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Traditional Owners back conservationists' plan to buy largest nature reserve in history

Giovanni Torre -

Bush Heritage Australia has an opportunity to purchase Evelyn Downs Station and protect a landscape rich in biodiversity, that is around the size of the Australian Capital Territory.

The property, located in South Australia's Painted Desert, is of high ecological and cultural value and will provide habitat for over 60 plant and animal species of conservation significance.

Bush Heritage is calling for help from the public raise $2.4 million towards purchasing the land and to contribute to efforts to halt the crisis wiping out Australia's native plant and animal species, as well as protecting the significant cultural values of the land.

Senior Elder Bill Lennon of the Tjirilya Aboriginal Corporation said it is important to acknowledge culture and share knowledge when protecting Country.

"The Country needs health. We can all learn from each other. And I think we'll get along pretty good," he said.

The Tjirilya Aboriginal Corporation said that as long-term Aboriginal custodians and land managers on Mount Willoughby Station and the region, they "look forward to the mutual help and support that... Tjirilya Aboriginal Corporation and the Bush Heritage team can give each other in nurturing our munda (our land) for the benefit of ecological, environmental, and Aboriginal heritage into the future".

Located 150 kilometres north of Coober Pedy on the unceded lands of the Antakirinja Matu-Yankunytjatjara, Evelyn Downs is a 235,000-hectare pastoral property. It borders the Mount Willoughby Indigenous Protected Area and is close to the Tallaringa Conservation Park. The purchase of Evelyn Downs would contribute to a combined nature corridor spanning over 1.9 million hectares of protected land and be Bush Heritage's largest acquisition in its 32-year history.

Bush Heritage interim CEM and Executive Manager of Conservation Operations Rob Murphy said supporters are "crucial" to expanding conservation efforts.

"We hear from our supporters all the time that they want us to be doing more, protecting more. And we've listened to that. We're now asking our supporters, and anyone out there who wants to make a real difference, to help us achieve one of our most important acquisitions in Bush Heritage's history," he said.

Evelyn Downs boasts a landscape of rocky outcrops and creeks lined with Coolabahs and River Red Gums. The natural features provide vital refuges for desert species including the endangered Arckaringa Daisy and the nationally vulnerable Bronzeback Legless Lizard.

The property also lies outside of the South Australian Dog Fence, offering Bush Heritage the opportunity to explore the role of dingoes in a landscape both ecologically and culturally.

Mr Murphy emphasised the urgency of taking action for the environment.

"When you think about the environment and the challenges we are facing globally, we know that action is required urgently. So, I think this chance that we have now with Evelyn Downs is a great reminder that we can all be a part of change," he said.

Aerial view of rocky outcrops throughout Evelyn Downs. Image: Bush Heritage Australia.

Bush Heritage Australia is a leading not-for-profit conservation organisation that protects ecosystems and wildlife across the continent, and says it works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the agricultural sector to make sure their impact is "deep, sustainable, and collaborative".

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