Effective Citizen Action on Invasive Species: The Institutional Challenge

DiscussionPaper_coverInvasive plants, animals, fish and other species cause significant harm and put human values at risk. Invasive animal control is often difficult because invasive species breed, adapt and expand exponentially. Control methods are often costly and can result in non-targeted economic, social and environmental impacts. Invasive animal management is a ‘wicked’ policy problem because it is a highly complex environmental issue. Control efforts are often insufficient to ensure full and long-lasting eradication. The effectiveness of invasive species management is also jeopardised by the geographical and often catastrophic dimension of this unique challenge. Australia, which is a continent characterised by a mega-biodiversity and a relatively small population density, particularly in rural and remote areas, faces unique institutional challenges to effective community engagement for invasive species management.

Yet, the control of established invasive species depends significantly on private citizens: as landholders or observers who detect incursions; as landholders and volunteers who control these incursions; as activists for or against control; and as voters who shape political preferences. Invasive species management is affected by the ‘Invasive Species System’ which encompasses the many overlapping rules, resourcing arrangements and bureaucratic structures that support or impede effective community action for protecting Australian’s biodiversity and agricultural values. The Australian institutional environmental also determines how the economic, social and environmental costs and benefits are distributed amongst the urban, peri-urban and rural population. Invasive species management can raise significant distributive issues that can contribute to widening the gap between the urban rich and the rural poor.

Australia’s federal and state government policies emphasise reliance on private citizens to detect and manage hazardous invasive species once they enter Australia. To support citizen action, farm organisations have increased their financial assistance to landholders for fighting the invasive species threat. Voluntary land management and conservation programs are also growing to develop effective community capacity-building mechanisms. However, with climate change and global warming issues, the pressures of invasive species upon natural, agricultural and humans systems are increasing and the resources for effective community-driven control strategies are chronically inadequate. Thus, whilst the invasive species issue seems to seldom discussed in the media and political arena, the need to ensure that institutional arrangements support effective citizen action is of national importance.

This report summarises the key areas where reform is needed and ‘puts on the table’ priorities and proposals that should be considered. Its focus is institutional issues that affect voluntary citizen action for the control of invasive species (particularly major vertebrate pests) in rural and peri-urban areas. Complementary publications from the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre Program 4 (“Facilitating Effective Citizen Action on Invasive Species”) provide further analysis. These documents include our report on the extensive community consultations that informed this Discussion Paper and our report on reform recommendations. The overall purpose of these evidence-based reports is to stimulate discussion, agreement and eventual reform to strengthen community resilience against the economic, social and environmental costs from the devastating spread of invasive

Author Paul Martin, Darryl Low Choy, Elodie Le Gal and Kylie Lingard
Year 2016
Publisher Invasive Animals CRC
Pages 139
ISBN/ISSN Web ISBN: 978-0-9924083-0-5
Region Australia - national

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