Global Conservation Groups Announce Major Effort to Protect Australia’s Bush, Deserts & Oceans

Contact: Justin Kenney, 215.575.4816, Sue Davies, 03.9596.7341 or 0419.434.398

Queensland, Australia - 07/23/2007 - Two international conservation groups, the Pew Environment Group and The Nature Conservancy, have announced the creation of the Wild Australia Program, a $14 million, three-year effort to conserve Australia’s bush, desert and oceans. The Wild Australia Program will be Pew’s first major commitment to conservation work in Australia. The Nature Conservancy has been established in Australia since 1999, working closely with and providing funding for local non-governmental organisations on science-based conservation projects.

“Australia’s wilderness sits alongside the Amazon Forest, Canada’s boreal forests, the Antarctic and the Sahara Deserts as one of the ‘big five’ large wild areas remaining on Earth,” said Dr. Joshua Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group, the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts.  “After looking worldwide to see where we could have the most impact for wilderness conservation, we agreed that Australia offered some of the greatest opportunities.”

The Wild Australia Program is headed up by Dr. Barry Traill of the Pew Environment Group.  Dr. Traill has a long history of conservation work in Australia and will be headquartered in Queensland.

“Many people, including Australians, don’t realise how rare it is to have such huge areas of landscapes and seascapes in such good condition,” said Dr. Traill. “Areas such as northern Australia and the inland deserts, and much of our seas, that haven’t been highly damaged or degraded and still have life and nature in abundance are becoming increasingly rare.”

Dr Traill said the Wild Australia Project believes that these areas need to be managed if they are to continue to thrive. For instance, many native birds and mammals are declining in remote areas of northern Australia. The habitat is being degraded by climate change, poor fire management, weeds and feral animals.

“One of the goals of the project is to get more people actively involved by working with community groups, Indigenous and private land holders, farmers, conservation groups, businesses and governments to achieve the on-ground results,” Dr. Traill said.

Dr. Michael Looker, director of The Nature Conservancy’s Australia program, said he was extremely pleased that Australia will benefit from the combined experience and resources of The Nature Conservancy and the Pew Environment Group.

“This major effort by US conservation organisations illustrates the high values others place on Australia’s bush, deserts and oceans,” Dr. Looker said. “The Wild Australia Program will extend The Nature Conservancy’s ability to help protect and manage millions of square kilometres of country for nature and people.  This new partnership with Pew complements our existing strong relationships with Australian NGOs.”

The Wild Australia Program is currently identifying and prioritising possible conservation projects. This includes a whole range of work to protect the biggest remaining natural areas in Australia – both on land and sea – in partnership with landholders on the ground and through advocacy support for protection of lands and seas.

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The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life. The Pew Environment Group—the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts—tackles the world’s great environmental challenges with campaigns that are cutting edge and comprehensive. We combine strategic investments, sound science, sophisticated communications and smart partnerships to secure policy reforms that curb global warming, end overfishing and preserve pristine wilderness.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organisation working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 6 million hectares in the United States and have helped conserve more than 40 million hectares in Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific.

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