Private Investment in Biodiversity Conservation. A Growing Trend in the Western World?
Global Environment 7/8 (2011): 38–49
The paper examines the increasing trend of philanthropic bodies and private individuals to invest in the conservation of Australia’s biodiversity. This is seen as part of a more general Western trend in which Australian organizations are linked to bodies such as the large US-based Nature Conservancy. It is part of a response to the need to integrate conservation measures on public land with those on private land. The paper reviews two cases of private conservation reserves being created in the 1930s and 1940s. Private conservation through covenants on relatively small parcels of land was facilitated by the Victorian State Government in the 1970s. In the 1990s, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and the Bush Heritage Trust were formed as charitable trusts which now own and manage 2.6 million ha of land in 55 reserves. The case study of the Thomas Foundation and its relationship with the Nature Conservancy is presented. The Nature Conservancy’s model of corporate fund-raising use was found to be successful in Australia for purchasing land and conserving it to preserve biodiversity. By 2010, private philanthropy and corporate sponsorship had almost 4 million ha of land under protection and managed for conservation. Th e paper ends by considering four issues that may influence the future of private investment in Australian conservation. One concerns the effect of the Global Financial Crisis on the flow of investment funds for conservation. A particular concern is whether governments might transfer their funding for conservation as private support increases. Private support depends on favorable tax treatment for charitable giving. It is hoped that the greater transparency now being required will maintain community support for tax arrangements. A fourth concern which is now starting to be addressed is the relations between the bodies managing private conservation reserves and the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land.
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