Biodiversity conservation and management is an integral part of the Victorian Government’s environment policies and a fundamental element of the department’s integrated programs. The focus of these policies has widened over time to reflect increasing knowledge of how ecosystems work, and how they can be sustainably managed for better biodiversity outcomes.
Biodiversity conservation is recognised as an essential component of responsible environment and natural resource management. Conserving biodiversity is also fundamental to both quality of life and economic well-being, both now and in the future.
Victoria is signatory to several national agreements and strategies including: Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment (IGAE); National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development; National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity; and the National Strategy for the Conservation of Threatened Species and Communities in Danger of Extinction.
Commitment to biodiversity and these Strategies is reflected in Victorian legislation. The primary overarching legislation with biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of native flora and fauna is the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988, administered by the Department of Sustainabillity and Environment. The Act remains the landmark biodiversity legislation in Australia and is designed to address biodiversity issues on both public and private land. An overview of the Act’s objectives are set out in the Flora and Fauna Guarantee page.
Victoria released its Biodiversity Strategy in late 1997. This strategy complements the National Strategy and the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. This strategy demonstrates how conserving biodiversity is a part of everyday life and how many of our actions can affect biodiversity. It provides the overarching direction for biodiversity conservation and management in Victoria. The Biodiversity Strategy is coordinated with other natural resources management mechanisms such as Regional Catchment Strategies, Regional Forest Agreements, and National Parks and Reserve planning.
Aspects of biodiversity are incorporated in a range of government business programs, such as those for Forestry and National Parks. The Flora and Fauna Program has four key output groups which are:
Biodiversity Conservation ServicesThis provides strategic and scientific data, information and advice to the key land and water managers and land use planners including forests, parks, catchment authorities and local government. This program also has a research component and curates and expands the databases and produces mapping and other information in accessible form for land managers to assist in the improvement of conservation outcomes. Link to Standard Criteria for Sites of Biological Significance in Victoria.
Threatened Communities, Species and Threatening ProcessesThe Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act provides a systematic administrative and management framework for the recovery of threatened species. To date over 300 plant and animal species, communities and threatening processes have been formally listed, and Action Statements published for more than 80 of these. This process has improved the conservation prospect of many of these species as our knowledge of their distribution and ecological requirements has improved.
Nationally endangered species that have benefited from active management to provide long-term protection of their populations and habitats include the Malleefowl, Mountain Pygmy-possum, Leadbeaters Possum, Spotted Tree Frog, Barred Galaxid and the Tall Astelia. Populations of two species (Dandenong Amphipod and the Stiff Grounsel), thought extinct in Australia, have been rediscovered and are being monitored. The known ranges of the Long Footed Potoroo has also been expanded.
Sustainable Utilisation and Management of Flora and FaunaThis program ensures that the harvesting and other uses of flora and fauna are safe and sustainable. Activities vary from managing the open seasons on game species (ducks, quail and introduced deer) to ensuring that regulations governing such activities as whale and dolphin watching are ecologically sustainable. In Victoria, some species of fauna may have impacts on agricultural or other economic activities and these need to be monitored and ameliorative management measures developed.
Community CustodianshipThis important program seeks to foster the understanding and involvement of the community in the conservation of biodiversity. Of the many activities, the Land for Wildlife Scheme and the Botanic Guardians are worthy of mention. The former encourages landholders to actively manage their properties to enhance biodiversity. The scheme has over 4,000 members who voluntarily manage over 100,000 ha of habitat outside the formal reserve system. It has recently begun targeting rare and depleted habitats. This program is to be used as a national model. The Botanic Guardians assist groups in the community to actively monitor and manage threatened species on public land.
PlansThe Flora and Fauna Program is involved in a wide range of plans covering aspects of biodiversity conservation and management. For example:
- Threatened species and communities are covered by Action Statements and Recovery and Management Plans required under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.
- Major ecosystems of conservation concern in the State have or will have individual conservation programs (native grasslands, Box-Ironbark forests, Riparian and in-stream environments) under the state biodiversity strategy.
- Statewide contingency plans for natural or human induced problems are developed.
- Public Authority Management Agreements allow formal recognition of agreed management plans for threatened species and communities and threatening processes by public authorities.