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Partnership kicks off Adaptive Management planning for Great Victoria Desert

Representatives from eight stakeholder groups came together in Kalgoorlie this month for the first meeting of the Great Victoria Desert Adaptive Management Partnership, which will coordinate conservation planning and actions for the Western Australian extent of the Great Victoria Desert (GVD).

Coordinated by Rangelands NRM in partnership with the Great Victoria Desert Biodiversity Trust, the group began by setting a vision for the partnership´s work and outlining the region´s key natural and cultural assets as a focus for future goal setting and action plans.

Rangelands NRM Program Manager for Deserts and Pilbara, Chris Curnow, said the commitment by participants was long-standing and that some early projects had already been identified.

´By bringing people together we are aiming to enhance our knowledge and understanding of the biodiversity of the GVD and get a picture of each partner´s aims and expertise. With a coordinated approach we hope to leverage individual efforts to affect a greater impact across this vast area,” he said.

He said the Partnership is building on the knowledge already gathered in a review of literature and research by Conservation Management and the Great Victoria Desert Biodiversity Trust with input from several other partners in 2015.

´The partners will reconvene over the coming months to develop priority actions for research and land management both at the species level and the landscape scale level and to create a road map for biodiversity monitoring and conservation activities in the region.”

´It´s such an immense area of country with immeasurable natural and cultural values. Working with the people who have the strongest connections is key to this partnership´s success,” he added.

The Partnership consists of Traditional Owner groups and key stakeholders with land management and partnership interests in the GVD: the Spinifex and Pilki People (currently represented by the Spinifex Land Management team), the Yilka People (represented by the Yilka Aboriginal Corporation), Central Desert Native Title Services, Rangelands NRM, Greening Australia, Great Victoria Desert Biodiversity Trust, Conservation Management and the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW). Stuart Cowell of Conservation Management is also assisting the partnership with the facilitation of the adaptive management planning process.

The planning will have an emphasis on the conservation of threatened and culturally important flora and fauna including those listed under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, such as the Sandhill Dunnart (Sminthopsis psammophila) and Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata). It will maintain a focus on Aboriginal land management and conservation activities in support of these objectives, as well as the joint-management goals of state-managed conservation estate within the GVD.

Representing Spinifex People, the Pila Nguru Coordinator Samantha Doudle says a GVD management plan would help Pila Nguru and the Spinifex Land Management team to see where and how work priorities from the Spinifex Healthy Country Plan fit into the evolving priorities of the Partnership.

She said the Spinifex Rangers are looking forward to strengthening the relationships they already have with the other partners by conducting joint projects on Spinifex and Pilki Country and in assisting the Yilka People with land management training opportunities.

´The workshop process allowed everyone to have a say and the result clearly showed where the priorities are,” she said.

´It´s not often we have the opportunity to spend time with such a diverse, interesting and useful group of people.”

Mrs Doudle said the challenges they face in protecting nature and culture on Spinifex Country and in the GVD in general include the fact that the Spinifex Land Management program´s current funding base remains uncertain, combined with isolation which makes things more expensive and time consuming.

´While we are still not sure how we will continue post 2017 in terms of funding, we are looking forward to the next meeting of this Partnership and getting started on some work.”

Yilka Advancement Officer, Mladen Mrvelj said that with Yilka just starting out, the AMP will be beneficial to learn from organisations who have experience in taking care of country.

´Time and finances are always an issue. Yilka is just being set up, and currently doesn’t have the capacity and the capabilities needed for complete protection of nature and culture,” he said.

“Yilka is hoping to show the knowledge and protect its amazing country, rich in flora and fauna,” said Mr Mrvelj.

Department of Parks and Wildlife, Goldfields Regional Leader, Fire Management, Ryan Butler said the meeting highlighted the passion of the various land management groups in the GVD area and the potential for excellent and ongoing partnerships between all the parties.

´It is just such a large area.? There is no way any one group of land managers could truly do the job themselves.? Financially and physically, we need all of us working to what we know is good land management practice for the benefit of the GVD biodiversity and landscape,” he said.

Mr Butler said that while DPaW can impart its knowledge and lessons learnt over many years, they can also learn from traditional land management practices that still exist and work cooperatively to achieve the same goals.

Greening Australia´s Director of Conservation for Western Australia, Blair Parsons said he considers the GVD Partnership valuable because it seeks to genuinely achieve collective impact across the region with potential for enduring benefit beyond any particular project timeline.

´Greening Australia supports this partnership approach and hopes it will enable communities living on country to lead key environmental projects such as fire and weeds management and threatened species conservation,” he said.