Conservation Auctions Assist Private Biodiversity Conservation
Pyper, Wendy, Ecos
On private properties, conserving wildlife habitat corridors that allow for daily and seasonal species dispersal is a major natural resource management challenge. How can landholders on adjoining properties be encouraged to cooperate to manage linked areas of private land sufficient for biodiversity conservation?
One option recently trialed, and outlined in The Rangeland Journal, is a 'conservation auction'. Implementation of this market-based instrument in the Desert Uplands region of western Queensland saw landholders join forces to protect biodiversity across a corridor of remnant grassland (rangeland), spanning 11 properties and 62 000 ha, and a further 22 992 ha of unconnected remnant vegetation. The total cost was only $2 per hectare per year.
Research team member Dr Jill Windle, of Central Queensland University, says conservation auctions--which include Australia's pioneer auction system, BushTender--fund conservation works on private land where there is little incentive for land managers to undertake the work privately. Private land managers are invited to submit bids to undertake these works and the bids are assessed, ranked and funded by the facilitating organisation, based on value for money. Contracts between a funder (such as, say, a catchment authority) and a land manager are then established, with the landholder receiving periodic payments for agreed management activities.
However, unlike BushTender, the Desert Uplands auction focused on establishing a 'linked landscape' for biodiversity conservation, rather than conserving unconnected pockets of land. To achieve this, three bidding rounds were conducted, rather than the usual single round. After each bidding round, landholders were told in which quartile their bid competitiveness fell, and were provided with a map of the region showing the location of all other bid proposals.
'The auction was a new conservation scheme in a region where most landholders had no experience with grants or conservation agreements,' Dr Windle says.
'The multiple bidding round gave them an opportunity to learn about the process and the market, to change the location of their bid to better align with other bids in their area, and potentially to improve their bid price in the next bidding round.'
The bids were assessed on three key priorities--linkage with other bids, biodiversity values and land condition (assessed by field visits)--producing a single 'environmental benefits' score that could be compared against the cost of the proposal. …