A Kangaroo Island landholder has called for a "radically local" approach to conservation after witnessing first-hand last summer's devastating bushfires.
Margi Prideaux, who also described herself as a "card-carrying member of the conservation movement", said it was time to empower local change to save and preserve the environment.
More than 200,000 hectares of farmland and scrub were destroyed in the fires which ripped through the western half of the island in late December and early January.
The fires also destroyed hundreds of homes and other buildings, as well as hundreds of thousands of animals, including koalas, kangaroos, sheep and cattle.
Dr Prideaux said the fires were the worst islanders had ever experienced.
"They burnt hotter, they burnt faster, they moved across a large area of the island in one fell swoop," she told a Senate committee hearing, examining Australia's faunal extinction crisis, on Tuesday.
The experience had moved her into "a camp of people living inside the grip of climate change".
"Climate change is not theoretical or distant or on the horizon, it's real, it's now and it bites hard," Dr Prideaux said.
"We've just witnessed the might of a fire to destroy decades of conservation in a single night."
She also criticised what she described as "big conservation" organisations that prioritised fundraising while Kangaroo Island farmers were left to deal with destroying their suffering livestock after weeks of unrelenting firefighting to protect their properties and the natural environment.
"Never has it been so clear how disconnected big conservation can be to people," she said.
Another landowner, Stephanie Wurst, told the inquiry the fire destroyed the majority of her family's 750-hectare farm at Stokes Bay, along with their home, all farm infrastructure, 70 kilometres of fencing, a vineyard and half their livestock.
She said Kangaroo Island's recovery would take years and the impact of the fires had "torn people's lives apart".
"They've lost their businesses, their livelihoods and their land. There are people in our community who are really suffering," she said.
Ms Wurst said the local community had to be cared for as a priority, because it was those same people who would champion wildlife conservation and protection.
"If they don't have a buy-in and the ability to see change in fire management policy, a fire of this intensity and scale will occur again in the next 10 to 20 years and will once again destroy all the hard work and conservation of flora and fauna," she said.
Ms Wurst called for the introduction of indigenous fire management practices, the implementation of roadside vegetation breaks, and moves to allow landowners to manage their own land.
"Local knowledge is the key to managing local landscapes," she said.
Australian Associated Press