Professor Brunckhorst recognised as conservation ‘giant’

Published 25 October 2009

dbrunckThe University of New England’s Professor David Brunckhorst has received a major international award for his work over more than two decades as a world leader in conservation planning.

Professor Brunckhorst, the Director of UNE’s Institute for Rural Futures, travelled to the United States last month to receive the Natural Areas Association’s George B. Fell Award. The presentation was at a banquet for 300 guests during the Association’s annual conference in Vancouver, Washington State.

The award, which the Association presents annually to someone it considers “a giant in their field”, recognises “exceptional career-long achievements in the natural areas profession”.

Professor Brunckhorst has made an important contribution to the planning of nature reserves – and their integration with sustainable agriculture – both in Australia and abroad.

In the early 1990s, as Secretary and Principal Scientific Adviser to the House of Representatives Committee on the Environment, he achieved the establishment of a National Reserve System, which aims to develop an ecologically representative network of protected natural areas around Australia. In doing so, he obtained not only unanimous bipartisan support at the Federal level, but also collaboration between the Federal and State Governments.

He has been an adviser for reserve projects in Canada, Germany, South Africa and the UK, and was a co-author of the Seville Strategy – the 1995 revision of UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserve Program. For all this work – and more – he was awarded a UNESCO Medal in 2000.

Professor Brunckhorst is internationally renowned for his pioneering work in “bioregional” planning – planning that promotes the mutually-sustaining interaction of human society and the natural environment within regional contexts. Much of his research activity at UNE has been focused in this direction, and his book Bioregional Planning: Resource Management Beyond the New Millennium (Gordon & Breach / Taylor & Francis, 2000) is used as a text in several countries.

“No matter how many protected areas you create, they will never adequately protect all species and ecosystems,” he said. “We need far more innovative ways of collaborating for conservation across private and public tenures of land ownership, and combining such conservation with sustainable land use.”

Eminent scientists and policy makers from Australia, Canada, the United States, Europe and South Africa nominated Professor Brunckhorst for the George B. Fell Award, the announcement of which came as a complete surprise to him.

After being presented with the award, Professor Brunckhorst gave public lectures at the University of Idaho and the University of California. In introducing him at those lectures, Professor Michael Scott, Leader of the US Geological Survey’s Biological Sciences Program, said: “Through his strong leadership, David Brunckhorst has continued his innovative and visionary approaches, which now focus on integrating conservation and environmental planning with working agricultural landscapes and communities.”

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows Professor Brunckhorst with the George B. Fell Award.