Victorian Landcare Magazine - Spring 2017, Issue 70

Landcare Network Award - Connecting Country

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Above: Alex Schipperen and Vanessa Wiggenraad restoring habitat at a Connecting Country Community Planting Day at Elphinstone.

Connecting Country is a community-led landscape restoration organisation that operates as a informal Landcare network across the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria.

Established in 2009, Connecting Country has a holistic approach to enhancing and restoring the natural environment and a commitment to biodiversity conservation.

Established in 2009, Connecting Country has a holistic approach to enhancing and restoring the natural environment and a commitment to biodiversity conservation. This is achieved through Landcare support, community education, citizen science and on-ground works. The Connecting Country Landcare Facilitator works to link the efforts of the 31 Landcare and Friends groups in the region.

Since 2010 Connecting Country has developed more than 240 land management plans with landholders and Landcare groups, protected 4336 hectares of remnant vegetation, revegetated an additional 1557 hectares and undertaken pest plant and animal control across 6183 hectares.

The network has also run 187 education events with 4833 participants and implemented a long-term scientific monitoring program.

Connecting Country works to a biodiversity blueprint produced by representatives from the Landcare community and government agencies to document the current health of the local landscape, and to guide its activities. A detailed strategic plan developed for 2014 – 2024 directs work plans and priorities.

Location of Connecting Country

Above: Location of Connecting Country

According to the network’s Co-Director, Krista Patterson-Majoor, it’s the dedicated staff, passionate local community and focus on landscape-scale restoration that has made the organisation so successful.

“When we started up, ten years ago, we researched the health of our landscapes and used this as a guide for what needed to be done. Our first project focused on protecting Yellow Box woodlands and phascogales. More recently, woodland birds have been a priority. As a result, there’s been an enormous groundswell of enthusiasm for bird monitoring in the area.”

Connecting Country has formed many successful and fruitful partnerships with agencies, organisations and volunteer groups operating in the region, including the North Central CMA, the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation, Trust for Nature, Parks Victoria and Mount Alexander Shire Council. The network has signed a memorandum of understanding with the council recognising their shared objectives in natural resource management. The council’s environment officer attends and contributes to the network’s steering group meetings.

Recent major projects include connecting landscapes across the Mount Alexander region, a reptile and frog monitoring program with 48 monitoring sites, a habitat restoration project for woodland birds and a project to boost bulokes and diamond firetails in Muckleford and surrounding areas.

The network has an active Facebook page, website and blog with more than 560 subscribers. The website is a hub for local news and events and provides resources where community members can learn more about landscape restoration and connect with others.

Connecting Country has produced guides on reptiles and frogs, indigenous plants, rabbit control, woodland birds and plants for central Victoria. A regular nature news series in the district newspaper written by local naturalists also attracts a lot of interest.

The judges of the award were impressed by the network’s clear and enduring approach to planning. They praised the ten-year strategic plan as a way of future-proofing the direction of the network and the valuable association they have made with local government.