THE state government has announced a multi-million-dollar commitment to expand funding for holders of native vegetation Heritage Agreements, which has been welcomed by farming and environment groups.
Improving native vegetation on private land protects and enhances biodiversity, improves landscape sustainability through enhanced water and soil condition as well as offering additional tourism potential, said Environment Minister David Speirs.
"To boost the benefits of improved native vegetation across SA, the state government has committed $3 million of funding over the next two financial years," he said.
Mr Speirs said Heritage Agreements allowed the state government to work with private land owners to deliver practical environmental outcomes.
"Maintaining and improving the condition of native vegetation through investment in management of Heritage Agreements can enhance resilience to climate change impacts over time," he said.
"The government sees the potential in growing the number of Heritage Agreements in SA, particularly in areas which create joined up, protected corridors of vegetation at a landscape scale.
"An expansion in support for Heritage Agreement landowners will support our government's new Landscape SA legislation and its back-to-basics approach.
"This commitment will support Heritage Agreement landowners in the active management of key conservation threats such as feral animals, weeds and wildfire.
"Practical advice and assistance would be provided to Heritage Agreement landowners to plan and effectively implement practical conservation actions.
"The program would be co-designed in consultation with landholders, primary producers and the conservation sector to maximise outcomes."
Farming and environment groups, such as Livestock SA, Conservation Council of SA, Primary Producers SA, the Landcare Association of SA and Trees for Life, have welcomed the $3m funding boost over the next two years.
The groups had been calling for new investment to reverse a long-term decline in funding to Heritage Agreements, the state's flagship program for conservation on private land.
More than 1600 landholders and farmers have entered into Heritage Agreements in SA, protecting more than 1.8m hectares of wildlife habitat across the state.
The program, which was started in 1980 under the Tonkin Liberal Government, provides landholders and farmers with practical advice and financial incentives to permanently protect native vegetation on their property.
Livestock SA CEO Andrew Curtis said it was great to see some money going back into the Heritage Agreements and looked forward to its re-establishment as an ongoing program.
"Farmers are proud of our role as custodians of large parts of SA's unique landscape and recognise the vital role we can play in protecting and restoring wildlife habitat and managing feral animals and weeds," he said.
"A well-resourced Heritage Agreement program will assist and encourage landholders to permanently protect native vegetation on their property and could become an important source of income diversification for farmers and pastoralists managing the impact of drought and commodity price fluctuations.
"It is a win-win for farmers and the environment, and I thank Mr Speirs for the vision and leadership he has shown today."
Landcare Association of SA chairperson Sheree Bowman said with nearly 60 per cent of land in SA privately owned or managed, voluntary conservation and active management by landholders was essential to protecting our wildlife and sustaining thriving rural landscapes.
"For years Heritage Agreements have been the flagship program for private land conservation in our state, but sadly funding has declined by 99pc in the past decade," she said.
"Many Heritage Agreement landholders are taking practical action to manage wildlife habitat on their land such as weed and feral animal control and replanting native trees, but their ability to plan and implement effective conservation actions has been constrained in recent years by a lack of financial and technical support.
"This new injection of funding is an exciting step forward for conservation in SA and we look forward to working with the government and landholders to ensure the program is a success."
The expanded program will roll out from July 1 next year.
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