Reflecting the growing public awareness about environmental destruction, concerned citizens are digging into their own pockets to protect their countries' natural heritage. Many people are buying parcels of land earmarked for logging or development, either on their own or by pooling resources with friends.
Similarly, citizens are helping to purchase at-risk land by donating to the many land-conservation trusts that have sprung up. The U.S.-based Nature Conservancy is America's largest and richest conservation group, with annual turnover of $450 million, as much as its six nearest rivals combined. The vast majority of land trusts employ the “revolving fund” strategy―buying land, placing a legal covenant on it, and then reselling it. A legal covenant forbids development of a property, and is permanent, remaining valid even if the land changes hands. Because covenants are considered the most effective means of safeguarding land, they are fast becoming the most popular nature-preservation tool.
In Australia, the Australian Bush Heritage Fund recently venerated publicity with the purchase or a $ 9,000-hectare cattle property in one of the country 's land-clearing hotspots in Queensland. CEO Doug Humann believes that conservation trusts still have great growth potential, a thought supported by the recent flood of contributions. “I'm convinced we haven't even scratched the tip of the iceberg of community understanding and interest in this area,” he says.
The genesis of Bush Heritage has become almost legendary in environmental circles. An activist from Tasmania created the trust in 1990, using a ＄50,000 environment prize he had won to make a down payment on a piece of privately owned Tasmanian wilderness that that was earmarked for the chainsaw. Since then the fund has bought an additional 13 properties and helped hundreds of individuals and groups with similar aims. Humann asserts private trusts are swelling because of a growing public conviction that governments lack the will and resources to properly protect Australia’s natural heritage.