BushBank scheme aims to revegetate parcels of private land to create habitat for endangered wildlife and capture carbon
The Victorian government plans to restore an area five times the size of Melbourne as part of a new scheme to increase conservation on private land.
The state’s energy, environment and climate change minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, has announced the government will spend $31m to revegetate parcels of private land to create habitat for endangered wildlife and capture carbon.
The scheme, known as BushBank, will fund organisations such as Greening Australia, Bush Heritage, Trust for Nature, and traditional owner groups to work with private landowners to restore habitat and increase carbon storage.
The program was included in the state’s 2020-21 budget but the Andrews government has waited until now to formally launch it.
On Monday, it will call for expressions of interest to cover the first 20,000 hectares to be restored through the scheme.
The $31m in funding available for the first stage will include $7m in grants for traditional owner corporations for restoration on country.
The government has set a target of eventually restoring 200,000 hectares of private land for conservation as part of the 20-year biodiversity strategy it launched in 2017.
D’Ambrosio said it was a new approach for the state that she hoped would deliver the scale of environmental change that was needed in Victoria.
“This money is about putting trees and vegetation in the ground and projects that connect up pockets of biodiversity to create biodiversity corridors,” she said.
D’Ambrosio said the powerful owl, the southern brown bandicoot, the southern greater glider and the alpine bog skink were among the species whose habitat could be improved.
She said areas such as the Gippsland region, the state’s north-east and north-west, and land around Portland in the state’s south-west were valuable places for nature that could benefit from projects.
“This is also about the carbon storage potential of those areas,” she said.
The state has set a target of reducing its emissions by 45-50% on 2005 levels by 2030 and has a net zero by 2050 target.
The announcement comes at a time when the Andrews government has been under scrutiny for its management of threatened habitat, particular in areas affected by logging that are currently the subject of several legal challenges.
A report last year by the state’s auditor general found the Victorian environment department was unable to demonstrate it was halting the decline of threatened species.
Jody Gunn, the chief executive of the Australian Land Conservation Alliance, said the investment in private land conservation was welcome.
She said more than 60% of land in Australia was privately held but less than 2% of this area was managed for nature.
She said more support for voluntary conservation by landholders was “an essential part of securing the future of our wildlife and the health of our rivers, forests and farmland”.
“Thousands of landholders across the country have already chosen to make space for nature on their land, and it is great to see the Victorian government stepping up to invest further in private land conservation,” Gunn said.
Gunn said state governments had taken the lead on private land conservation and there was a need for more federal investment in this area.
She said the alliance was calling on parties at the federal election to commit to more funding for private land conservation in partnership with state governments.