On average, when mainlanders think of the Apple Isle, usually the first thing that comes to mind is either the Tasmanian Devil or the state's stunning scenery and breathtaking natural beauty.
However, to ensure a habitat remains for the former, or any other animal for that matter, the latter must be preserved and, in instances where damage has occurred, restored.
Land restoration can include the process of cleaning up and rehabilitating a site that has sustained environmental degradation, be that through natural causes or as a result of human activity, to restore that area back to its natural state as a wildlife home and balanced habitat.
Since 1994, volunteer peak body Landcare Tasmania has helped local communities care for the state's land and coasts, farms and towns, waterways and wildlife.
Among the organisation's 260 local community groups, the award winning North-East Bioregional Network (NEBN) has shown people that those degraded areas are able to be brought back to a healthy ecosystem.
NEBN president Todd Dudley said the network was formed in late 2002 after it was felt there was a need for a regionally based group to advocate for the life and beauty of the region via cross tenure landscape scale nature conservation in the state's North-East and East Coast.
Mr Dudley said the initial aim was to increase the extent of protected areas on public and private land in order to improve landscape connectivity and wildlife corridors.
To achieve this, the group had to increase resources to manage and restore the ecological condition of such land, expand environmental education opportunities in schools and the general community, as well as strengthen environmental and land use planning laws.
Since then, NEBN has been successful in protecting significant crown land blocks, prohibiting subdivisions within one kilometre of the coast in the Break O'Day municipality through planning representations, providing $5 million worth of weed management work within the same region, and facilitating around 30 conservation covenants.
"We have a duty to protect and restore our precious natural heritage, and it is only through the perseverance and dedication of committed citizens over extended periods of time that we are in the fortunate position, where we are able to access and enjoy Tasmania's varied landscapes, including mountains, rivers and coasts, which are home to many special plants and animals," Mr Dudley said.
The work undertaken by Mr Dudley and over 100 of his counterparts has resulted in the network being commended on many occasions, yet no achievement was more memorable than when the group won the Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia's International Award for Restoration Excellence - in the larger scale projects category - for the network's Restore Skyline Tier project.
The initiative involved restoring radiata pine plantations at Scamander back to biodiverse native forests at a landscape scale.
"The project was a great example of the forest industry and a conservation group working together for positive ecological outcomes including restoring important coastal water catchments, regenerating diverse native forests, recovering habitat for threatened species, and improving wildlife corridor," Mr Dudley said.
"The Restore Skyline Tier project has also demonstrated that well planned and implemented ecological restoration projects can generate excellent social and economic benefits for rural communities including providing local employment and training opportunities and improving mental and physical health."
Despite NEBN's success, Mr Dudley said the major issue with land care is lack of reliable long-term funding to ensure there are adequate resources to get the job done.
"It's well past time to depend on volunteers to do a lot of the heavy lifting in the land care space, and we need to fund paid positions all over the state and the nation so that people can make a livelihood out of caring for country," he said.
"In the process of doing this we could address a range of social and economic disadvantage indicators, especially in remote and rural communities."
While limitations have been acknowledged by the group, they appear to remain resolute and hopeful as they aim to continue improving the environmental and land use planning laws, so they properly protect Tasmania's unique and irreplaceable flora, fauna and landscapes, as well as prevent overdevelopment on the East Coast.
Mr Dudley believed a significant increase in environmental education in schools and in the general community was vital in ensuring a sustainable future in the state as he believed the level of understanding and awareness of nature was not where it should be.
"Younger generations should focus on what they can do at a local level, get involved with groups who are doing good work, and if there isn't any, start one," he said.
"Tasmania should really be a leader in terms of how we protect, manage and restore the natural environment, but we rely too heavily on branding and marketing instead of focusing on actually making it real."
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