Many groups and individuals are working to ensure the Great Western Woodlands remains intact and well managed into the future. Here are some of the achievements to date.
Documentation: The Wilderness Society has produced the definitive study of the values of the woodlands area.
Recognition: GWW is now recognized as a distinct ‘region’ with great ecological importance, and this in itself is producing better management (i.e. increased funds are now available for wildfire suppression).
Bi-partisan political commitment: Improved conservation and management was an election commitment from both major parties in the 2010 state election. As a consequence the State Government has approved a Biodiversity and Cultural Conservation Strategy and provided $3.8 million over four years to DEC for improved management in GWW.
Protection: Despite the current government largely proceeding on a ‘tenure blind’ basis, around 12,000 Ha of the Mt Manning area has been protected through a new designation ‘Mining and Conservation’ reserve, which may have wider application in GWW.
Involvement: A ‘Woodlands Initiative’ has been established from all the ‘private sector’ groups (incl. mining, prospecting, conservation and indigenous) to provide a forum where key issues can be considered independent of government policy constraints. Meetings are very occasional but the network keeps in contact.
Process for developing a land use plan scoped: With funding support from Cliffs Natural Resources, the first stage of an ongoing land use planning process has been completed. The initial report is available for download (1.3Mb). All major stakeholders were consulted and a road map for subsequent stages developed (see figure below).
Increasing knowledge: A number of loosely affiliated efforts underway are underway to fill key knowledge gaps. These include:
- Establishment of a Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network supersite on the old Credo station (now a conservation reserve). Led by CSIRO.
- A major program conducting systematic bird surveys and addressing key questions such as what does an intact woodland bird fauna look like, how does it interact with its habitat, how do the birds use this vast area, and are some areas more important than others? Led by Birdlife Australia with The Nature Conservancy. More on this program.
- An Australian Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis working group convened through University of Queensland is synthesising existing data on vegetation attributes, disturbances and climatic variables to inform the prioritization of conservation, management and restoration activities at the regional scale. This work includes developing a methodology for mapping woody vegetation condition at a regional scale, using the GWW as a case study, and determining a general framework for integrating information on vegetation condition into spatial conservation prioritization analyses.
- Masters and PhD candidates are undertaking research on various aspects of the the Great Western Woodlands ecological health.
Conservation planning in the Hyden and Kondinin shires: with the support of both Western Areas and Norilsk mining companies, Gondwana Link has been facilitating the development of a conservation plan for large portions of the Dundas and Kondinin shires in the western portion of Great Western Woodlands. Community members including traditional owners and local farmers, and mining companies are jointly developing a plan which will include conservation strategies and objectives for their special area.
Education and involvement: a major schools program has commenced led by Millenium Kids and sponsored by BHP Billiton. This was launched in Kalgoorlie by Tim Flannery during November 2011 and will include woodlands kids heading to international climate conferences with videos of the contributions the woodlands make to the worlds ecology.