Hundreds of donors rallied to buy and protect the mass of bush on the Tasman Peninsula’s sloping prime reserve

A patch of bushland with threatened vegetation on the tranquil Tasman Peninsula, southeast of Hobart, will now enjoy continued protection after a massive community fundraising effort helped raise the money to purchase the block.

The 425-hectare sloping main reserve looks like any average bushland, but is home to seven threatened plant communities – including a large area of ​​critically endangered black gum forest.

The land will be protected for future generations after being taken over by the Tasmanian Land Conservancy (TLC) with the help of community donors.

A total of 539 donors helped raise the funds to purchase it, with each donation matched by a dollar from the Elsie Cameron Foundation bringing the total to $3.4 million.

A wide shot showing bush, some grassland, water and mountains in the distance
The main slope reserve on the Tasman Peninsula includes the endangered black gum forests.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

TLC says these donors were mostly from Tasmania, including former residents who now call the mainland behind the case home in droves.

“We know people want to protect threatened animals like swift parrots, forty-pointed loons and Tasmanian devils,” said TLC CEO James Hatem.

“But seeing this level of enthusiasm for threatened plants was, for a botanist like me, a real thrill.”

What makes the reserve so special?

Wetlands with brown water, green reeds and trees
The reserve is home to at least seven different threatened ecological communities.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Previously, the reserve was privately owned and operated by the same family for several generations, who left the site untouched to preserve its conservation values.

For TLC, that means there’s a lot more to explore — early visits to the site left the team excited, according to botanist, conservation science and planning director Cath Dixon.

“They went back to the office and couldn’t stop talking about it,” said Dr. Dixon.

A woman sits on a section of a dead tree in a swampy area surrounded by gum trees
Dr Dixon says the jungles here may look common but are actually very diverse and full of important species.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

“When you look across the property, there are seven different ecological communities that are threatened, which is very rare — so very diverse in what looks like a fairly common landscape.”

Particularly exciting, she said, was stumbling across intact Black Gum forests – with this kind of ecological community at risk.

“And having that bottom part of all our shrubs and grasses, and particularly not having any grassy areas, is a really important factor as well.”

An aerial shot of the wetland, with brown water and some trees
The Tasmanian Land Conservancy now owns the land.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Hope for endangered species

Botanists aren’t the only ones who are excited.

For TLC ecologist David Hamilton, the focus is on quantifying the number of animal species that call out the reserve.

A man standing in the bushes holding binoculars
Dr. Hamilton’s team is trying to find out how many different kinds of animals the reserve is called.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Already, wallaby tracks and wombat holes have been spotted, along with a diverse forest bird community and it is predicted that bands and animals will take advantage of the land.

His team also hopes to find a Tasmanian devil population, as the Tasman Peninsula is one of the few places in the state where wild populations of animals are free of the devastating facial tumor disease.

They also hope to find the Tasmanian peninsular Antechinus dusky, one of Tasmania’s least understood mammals, known for its intense mating habits.

“The more diverse the environment, the more species it will support,” said Dr. Hamilton.

“So protecting areas like these as they arise… becomes a higher priority.”

Frankincense trees with a blue sky and a few clouds in the background
The black gum is critically endangered but is found in the Slubing Key Reserve.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Maintain a community effort

For Ahmet Bektas of Hobart and his partner Melinda Lambourne, it was an easy decision to contribute to the purchase of Sloping Main Reserve on behalf of their business, Teros.

“It ticked many boxes,” he said. “Not only is it very diverse in terms of covering a variety of threatened habitats as well as endangered species, but it also complements the protected areas around it.

“The planet needs all the love it can get. You only need to listen to the daily news to know that very disturbing things are happening to the environment.

“One of the most satisfying ways to make a difference is to find something in your backyard and find a way to nurture and protect it.”

Not the only land saved

The Principal Slope Reserve is far from the only protected area on the Tasman Peninsula, where many community projects are being implemented to protect the scenic area.

Around the Sloping Main site are privately owned nature reserves and Land for Wildlife properties (where private landowners own and manage portions of their land for nature conservation), while throughout the municipality are public spaces such as Lime Bay State Reserve, a coal mine and historic site.

A man and woman walking along a path in the bush, each holding a pair of binoculars.  The man points to something outside the frame
Dr. Hamilton and Dr. Dixon are working to better understand the importance of the reserve.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

There is definitely a societal mentality of wanting to take care of the picturesque backyard,” said Daniel Kelleher, vice president of the Tasman Landcare Group.

Work and revegetation sessions are held regularly, Kelleher said, and increasingly land owners are looking to learn how to manage their properties to understand and reduce their carbon footprint.

“I think it’s inherent in you if you live here,” said Mr. Keeler.

“It’s a beautiful view, you want to preserve it. You want to leave the farm better than it was when you found it.”

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