Hundreds of donors come together to purchase and protect the bush block of Tasmania’s Sloping Main Reserve

A strip of bushland supporting threatened vegetation on the quiet Tasman peninsula south-east of Hobart will now have continued protection after a large community fundraising effort helped raise the funds to purchase the block.

The 425-hectare Main Sloping Reserve looks like your average bush block, but is home to seven threatened vegetation communities, including a significant area of ​​critically endangered black gum forest.

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

A total of 539 donors helped raise the funds needed for her purchase, with each donation being matched dollar-for-dollar by the Elsie Cameron Foundation for a total of $3.4 million.

A wide shot showing bushes, some grass, and water and mountains in the distance
Sloping Main Reserve on the Tasman Peninsula includes a critically endangered black gum forest.(ABC News: Lucas Bowden)

The TLC says these donors were predominantly Tasmanian, including previous residents who now call the mainland home and support the cause in large numbers.

“We know that people want to protect endangered animals like swift parrots, forty-spotted parrots and Tasmanian devils,” said TLC executive director James Hattam.

“But to see this level of enthusiasm for threatened plants has been, for a botanist like myself, 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: Lucas Bowden)

Previously, the reserve had been privately owned and managed by a family for generations, who left the site essentially intact to preserve its conservation values.

That means for the TLC, there’s a lot to explore, and the first few visits to the site left the team excited, according to botanist and director of conservation science and planning Cath Dickson.

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

A woman sits on part of a dead tree in a wetland area, which is surrounded by gum trees.
Dr. Dickson says the shrub here may seem common, but it’s actually very diverse and full of important species.(ABC News: Lucas Bowden)

“When you look across the property, there are seven different threatened ecological communities, which is quite rare, so it’s really very diverse in what seems like a fairly common landscape.”

What was particularly exciting, she said, was stumbling across an intact Black Gum forest, with this type of ecological community critically endangered.

“And having this understory of all our shrubs and sedges, and particularly not having any weedy areas, is also a very important factor.”

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

Hope for endangered species

It’s not just botanists who are excited.

For TLC conservation ecologist David Hamilton, the focus is on determining how many species of animals are calling the reserve home.

A man standing in the bush holds a pair of binoculars.
Dr. Hamilton’s team is trying to find out how many different species of animals call the reserve home.(ABC News: Lucas Bowden)

Wallaby trails and wombat holes had already been spotted, along with a diverse community of woodland birds and the expectation that bandicoots and bettongs would make use of the land.

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

They are also hoping to find the Tasmanian Dusky Antechinus, one of Tasmania’s least understood mammals, best known for its intense mating habits.

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

“So protecting areas like this when they arise…becomes an even higher priority.”

Gum trees with blue sky and some clouds in the background
Black gums are critically endangered but are found in the Sloping Main Reserve.(ABC News: Lucas Bowden)

Preservation a community effort

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

“It checked so many boxes,” he said. “Not only was it so diverse in terms of covering a variety of habitats and endangered species, but it also complemented the protected areas around it.

“The planet needs all the love it can get. You only have to listen to the daily news to know that deeply worrying things are happening with the environment.

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

It is not the only land that is preserved

Sloping Main Reserve is far from the only protected area on the Tasman Peninsula, with multiple community projects underway to protect the picturesque region.

Surrounding 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 borough are public spaces such as the Sloping Main State Reserve. Lime Bay and the Coal Mines. Historic place.

A man and a woman walk along a bush path, each carrying a pair of binoculars.  The man is pointing at something out of frame.
Dr. Hamilton and Dr. Dickson are working to better understand the importance of the reserve.(ABC News: Lucas Bowden)

Tasman Landcare Group Vice President Daniel Kelleher said there was definitely a community mentality of wanting to take care of their picturesque backyard.

Worker bees and revegetation sessions are taking place regularly, Kelleher said, and homeowners are increasingly looking to learn how to manage their properties to understand and reduce their carbon footprint.

“I just think it’s ingrained in you if you live here,” Kelleher said.

“It’s such a beautiful landscape that you want to preserve it. You want to leave the farm better than when you found it.”

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