The Sydney Basin Bioregion has high native species diversity, a large proportion of its land area under conservation tenure and over five million human residents. Environmental management strategies developed on the basis of an ecological and biogeographical literature that is either blind to the human presence or views it solely as a threat are unlikely to be effective in such a context. Humans will need to be re-imagined and co-opted as active co-constructors of this nature rather than solely as threats to it. We bring ethnographic and biogeographic evidence together to address this practical challenge, analysing the attitudes and practices of 38 backyarders who live adjacent to, or in close proximity to, bushland. Results are summarised along a continuum between restoration and gardening. Important themes are boundaries and boundedness between domestic and outside space, engagement and stewardship on public land, and nurturing and vigilance behaviours.