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Alternative economies on Indigenous land in northern Australia

Scientists, academics, policy makers and planners will come together next week in Cairns for the Developing Northern Australia Conference 2017. Among the eminent speakers on subjects from agriculture to energy, mining to aquaculture, will be Dr Luke Preece from The Nature Conservancy speaking on developing alternative economies on Indigenous lands in northern Australia.

Northern Australia contains the world’s largest intact tropical savanna and Indigenous people own or have rights to more than half of that land. The region has many diverse Indigenous cultures, high levels of biodiversity, and highly valuable ‘ecosystem services’ or benefits derived from nature. Despite this, there are few options to sustainably finance the management of country.

At the conference Dr Preece, who is based in Cairns, will describe how The Nature Conservancy and partners have been working to support Indigenous groups use early season fires on a vast scale to reduce carbon emissions, and to turn that into income to support their work.

“Fire is a major influence on the ecosystems, habitats and culture of northern Australia,” said Luke. “It’s also a major challenge if not actively managed. By using fire proactively as a tool, fire management has become a way to access ecosystem service markets.”

Over the last decade, The Nature Conservancy has:

  • supported the science required to develop the savanna burning methodologies subsequently approved by the Australian Government regulator;
  • provided financial support to some Indigenous ranger groups to undertake fire management planning and on-ground burning to enter the market;
  • supported groups to improve organizational governance and operational capacity.

In his conference presentation, Luke will demonstrate the benefits of an emerging ecosystem service market especially those for Indigenous communities, highlight the challenges and suggest the next steps to a sustainable conservation economy in northern Australia.

You can find out more about Dr Luke Preece here.