England rode on the sheep’s back first

Although the economy and population of the United Kingdom are larger than Australia, there are many similarities in the conservation context – the role of land development and sheep grazing in affecting environmental values, the social and cultural norms and institutions and legal frameworks, scientific literacy, and the nature-loving public. Additionally, the size of the visitor economies is not vastly different, with the Australian visitor economy approximately 2/3rd the size of the UK visitor economy.

Across June-August 2017 with the support of a Churchill Fellowship I engaged with 26 people from a dozen conservation Trusts and similar initiatives in England and Scotland. Semi-structured interviews were used to explore business models, land ownership, community engagement, visitor facilities and nature interpretation strategies.

The relationship between funding sources, organisational membership, and place-based visitor engagement and interpretation is explored. The key finding for the Australian conservation community is that we could be doing much better engaging visitors to conservation reserves so that they grow in their experience to become members, repeat-visitors, ambassadors, educators, purchasers of merchandise, donors, and givers of legacy gifts. The importance of visitor centres and best-practice nature interpretation is highlighted as fundamental to engaging people through their ‘supporter pathway’.

About the speaker

Dr Jason Cummings manages conservation not-for-profit organisations, with 7+ years experience at CEO-level. For the last 3 years he also served on the Executive of the Ecological Society of Australia. Prior to the management roles he dabbled in consultancy, policy development, academic teaching and completed a PhD in ecological restoration.