1 The reason for this guide
This guide is designed to assist those in state and local government offices in New South Wales (NSW) who manage and engage the community in the recovery of threatened species. It will also be useful for catchment management authorities and any other organisation or group wishing to involve the community in this activity.
- highlights good practices and showcases examples of past projects
- provides practical advice, models and strategies for organisations wishing to effectively engage the community in threatened species recovery
- shows managers how to create longer-term community understanding of threatened species and their recovery by creating partnerships and a sense of ownership.
Although many of the suggestions in this guide may appear obvious, a lot of effort is needed to actually bring principles together and adapt them to individual cases. The guide is not intended as the final word on community engagement in threatened species recovery efforts. Suggestions and checklists are guides only, and should be treated as prompts to help improve efforts in engaging the community.
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There are over 1600 species of plants and animals listed under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). In NSW over 900 species, ecological communities or populations are listed on the schedules of the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act) and a further 19 are listed on the schedules of the Fisheries Management Act 1994 (FM Act). For many of these species, a recovery or threat abatement plan may be developed or priority actions identified to facilitate their recovery.
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Legislative and planning context
Threatened species legislation in NSW consists of the TSC Act administered by the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), and the FM Act administered by the Department of Primary Industries (DPI).
The TSC Act relates to threatened mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, terrestrial invertebrates and terrestrial and freshwater plants. The FM Act relates to threatened 'fish', including freshwater and marine aquatic invertebrates (such as crustaceans, molluscs and polychaetes), and marine vegetation including mangroves, seagrasses and macro-algae.
The two Acts are essentially identical in terms of conservation, protection and recovery planning for threatened species. Throughout this guide, reference to threatened species and recovery planning can be taken as being relevant to either or both Acts, unless specifically noted otherwise.
Engaging the community in the development and implementation of recovery plans and priority actions is crucial because members of the community include:
- land managers who directly manage threatened species
- decision makers whose choices and actions can affect threatened species
- active community members who may be working with or influencing and critiquing decision makers.
With recent changes to natural resource and threatened species management in NSW, the role of the community in threatened species conservation has become even more vital. In NSW as in the rest of Australia, local governments and catchment management authorities have an ever greater responsibility to manage and plan for threatened species protection. For this protection to be effective, the support of local and regional communities is essential. In addition, with increasing use of landscape-scale conservation approaches and limited availability of funds, the integration of threatened species management with regional natural resource management concerns is critical.
Many community threatened species projects will involve planning, facilitating community action, implementing community actions, and enabling ongoing community support. But for conservation to be successful, it must last beyond each individual project to become part of ongoing business.
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1.3 The main players behind this guide
The Threatened Species Network (TSN) is a community-based program of WWF Australia and the Australian Government's Natural Heritage Trust (NHT). The aim of the TSN is to increase the community's awareness of threatened species issues and their engagement in the recovery process.
The Department of Environment and Conservation NSW (DEC) places particular importance on working with the community (both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal) to protect and conserve natural and cultural heritage in NSW, and focuses on the need to foster partnerships and build the capacity of communities to initiate and implement conservation actions.
See details on who produced this guide.
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1.4 What are threatened species?
For the purposes of this guide, the term 'threatened species' includes all individual species, populations and ecological communities listed as presumed extinct, critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable under federal and state legislation.
A species is a class of life forms grouped using their common attributes whose members can interbreed.
A population of a species is a group of individuals of a species that can be considered isolated or distinguished in some way from others of their kind.
An ecological community is a group of different species (flora or fauna) living in a particular area, usually defined by similar soil and other landform attributes.
An extinct species is no longer existing or living. There are varying categories of extinction, being 'extinct' and 'extinct in the wild'. Extinct in the wild usually refers to a species that has not been located in the wild during the preceding 50 years or a length of time appropriate for the longevity of the species.
A critically endangered listing means that a species, population or ecological community is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future.
An endangered listing means that a species, population or ecological community is:
- facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future
- not critically endangered.
A vulnerable listing means that a species or ecological community is:
- facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future
- not critically endangered or endangered.
A key threatening process is a threatening process which can adversely affect threatened species, populations or ecological communities or could cause species, populations or ecological communities that are not threatened to become threatened.
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1.5 What is community and community engagement?
The community can be broadly defined as a collection of individuals who are members of distinct groups, based on common variables such as geography, occupation, interests, social contact, values or other features.
The term group is used often in this guide, and represents not just a formalised group but also a loose network of community members such as landholders. These groups may have an existing interest in or potential impact on threatened species conservation.
A stakeholder is any person or group with a share or an interest in the issues or required actions, be it financial, moral, legal, personal, direct or indirect - that is, anyone who can influence the threats to a species or who is affected by the conservation actions required to recover a threatened species.
In most cases, efforts to identify important stakeholders also help to reveal relevant community groups.
Community engagement goes beyond just 'involving' the community to actively drawing members of the community into activities and issues. Community engagement covers the range of actions contributing to conservation outcomes. These can include:
- producing property management plans
- producing a conservation agreement on private land
- improving planning and monitoring skills
- volunteering time and energy for on-ground works
- contributing to the development of regional and local conservation plans
- donating money
- raising local awareness of threatened species.
Community engagement encourages all groups and individuals interested in the environment to work together to obtain conservation outcomes. It promotes the exchange of information and ideas and increases the likelihood of community ownership of environmental problems and solutions.
Community development or capacity building is a key part of effective community engagement, and involves providing a community with the information, training, skills, contacts and support needed to engage in an issue and take control of activities in their area. (See 'Planning before and during development of community actions' and 'Implementation and maintaining partnerships' for more detail).
Aboriginal person means a person who is a member of the Aboriginal race of Australia, who identifies themself as an Aboriginal person, and who is accepted by the Aboriginal community as an Aboriginal person.
When engaging the Aboriginal community, it is important to recognise that Aboriginal people may belong to groups other than formal bodies such as local Aboriginal land councils. Other groups include traditional owners, custodial groups, Elders, Aboriginal corporations and native title claimants or holders. See 'Involving Aboriginal communities' for further information.
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1.6 Recovery and related plans
A recovery plan is a formal document prepared under an Act of Parliament. The purpose of the plan is to establish the biology, ecology, threats and management strategies for a species, with the long-term aim of improving its conservation status. The preparation of recovery plans is not compulsory in NSW, but may be used for species whose recovery requires complex planning and extensive consultation with stakeholders.
A threat abatement plan is also a formal document prepared under an act of legislation. The purpose of the plan is to identify strategies to abate the impacts of a key threatening process. The preparation of a threat abatement plan is also not compulsory in NSW.
The Priorities Action Statement (PAS) identifies the strategies and, where known, specific actions needed to promote the recovery of threatened species and abate key threatening processes. The development of a PAS is a requirement under NSW legislation. The PAS identifies which recovery and threat abatement plans will be prepared by DEC, and lists actions for those species for which the preparation of a formal plan is not considered necessary.
In the context of this guide, the term 'plan' is often used for simplicity's sake. However, its use is broad, and could refer to a formal recovery plan or any other plan developed at national, state, regional or local level that includes threatened species management actions.
A recovery or threat abatement team is a collaboration of stakeholders brought together to develop and implement a recovery or threat abatement plan. This group is usually managed by the government agency responsible for the legislation under which the plan is written.
Recovery teams are mentioned often but are also referred to loosely. A formalised team is not compulsory and does not always exist for each recovery plan, but often some degree of formal or informal consultation and collaboration is undertaken. For any species management plan, a group of internal and external stakeholders is normally consulted to develop and oversee implementation of the document.
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1.7 Collating the information
Numerous books and guides have been developed on facilitating community environmental engagement. The aim of this guide is to pull together some of the most relevant information from those sources.
Citations are not provided for all information, although much of it is drawn from previous documents dealing with community engagement. Sources of information have been cited when a considerable amount of text or graphics have been imported from another publication. References (appendixthirteen06348.pdf 171 kb) are listed in Appendix 13, with a brief summary of their content.
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Page last updated: 21 March 2012