Working beyond the fence

Sunday 21 September, 2003

Conservation Partnerships Program Coordinator Nathan Males has been working closely with a reserve neighbour in New South Wales.

Bush Heritage has had more land placed under its care as a result of cooperation with Tarcutta Hills Reserve (NSW) neighbour Anton Hutchinson.

This new area, a travelling stock reserve, was leased to Anton to use as part of his farm. However, after being alerted to the area’s importance for conservation, Anton approached Bush Heritage to take over its management.

The beautiful 20 ha remnant is on deep fertile soils along a creek, and supports a community of old-growth yellow box and Blakeley’s red gum, listed as endangered in New South Wales. The understorey currently resembles pasture and will need restoration.

The trees produce abundant nectar and provide food for the nationally endangered swift parrot, which migrates to the region and is often seen feeding in the area. Nationally vulnerable squirrel gliders are also likely to be found on the site.

Although this new area is small compared to reserves like Carnarvon Station Reserve and Charles Darwin Reserve, I believe this is an exciting and important step for Bush Heritage. If we're serious about saving Australia’s biodiversity we must be ready to work in these fragmented agricultural landscapes.

When landscapes become fragmented there are negative effects on the resident species. Increased wind and sun exposure and changes to the water table have an impact. Surrounding land uses tend to encourage the invasion of weeds and feral animals.

Many native species become restricted to their ‘habitat islands’ because they can't cross the open land around them. Their populations then become isolated and increasing-ly susceptible to decline and local extinction.

By buying or just taking on the management of some of these remnants, and controlling the weeds and feral animals, we can help to relieve the pressure on dwindling populations of native species in some of these depleted landscapes.

In addition, restoring habitat corridors between remnants, as we have set in train at Chereninup Creek Reserve in Western Australia, is critical. Undertaking such a mission will increasingly involve working in partnership with landowners like Anton Hutchinson.

Together, using Bush Heritage reserves as core areas, we can work to build resilient landscapes that provide habitats for native species as well as allowing continued agricultural production. The addition of this important new area at Tarcutta Hills is another small step towards achieving this goal.

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