Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Connecting Country wins funding to develop its plans to link landscape

Posted on 25 April, 2009 by Connecting Country


A large scale, community-driven landscape restoration project known as Connecting Country has received more funding from the environmental philanthropic organisation, the Norman Wettenhall Foundation. Based in Castlemaine, the Foundation has approved a $30,000 grant to the Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests for the project. The grant is to fund a Project Worker to develop detailed and fully costed action plans for improving habitat for wildlife and native plants within the Mt Alexander Shire. Projects could, for instance, focus on creating biolinks or target particular endangered species, such as Swift Parrots or Brush-tailed Phascogales (Tuans).

Connecting Country is a partnership of around 30 landcare and environment groups, as well as government agencies, who come together to form the Reference Group which guides the project. The Norman Wettenhall Foundation has supported the project since its inception with grants now totalling $80,000.

Over the last year Connecting Country has gathered information from landholders across the Mt Alexander Shire about the existing condition of the landscape and recorded sightings of where native plant and wildlife species were found. This information was then brought together to produce a Biodiversity Blueprint of the region, containing valuable information about environmental assets and a unique and comprehensive set of maps.

“The maps provide an eagle’s eye view of the whole landscape, allowing the Connecting Country partners to identify 21 possible opportunities for major on-ground habitat restoration works across the region,” says Beth Mellick, Executive Officer of the Norman Wettenhall Foundation. “These potential projects will form the springboard for action plan development in the project’s second stage.”

Another unique facet of Connecting Country was the pro bono production of an interactive website by software developer Spatial Vision. Based on Google Earth, the website offers simple and accessible mapping tools for people to enter information about flora and fauna sightings across the Mount Alexander region. This crucial second stage funding will also ensure the continued rollout of Connecting Country’s interactive website.

“It is expected that community involvement will provide greater knowledge about, for instance, the preferred habitat of Tuans or where native wildflowers can be found,” says Beth Mellick. “Clearly, the website has the potential to become a powerful tool in guiding future conservation efforts.”

With this latest grant, Connecting Country now has the resources for in-depth development of restoration plans that could significantly improve habitat connectivity and biodiversity expansion across the region’s landscape. Given the breadth and commitment of Connecting Country’s partners, once such action plans are developed, the Norman Wettenhall Foundation is quietly confident there’s a good chance of attracting other funding sources to bring their plans to fruition.

“We believe Connecting Country is leading the way in terms of a bottom-up approach to landscape restoration work in Australia,” says Beth Mellick. “This is a different and a unique model, because it is the community as a whole who are making decisions about the environment that they live and work in – what and how changes are made to protect habitat are determined by local knowledge and passion.”

For further information about Connecting Country see or contact Beth by phone on 03 5472 1316; mobile 0431 219 980

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