Conservation organisations – government and non-government – spend around $1 billion per annum on the management of protected areas around Australia. Yet the recent State of the Environment report indicates that we are continuing to lose our biodiversity.
How do we generate a better return on this $1 billion investment?
A first step is to improve our ability to measure changes in the ecological health of protected areas – ie, we need to be better at quantifying and tracking the effectiveness of our investments in protected area management. It is critical we differentiate between land management strategies that are effective in improving ecological health; those that are less effective; and those that are ineffective. This requires good and consistent science, so that as far as practicable our assessments are objective and based on relevant data.
A second, often overlooked, step is the need to rigorously account for the cost of land management strategies. It is not enough to be effective – given finite resources, we need to also discriminate between land management strategies on the basis of cost.