17/12/2009 - 00:00

US enviro charities fund WA projects

17/12/2009 - 00:00

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AS charities go, the Pew Charitable Trusts and The Nature Conservancy are gorillas of global philanthropy.

US enviro charities fund WA projects

AS charities go, the Pew Charitable Trusts and The Nature Conservancy are gorillas of global philanthropy.

Collectively the US groups hold more than $12 billion in assets and they’ve set their sights on preserving the environment of huge chunks of Western Australia, including regions representing more than 20 per cent of the state’s land mass and nearly half its coastal waters.

The two organisations are jointly funding the Wild Australia program, which has a major focus on WA because the state has vast areas with high preservation values backed up by a democratic system that better ensures conservation efforts will stick.

That involves millions of dollars of spending across a range of initiatives in both the north and south of the state.

The Wild Australia program has identified the whole of the Kimberley, about 425,000 square kilometres; the Great Western Woodlands, a 141,000sqkm swath of the western Goldfields; and the south western marine waters extending from about Victor Harbour in South Australia right around to Shark Bay as three of its six geographic targets over the next five years.

Some of these campaigns are quite public and being done in league with other conservation groups such as the Save our Marine Life campaign, which has both groups listed as alliance partners.

On the marine front, Pew has also courted controversy recently by campaigning for heritage listing of 1 million square kilometres of the Coral Sea off Queensland, demanding the exclusion of fishermen – a move so harsh many local conservationist groups oppose it.

The Nature Conservancy is also listed as a partner in the Gondwana Link project for which it put up $1 million in start-up funding, according to its annual report.

At this stage, the approach in the Kimberley is more low key.

Neither player is listed in the high-profile Save the Kimberley alliance, a consortium of environmental groups opposed to the WA government’s moves to establish an LNG hub at James Price Point.

It is a vocal campaign, including cinema advertising, but it doesn’t include the traditional owners of the area north of Broome, which support the hub, and are represented by the Kimberley Land Council.

While the KLC has an agreement with a number of conservation groups, including Pew, that it can work together even if there are areas of disagreement, the US charity has opted to take a different approach to supporting public campaigns as has happened in the south.

For instance, it has provided $600,000 over three years to the KLC to fund the coordination and planning for a series of potential Indigenous Protected Areas which are, in effect, national parks managed by aboriginal people.

The Pew funding involves proposals for IPAs on more than 107,000sqkm of land following the coast from 80-Mile Beach south of Broome right around to Wyndham. The area, about one quarter of the Kimberley region, will not include pastoral stations, many of which in the area are run by Aboriginal groups.

The Kimberley already has two IPAs: Paruku, covering 4,300sqkm at the border of the Great Sandy and Tanami deserts, and Warlu Jilajaa Jumu, covering 16,000sqkm within the Great Sandy Desert.

Run out of both Washington and Philadelphia, Pew was founded on the back of a family fortune made through the Sun Oil Company.

Based in Washington, The Nature Conservancy was formed by a small group of scientists and originally called the Ecologists Union.

 

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