Gary Howling is Great Eastern Range’s (GER) Conservation Manager in New South Wales, who is hosted by the Office of the Environment and Heritage. Gary has a wide background in regional planning and landscape-scale conservation programs, biodiversity and native vegetation conservation policy, community engagement, and conservation-science brokering.
The global emergence in continental scale connectivity conservation partly reflects a mainstream recognition amongst natural resource managers of the need to address ecological processes which operate beyond traditional regional scales of action. Commonly, such initiatives engage participants from a cross-section of society, encouraging collaboration and alignment of efforts with a vision to connect and conserve habitats. Implementation of the Great Eastern Ranges Initiative (GER) across 3,600 kilometres of Australia’s eastern seaboard, addresses a range of challenges for managers seeking to achieve a range of ecological, social and institutional outcomes.
The landscape targeted by the GER forms a diverse socio-ecological system with landforms ranging from alpine ranges, to elevated plateaux and rugged ranges bisected by low-elevation valleys. Together, they comprise a continental-scale ‘Connectivity Conservation Area’ (CCA) which maintains iconic natural and cultural heritage values across 33 million hectares of the Victoria, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Queensland. The values of the GER CCA have been well documented, and include:
- The longest range of mountainous and upland landscapes on the continent, spanning 21 degrees of latitude and including our greatest altitudinal gradient;
- The most reliable source of water, providing fresh water for at least 11 million people across eastern Australia, both on the coast and across the inland catchments;
- The greatest variety of habitats and species, including globally significant hotspots for species diversity and endemism and three World Heritage Listed landscapes;
- A network of existing habitats and species populations which provides our best opportunity to resist the ‘big squeeze’ comprised of the combined impacts of increased population pressures increasingly encroaching on the corridor from the east, and the impacts of climate change forcing environmental envelopes to the southeast in geography, and upwards in elevation;
- Migration pathways supporting the annual seasonal dispersal and long-distance movement of up to 60% of Australia’s forest- and woodland-dependant birds such as Rainbow Bea-Eater (Merops ornatus) and Regent Honeyeater (Xanthomyza phrygia), as well as iconic Australian species such as Grey-Headed Flying Fox (Pteropus poliocephalus), Bogong Moth (Agrotis infusa), and Richmond Birdwing Butterfly (Ornithoptera richmondia); and
- An extensive network of more than 2,000 existing protected areas on public and private lands which provides the basis for seeking to achieve the GER’s vision.
After 8 years of active investment in landscapes across eastern Australia, GER has established a series of regional partnerships to demonstrate practical approaches to transcending scale of thinking and action, so that even the seemingly smallest of commitments at property scale can combine to achieve outcomes of continental significance.