"The Conservancy has the science, the tactical planning and the partnerships to achieve tangible, long-term success."
David Thomas, the Thomas Foundation
The Nature Conservancy and Australian philanthropist David Thomas have announced that Thomas has made one of the largest private gifts to conservation in Australia's history—an AU$10 million (US$7.7 million) challenge grant.
Thomas, founder of the Thomas Foundation, has challenged fellow Australians to join him in this effort by matching his $10 million contribution and raising a record $20 million to save the country’s most at-risk lands, waters and wildlife.
Funding High-Impact Projects in Key Habitats
The Conservancy will now work through the Thomas Challenge to direct and support high-impact projects with the most potential to yield results in Australia's key habitats—including rainforests, grasslands, desert shrublands and freshwater and marine systems.
Russell Leiman, the Conservancy’s Asia-Pacific regional director, says that the Thomas grant is the largest gift to conservation the Conservancy has received outside the United States.
"David Thomas has not only given a gift to future generations of a country as biologically rich and unique as Australia—he has truly done something that enhances the world,” said Leiman.
A Leader in Biodiversity—and in Extinctions
Australia is one of the planet’s most diverse natural environments, with more than 80 percent of its vascular plants, mammals and reptiles found nowhere else on Earth—such as the stunning rare eucalyptus and the malleefowl, a bird that builds huge nesting mounds over three feet high and three times as wide.
But the country also leads the world in species extinctions and faces escalating threats from unsustainable water use, natural bush clearing, invasive species, feral animals and global climate change.
“The Challenge funds will support a very strategic brand of conservation,” says Thomas. “From land acquisition and management to species recovery, large-scale revegetation and complex river restoration, every project will bear the hallmarks of collaboration, scientific backing, community involvement and global impact.”
Three Priority Projects
The Thomas Foundation and the Conservancy have already identified three priority projects that are eligible to receive funding through the challenge:
- Gondwana Link is a visionary effort to restore and reconnect a 1,000-kilometer swath of native bushland from Kalgoorlie to the karri forests of southern Western Australia. The Australian Bush Heritage Fund and Greening Australia have joined forces with local groups to undertake the largest native revegetation endeavor in Australia’s history.
- Wongalara is a tremendous conservation opportunity in Australia’s “Top End” (the very tip of Australia's Northern Territory). The Australian Wildlife Conservancy is seeking to acquire this 1,900-square-kilometer landscape of rugged escarpments, wild rivers and rare wildlife habitat for threatened species like the colorful Gouldian finch.
- The Murray River is arguably Australia’s greatest waterway and an integral part of the region’s culture, natural heritage and economy. The Trust for Nature, already the owner of a 30,000-hectare protected area, is now working to create a field station for academic research that will fuel the community effort to restore the river and combat salinity, erosion, habitat destruction and changes in flood patterns.
"Poised for Conservation Success"
“More than ever before, Australia is poised for conservation success on a new scale,” says Thomas. “I like the Conservancy’s global, habitat-based conservation vision. They have the science, the tactical planning and the partnerships to achieve tangible, long-term success.”
The Conservancy has been active in Australia since 1999 and has formed partnerships with some of Australia’s leading conservation organizations as well as private businesses, government agencies, and individuals.
Through the exchange of best practices, information and financial resources, the Conservancy has helped to support and guide projects protecting more than 607,050 hectares of critical habitat nationwide, including key land acquisitions in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia.