Is there a place for private property conservation?
James Fitzsimons is a busy man. As our Director of Conservation he’s involved in everything from tropical savanna burning to shellfish reef restoration. He’s also a widely published scientist on everything from burrowing crayfish to tax reform for conservation. On top of that, he’s an Adjunct Professor at Deakin University in Melbourne. And for good measure, his expertise in private land conservation led to him being part of the Privately Protected Areas and Nature Stewardship Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
So, what does James do with his free time? He manages his own nature reserve of course.
“I was looking for a place where I could achieve conservation directly on my own and have a place to share with my kids,” he says. “I’ve always wanted a block of land that had native vegetation but might also have degraded areas that could do with some restoration.” In the early 2000s, he found what he was looking for in a 130-hectare block of threatened box-ironbark woodland in central Victoria, an area that at one point seemed destined for development. When that development fell through, he was able to buy the property and set about restoring it for nature.
To assist native wildlife
“My whole family has really benefitted from the experience”, James recalls. “My wife Janelle conducted some of her Master’s research on reptiles and invertebrates on the site and we both love taking our two children there camping when we can. The kids love running around exploring the place and learning about the animals they find.” With two biologists for
It wasn’t always the perfect place to enjoy wildlife
Things get wild when the lights go out
When the sun goes down, the Australian bush comes alive with creatures unfamiliar, even to many Australians. James’s bush block is no exception. It supports Brush-tailed Phascogales, for instance, a small carnivorous marsupial with an impossibly fluffy black tail and a taste for spiders. There’s also Squirrel Gliders making good use of the nest boxes provided – when they’re not gliding from tree to tree through the canopy. Some birds
At work James is often involved in massive landscape-scale conservation efforts but owning his own relatively small reserve has allowed him the chance to look at conservation from a new perspective. “Managing this land myself gives me a different view of conservation,” he says. “It makes me appreciate the challenges and opportunities of private land conservation from a landowner’s perspective. There’s something very powerful about ownership and protecting a property in perpetuity. And on top of that, it’s just a great escape for me and my family.”