the few places in the state where wild populations of the animals are free of the devastating facial tumor disease.

They also hope to find the Tasman Peninsula dusky antechinus, one of Tasmania’s least understood mammals, best known for its intense mating habits.

“The more diverse the environment, the more species it will support,” Dr Hamilton said.

“So protecting areas like this when they arise… becomes an even higher priority.”

Gum trees with blue sky and some clouds in the background
Black Gums are critically endangered but are found in the main Sloping Reserve.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Preservation a Community Effort

For Hobart’s Ahmet Bektas and his partner Melinda Lambourne, it was an easy decision to help purchase Sloping Main Reserve on behalf of their company, Teros.

“He ticked so many boxes,” he said. “It was not only so diverse in terms of covering a variety of endangered habitats as well as endangered species, but it also really complemented the protected areas around it.

“The planet needs all the love it can get. You only have to listen to the daily news to know that there are deeply worrying things happening for the environment.

“One of the most satisfying ways to make a difference is to find something in your garden and find a way to maintain and protect it.”

Not the only unspoilt land

The sloping Main Reserve is far from the only protected area on the Tasman Peninsula, with several community projects underway to protect the scenic area.

Around the main sloping site there are private nature reserves and Land for Wildlife properties (where private landowners own and manage parts of their land for nature conservation), while throughout the municipality there are public spaces such as the Lime Bay State Reserve and the coal mines. Historical site.

A man and a woman walk along a bush path, each holding a pair of binoculars.  Man points to something out of frame
Dr. Hamilton and Dr. Dickson are working to better understand the importance of the reserve.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Tasman Landcare Group vice-chairman Daniel Kelleher said there was definitely a community mindset about wanting to look after their scenic backyard.

Worker bees and revegetation sessions are held regularly, Kelleher said, and landowners are increasingly looking to learn how to manage their properties to understand and reduce their carbon footprint.

“I just think it’s ingrained in you if you live here,” Mr Kelleher said.

“It’s such a beautiful landscape, you want to preserve it. You’re better off leaving the farm than when you find it.”

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