Publisher: Oxford University Press Date of Publication: 2005
Price: ISBN: 019551728 8
Pages: xlvi + 641 Format: Paperback

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1 - Australia's natural heritage; 2 - Social context; 3 - Concept and purpose of protected areas; 4 - Process of management; 5 - Establishing protected areas; 6 - Obtaining and managing information; 7 - Management planning; 8 - Finance and economics; 9 - Administration - making it work; 10 - Sustainability management; 11 - Operations management; 12 - Natural heritage management; 13 - Cultural heritage management; 14 - Threats to protected areas; 15 - Incident management; 16 - Tourism and recreation; 17 - Working with the community; 18 - Indigenous people and protected areas; 19 - Linking the landscape; 20 - Marine protected areas; 21 - Evaluating management effectiveness; 22 - Future and visions.



Conservation is a crucial part of our land management strategy. Today its remit goes far beyond the original one of protecting species and/or areas. It has become global in extent and universal in application. There's a wealth of literature on the theory of conservation and also, often from an ecological perspective, of practical applications and means. What is less forthcoming is a text which marries both of these approaches with the third one of the actual day-to-day management of these places. Theory might give reasons and practical work a means but it relies on people looking after a place to make it happen. That this is more than just caretaking is evident in this large volume which looks at the Australian experience of management. Given the value of conservation to the economy this is an important aspect. Even though readers might not be directly involved in Antipodean conservation there's a wealth of detail which makes it worth reading.

The book is divided into two main parts - theory and practice. Part A deals with four key elements in terms of theory. The first chapter is devoted to an overview of the natural heritage: the evolution, climate, landforms and biogeography that make Australia unique. Chapter two seeks to put this into a social context which is mainly the development of conservation principles and the legislation to support them. Chapter three examines the theory of protection and the way it has developed in Australia. It also looks at the way that international conservation impacts upon Australia. Chapter four moves on to management - not just in the structure but also in the various agencies and systems that are involved. The second, larger, part deals with the principles and practice of management. It covers a comprehensive list of topics which can be broken down into a number of areas. Firstly, there is the need to find and plan the protected area. This covers three chapters which investigate the conservation situation in Australia and where gaps might be, getting hold of information and devising a management plan. Having found an area and wishing to protect it there is a need for the bureaucracy to be in place. To a pure conservationist this might seem unusual but we need to remember that an area is only protected as long as it is recognised and there are personnel. So, finance, administration, sustainability and operational requirements are all necessary. The next stage is to recognise that all areas are different but that they fall into two categories - natural and cultural. The World Heritage scheme recognises this in its classification and it's particularly relevant here with so many sites under UNESCO recognition alongside the 60,000 years of Aboriginal history. Sadly, along with a history of human occupation there is a history (largely recent) of human destruction. We are both the nation with the most unique species and the one losing it at the fastest rate! This makes the two chapters on threats and incidents all the more relevant. Part of the delight of Australia is in its wildscape and this is the target of tourism and, to keep the areas as sustainable as possible, of tourism management. This brings us to the issue of working with people. Firstly, there's the need to consult local inhabitants about conservation and development. Despite the obvious value of conservation to tourism and other industries it still needs to be in tune with the local population. Further, we have a unique culture in Aboriginal Australia. Generations of ideas link myth with land use and we have a very delicate situation that is really only recently being addressed with anything like the care it should be. There's a long way to go but with increasing indigenous input into National Park management for example there is a future for both wildlife and the often disadvantaged Aboriginal population. So far, all the work described here has been terrestrial. Marine conservation is just becoming a force and so a brief chapter on that is welcome. Finally, there's a very short view of how conservation might evolve.

This is a remarkable book which deserves a readership far wider than it's target audience suggests. Although nominally about Australia the actual use of the text can be far broader. Each chapter is full of details about global schemes, local and global laws, ideas, background information etc. that can be applied directly or with slight alterations to any other conservation course elsewhere. There are numerous diagrams that act as schema to plan conservation projects. In addition, a lot of conservation work here is as advanced as that found anywhere and so practitioners would be able to gain a great deal as well. To add to this its also very user-friendly with accessible text and a wealth of detail that makes it one of the best overall texts on the market.


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