Bush Heritage Beyond the Boundaries Coordinator Stuart Cowell describes the newest Bush Heritage reserve.
The Murrumbidgee River at Scottsdale. Photo Nicole Pyne.
From the top of an impressive ridge line running through the property, it's easy to appreciate the varied landscape of Bush Heritage’s latest purchase, Scottsdale. This remarkable place is described by our Chief
Executive Doug Humann as ‘a cracker’.
Scottsdale covers 1328 hectares of the Murrumbidgee River valley 12km north of Bredbo in New South Wales, a 45-minute drive south of Canberra. It rises up from a large fertile grassy valley with rich alluvial soils, through dry sclerophyll woodlands and onto a grassy woodland plateau, which drops steeply into the Murrumbidgee River itself.
Scottsdale is the first property to be bought for a new landscape management project that will re-establish a network of habitats between the Australian Alps and the remnant bushland of the coastal ranges to the east, a region called the Eastern Escarpment Conservation Corridor.
This project, called ‘Kosciuszko to the Coast’, is a collaborative effort between local, regional, state and national non-government and government organisations.
The land that lies between the alpine and coastal conservation corridors has been heavily cleared and the remaining habitats fragmented and degraded. Much of the land is in private ownership. As a result, re-creating this east–west network will mean working with landholders on properties with a range of tenures and management regimes.
Peregrine falcon. Photo Dave Watts.
The project will develop a regional conservation network to support the people and organisations involved. As the link becomes established it will once again allow animals to move through the landscape. It will increase the protection of poorly reserved ecosystems and the resilience of the landscape, and better enable species to respond to climate change.
We also hope that it will increase national and international awareness of the scientific, social and economic benefits of managing entire landscapes for conservation.
But what of Scottsdale itself?
The property is a key acquisition for many reasons. Though they're undeniably beautiful and important for conservation, a large proportion of our protected areas are on land that's not productive, or, to put it another way, are on land for which no agricultural nor industrial use could be found. In many cases this also means that the land is not highly productive for native species.
Scottsdale, on the other hand, is a highly productive system. Its ecosystems are poorly reserved and have the potential to be ‘engine rooms’ for regional conservation. They'll support flourishing populations of
native animals and plants.
Scottsdale is also one of the largest and last-remaining underdeveloped rural properties in the region. This further enhances its role in reconnecting the eastern fringes of the Namadgi National Park in the Australian Alps and the coastal ranges of the Eastern Escarpment.
Scottsdale has a diverse range of vegetation communities and land systems. They provide habitats for most of the region’s endangered and vulnerable animal species.
The threatened natural temperate grasslands and grassy woodlands on the lower slopes are poorly represented in the conservation estate.These ecosystems were once widespread. Now only about 15% survive in moderate to good condition, most having been heavily cleared or modified for agriculture and infrastructure development. They continue to be threatened, particularly by rural subdivision.
The box-gum woodlands, comprised mostly of yellow box (Eucalyptus melliodora) and Blakely's red gum (Eucalyptus blakelyi), are endangered. These woodlands are particularly important for a range of threatened and declining woodland birds such as the speckled warbler and diamond firetail.
Swamps, bogs, springs and vulnerable stream-side vegetation communities will also be protected on Scottsdale.
Woodlands open out into grasslands on the lower slopes. Photo Nicole Pyne.
Many threatened species occur in the region around Scottsdale. Once survey work begins in earnest we expect to find significant numbers of these species surviving on the property. So far, we know that the endangered golden sun moth, and vulnerable diamond firetail, hooded robin and gang gang cockatoo occur there.
Among those we hope to find are the vulnerable spot-tailed quoll, eastern pygmy possum and Rosenberg’s goanna.
Threatened plants will also be discovered. So far, we know of the silky swainson-pea (Swainsona sericea) and silver-leaved gum (Eucalyptus pulverulenta), both of which are listed as vulnerable.
A striking feature of Scottsdale is the Murrumbidgee River. It forms the western and northern boundaries of the property for a distance of four and a half kilometres. The river runs through deep pools and over sand bars and water-sculpted rocks and provides a protected environment for platypus and vulnerable Macquarie perch and trout cod. A recent report into the status and population trends of fish communities in the Murrumbidgee catchment concluded that they were severely degraded.
Protecting areas that are in good condition with good habitat, such as those in the reaches on Scottsdale, is vital to the survival of some of the species in the Murrumbidgee.
Diamond firetail. Photo Dave Watts.
By acquiring Scottsdale we've removed the main threats to the property: rural subdivision, agricultural intensification and further weed encroachment. In particular we've thwarted further attempts to ‘improve’ the productivity of this country through the introduction of additional exotic pasture species and crops.
The key management issue is weeds, particularly African lovegrass. Effective weed control and rehabilitation of the grasslands on parts of the property are likely to be costly, but there's strong support from a range of groups and agencies to set up a regional demonstration site at Scottsdale for the control of the significant weeds of the region.
Now we need your help to take the next step in the realisation of the exciting Kosciuszko to the Coast project: to get the management of Scottsdale under way.
Weeds are on the agenda and if you can provide any support we'd be delighted. We need your donations and we need volunteers for weed control work and fencing. This could be a great way to see the reserve as it will not be open for visitors until 2008.
Kosciuszko to the Coast had its genesis in January 2004 following a gift to Bush Heritage in memory of Dr Peter Barrer. Dr Barrer was well known in the ACT conservation and Landcare communities for identifying key landscapes that required protection in the region around Queanbeyan River, Black Range, Captains Flat Reservoir and the Molonglo River.
From that gift the project has evolved to include Greening Australia (southern NSW and ACT), NSW Nature Conservation Trust, Molonglo Catchment Group, Upper Murrumbidgee Catchment Coordinating Committee, Friends of Grasslands and several other community groups, as well as the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation.
Significant support has also been received from the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation and a private donor to honour the life of Helen Lilian Manning Rickards.