Source: Raw Shorty


B2: Extent and condition of conservation areas




Extent: Conservation areas protect 60% of the total ACT area. From 2019–20 to 2022–23, around 670 hectares were added to nature conservation areas in the ACT. 




Condition: At the time of reporting, it was not possible to determine the condition of conservation areas in the ACT. It is also not currently possible to assess whether offsets have ensured no net loss of biodiversity as a result of land development. Assessments of the effectiveness of offsets will likely take many years.


Environmental condition is healthy across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have negligible impact on environmental condition/human health.

Environmental condition is neither positive or negative and may be variable across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have limited impact on environmental condition/human health.

Environmental condition is under significant stress, OR pressure likely to have significant impact on environmental condition/ human health.

Data is insufficient to make an assessment of status and trends.



Adequate high-quality evidence and high level of consensus.

Limited evidence or limited consensus.

Evidence and consensus too low to make an assessment.

Assessments of status, trends and data quality are not appropriate for the indicator.

For information on this indicator see Background: Biodiversity.

In 2023, there was around 146,800 hectares of conservation areas in the ACT, protecting over 60% of the total ACT area (Figure 2 and Figure 3). This not only represents a significant proportion of the ACT’s natural environment but also a much higher proportion than any other jurisdiction in Australia.

Figure 2: Conservation categories in the ACT, 2023.

Data sourced from: Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate.

Note: Special Purpose Reserves include 5,627 hectares listed under the Nature Conservation Act 2014 and 2,898 hectares of other Special Purpose Reserves for recreation and other purposes such as the Stromlo Forest Park.

Figure 3: ACT Conservation areas by type, 2023.

Data sourced from: Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate.

Notes: National Park includes the Namadgi National Park, Bimberi Wilderness Area and the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Nature Reserve includes Canberra Nature Park, the Molonglo River Reserve, Murrumbidgee River Corridor and the Jerrabomberra Wetlands.

Categories of conservation in the ACT include national park, wilderness area, nature reserve, water supply protection and special purpose reserve. The Namadgi National Park and Bimberi Wilderness Area account for over 75% of the conservation area and around 47% of the total area of the ACT. Nature reserves (including Canberra Nature Park) account for around 14% of the conservation estate, water supply 4% and special purpose reserves around 6%.

Increases in conservation areas

Conservation areas as designated under the Territory Plan 1993 have increased by around 13,470 hectares from 1997 to 2022.

During the reporting period (2019–20 to 2022–23), around 670 hectares were added to nature conservation areas in the ACT. This included:

Environmental offsets are land added to environmental reserves to address potential development pressures. In the ACT, offsets provide environmental compensation for a development that is likely to have adverse impacts on Commonwealth-listed threatened species and communities.

During the reporting period (2019–20 to 2022–23), there were no new offset areas created in the ACT. The area of environmental offsets remains at around 1,865 hectares, with 47% (870 hectares) of offsets protected by nature reserve.

There are currently 23 offset areas in the ACT (Figure 4) with the Molonglo Valley Plan Strategic Assessment (994 hectares), Gungahlin Strategic Assessment (781 hectares), and the West Belconnen Strategic Assessment (371 hectares — ACT portion of conservation corridor only) accounting for most of the offset area. Most offset areas are managed by the ACT Government but there are also a small number of other offset managers who own and manage varying amounts of offset land.

Figure 4: Environmental offsets in the ACT, 2023.

Data sourced from: Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate.

At the time of reporting, it was not possible to determine the condition of conservation areas in the ACT. Condition assessments will require significant monitoring of the health of vegetation (see Indicator B4: Extent and condition of native vegetation and biodiversity, pressures (such as invasive plants and animals, fragmentation and fire intervals) and the level of management intervention for each conservation area.

It is also not possible to currently assess the condition of offsets or their effectiveness in providing the outcomes that are required to ensure no net loss of biodiversity has occurred following land development. Such assessment will likely take many years, particularly given that management interventions need to be undertaken over long periods of time to achieve the desired ecosystem and biodiversity outcomes.

The ACT Government is undertaking a Conservation Effectiveness Monitoring Program (CEMP) to monitor ecosystem condition in the ACT. The CEMP evaluates the effectiveness of management actions in achieving conservation outcomes. The CEMP reports are undertaken every five years for six ecosystems types:

Although CEMP results do not currently enable an assessment of the overall condition of conservation areas, they do provide an assessment of selected ecosystem types within conservation areas. A summary of CEMP results for three ecosystems is provided below. Assessments of woodlands and forests were not available for this report.

Aquatic and riparian ecosystem condition

Aquatic and riparian ecosystems were assessed as being in poor condition against a reference (or pre-European) state mainly due to degraded water quality, decreased flows and the loss of riparian vegetation and connectivity. This reflects the heavily disturbed nature of aquatic ecosystems caused by water management and land use in the ACT. However, aquatic and riparian ecosystems were found to be in moderate condition when assessed against target conditions (management goals), indicating that current management programs appear to be at least partly effective in improving aquatic health.

Recommendations to improve the ecological condition of aquatic ecosystems include improving riparian habitat through restoration of native vegetation and gully areas, as well as mitigating impacts of urban and agricultural runoff. The CEMP assessment also found that there was limited monitoring data available on the condition of aquatic and riparian ecosystems in the ACT.

Bogs and fens ecosystem condition

Overall, bog ecosystems were found to be in poor condition against a reference (or pre-European) state but in moderate condition against target condition. Ecological values such as vegetation structure, Sphagnum moss, and populations of the Northern Corroboree Frog and Broad-toothed Rat were all rated as in poor condition. These results are predominately the result of the Orroral Valley Bushfire in 2020 which burnt almost all bogs in the ACT.

Many invasive species (flora and fauna) were found to be present in bog ecosystems with species such as deer, foxes and rabbits increasing in distribution or abundance over time. However, there was no evidence of feral horses in bog areas and although pigs were present, their impacts appeared to be stable over time. This is likely due to the sustained pig and horse management programs carried out in Namadgi National Park.

Upland and lowland native grasslands ecosystem condition

Lowland native grasslands were assessed aspoor against a reference (or pre-European) state, which is reflective of several species and communities being reduced in numbers and extent since European settlement. However, against the target condition, lowland native grasslands were assessed as either in moderate or good condition with some concerns. This shows that management within lowland native grasslands ecosystems is achieving conservation goals in protecting and enhancing ecosystem values.

Upland grassland ecosystems were assessed as good for both reference and target condition as their distribution remains relatively intact. There was no evidence for significant impacts from introduced herbivores, inappropriate fire regimes or invasive plants which suggests management programs are achieving conservation goals.