Urban Bushland Acquisition and Conservation

Thu Jun 20 11:12:32 EST 1996

Adrian Vlok <wama at peg.apc.org> wrote in a post to sci.bio.botany
and bionet.plants:

>I am looking for information regarding innovative mechanisms for local or
>regional governments to acquire and manage urban remnant
>bushland/vegetation/forests.... [major snip]
You presented various options for acquiring control of these lands, all of
which to me seemed to approach the problem negatively.  People will look on
such a project with a great deal more favor, as well as being much more
willing to participate, if more "positive" solutions can be found.  Some
ideas that come to mind:

--let the land remain in private ownership but acquire a conservation
easement in which they agree to let the land be managed to best maintain the
natural resources.

--the easement can be set up in such a way that the owner is paid a moderate
fee  (enough to make it worthwhile to find an alternative area to build the
swimming pool, tennis court, etc.).

--alternatively, the owner can be exempt from property taxes (if you have
such a thing there) for keeping the land "natural".

--make the landowner feel a part of the conservation team, NOT as the adversary.

--get such organizations as The Nature Conservancy or other private entities
involved.  Sometimes their role can be more the "soothing" of public
conflicts (presenting an alternative to selling land "to the %^$@!
government") than contributing monetarily.  In addition to
national/international organizations, are there "concerned private citizens"
who can create a "grassroots movement"?  While they might not be able to
provide the big bucks, they might be willing to personally contact less
cooperative landowners, lead hikes for an intimate look at the habitat,
write public education articles for the newspaper, or whatever...

--public education!  What are you saving?  Why?  How fast is it
disappearing?  Extinction is forever!  Promote guided "tours" so folks can
come to know the bushland first-hand, and that kind of thing.

I have to admit that I'm not familiar with the ecology of the bushland.  Is
it a desirable "neighbor" or does it harbor animals (or even poisonous
plants) that "scare" folks to the point of wanting to destroy it for that
reason alone?  Does appropriate management require periodic burning or other
management techniques that might cause a problem to the "human neighbors" or
fear of property damage beyond the limits of the natural area (ie, if you
burn my bushland, the fire might get out of control and burn up my house)?
In other words, can folks co-exist adjacent to the bushland, or are
non-developable "buffer zones" required?  If bushlands are already a part of
the urban areas, it sounds like this might not be the case.

In summary, my suggestion to your post is to explore some positive avenues,
rather than or in addition to "the Government imposing its will".  Don't
forget about the important "positives" of public education and promoting a
sense of partnering for conservation, not an "us AGAINST them" attitude.

One final thought - many cities in North America are trying to
"reclaim" or restore natural areas.  One major city's efforts that I
have slight knowledge about is Toronto, Ontario, CA.  You might try
contacting city officials there for more information.

Best wishes for success!
Deb Lewis

Deborah Q. Lewis, Curator
Ada Hayden Herbarium (ISC)                        Ph. [1]515/294-9499
Department of Botany                             FAX: [1]515/294-1337
Iowa State University                      E-mail: dlewis at iastate.edu
Ames, IA  50011-1020 U.S.A.

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