2 The community's role in threatened species recovery
It is increasingly recognised that the community has a crucial role to play in threatened species recovery. This is reflected by the substantial inclusion of community engagement in developing legislation such as the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and Fisheries Management Act 1994. Community engagement is not always easy, and can be time consuming, but if well managed the outcomes invariably justify the effort. Rather than being a minor component of species recovery, community involvement can potentially provide the broadest and longest lasting outcomes for the survival of a species.
2.1 Why involve the community?
The community should be involved in threatened species recovery for the following reasons:
- land tenure - most threatened species are found on or surrounded by private, or council owned or managed, land
- species protection - many actions to protect threatened species must occur on private land
- threat abatement - much of what threatens species is driven by human activity
- knowledge and expertise - local and historical knowledge held by community members is a valuable resource for species recovery
- recovery opportunities - the local community can recommend locally relevant opportunities for species recovery in a region and can help to access local resources
- community backing - the community can come to love and 'own' a species or project, allowing species recovery to be carried out beyond the life of a plan or project
- spreading awareness - engagement in the recovery process helps to raise awareness of threatened species issues and pressures in the region - people listen more to their friends and peers than to educators, non-government organisations, government agencies or councils
- increased resources - the time and energy that individuals provide voluntarily to implementing recovery actions can greatly multiply the effort being put into the recovery process - many recovery activities can be initiated that would otherwise be either impossible or impractically time-consuming and expensive
- improved capacity - involving and supporting the community in threatened species projects and supporting their voluntary actions by providing training, skills and motivation can significantly increase their ability to engage in future conservation activities
- changing political will - engaging volunteers and the community in a project often results in those people applying local pressure to protect the species and, generally, for environmental change
- access to external funds - working with community groups can help organisations access external funding sources that might otherwise be difficult to access
- local identity - working with a locally known species often results in that species being 'adopted' by locals and becoming a part of a community's identity, thus increasing a species's survival chances
- improved relationships - working with volunteers and the local community helps to build relationships and networks between the community, local government and government agencies, industry, education providers and other stakeholders
- increasing effectiveness - engaging the community and volunteers in the recovery process helps to ensure that their concerns, needs and desires are considered and included in the management process, and provides them with an opportunity to provide input - resulting actions are more likely to be practical and successful
- integration with other natural resource management activities - volunteer and community knowledge of species, issues and threats supports the inclusion of recovery actions in other management forums in which these people may be involved
- improved natural resource management - landholder and community knowledge of a species's needs and threats facing them assists in threatened species becoming a focal point for overall land management and sustainable land use issues
- continuity of leadership - local community members can provide important stability and continuity to a project and can help maintain recovery actions long after the project is finalised
- influencing market forces - industry 'codes of practice', market incentives, sustainable product development and marketing opportunities are increasingly being considered as conservation mechanisms - the community can play a strong role in influencing development of these strategies as consumers or industry members
- voluntary compliance - in many cases the community has legal obligations under threatened species legislation - experience shows that conservation outcomes flow more freely when people are involved because they want to be, not because they are legally obliged to be.
Good community engagement is driven by partnerships and effective relationships.
Working in partnership gives each member a better understanding of the perspective and constraints of others, and builds mutual credibility and respect. It also allows for improved and ongoing information exchange through well-developed networks.
The development of effective partnerships is often a key goal of state agencies, non-government organisations (NGOs) and other groups, and so engaging the community can help to achieve strategic outcomes for the organisation.
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Page last updated: 28 February 2011