The Kosciuszko to Coast landscape partnership

Sunday 21 December, 2008

Regional Strategies Team Leader Ben Carr explains how Bush Heritage and partners are working on restoring fragmented landscapes in the Kosciuszko to Coast project.

Woodland areas on Scottsdale Reserve, NSW. Photo Jiri Lochman/Lochman Transparencies.

Woodland areas on Scottsdale Reserve, NSW. Photo Jiri Lochman/Lochman Transparencies.

Bush Heritage plays a leadership role in a number of visionary projects that aim to rebuild fragmented landscapes and restore them to health. The idea behind this is that rebuilding habitats across large swathes of country will allow plants and animals to adapt to the changes that climate change is predicted to cause, such as alterations in rainfall and temperature and the associated impact of increased bushfires.

One such landscape project is Kosciuszko to Coast (K2C), which began in 2004, and is coordinated by a network of community groups, conservation organisations and government agencies. Bush Heritage owns two properties within the current K2C focus area – Scottsdale and Burrin Burrin reserves.

Lauren Van Dyke, Project Facilitator, Kosciuszko to Coast partnership. Photo Eddie Misic.

Lauren Van Dyke, Project Facilitator, Kosciuszko to Coast partnership. Photo Eddie Misic.

K2C aims to reconnect isolated woodlands and grasslands between Kosciuszko and Namadgi national parks and the coastal forests of southern New South Wales in a series of ‘biodiversity stepping stones’. Areas of high conservation value in this region are under threat from weeds, overgrazing, intensification of land use, and fragmentation by expanding rural subdivisions.

K2C has a number of major goals. As well as reconnecting fragmented landscapes and protecting land of high conservation value, the project also aims to improve the health of the land and waterways and to work with traditional owners of the land to glean insights into the seasonal importance of land systems and the movement of species. By working in partnership with local farmers and landowners, the project is not only growing in scale but also building awareness of, and skills in, conservation management among the existing landholders.

Sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps) at Scottsdale Reserve, NSW. Photo Jiri Lochman/Lochman Transparencies.

Sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps) at Scottsdale Reserve, NSW. Photo Jiri Lochman/Lochman Transparencies.

A major part of Project Facilitator Lauren Van Dyke’s job is encouraging landholders to come onboard. A series of public workshops about K2C were held at Bush Heritage’s Scottsdale Reserve in late spring 2007 and summer 2008, and an open day was held at Scottsdale in October 2008. A presentation for the public and landholders interested in the K2C project highlighted how Bush Heritage is working to restore and rehabilitate the ecological values at Scottsdale.

‘Landholders and managers are critical to the success of [K2C], and the open day was an opportunity to explain how they could get involved and contribute towards maintaining, sustaining and reconnecting the landscape,’ explains Lauren.

The K2C partner organisations offer many incentives for landholders to take part in the scheme. These include Greening Australia’s restoration programs, voluntary conservation agreements managed by the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change, support and resources from the Molonglo and Upper Murrumbidgee Landcare networks, and help in vegetation identification and field days offered by Friends of Grasslands.

Gang-gang cockatoo on Scottsdale Reserve, NSW. Termite mound on Burrin Burrin Reserve, NSW. Photo Graeme Chapman.

Gang-gang cockatoo on Scottsdale Reserve, NSW. Photo Graeme Chapman.

Bio-banking schemes, whereby rural landowners can generate income by managing land for conservation, are available. Financial incentives are also available for activities such as fencing and revegetation through catchment management authorities.

Bush Heritage is actively assessing properties in the region in order to negotiate partnerships with owners of land with high conservation value. Lauren Van Dyke has visited over 30 landowners over the last 18 months, and Bush Heritage’s ecologists have carried out ecological assessments of properties for consideration for both purchase and partnership agreements.

At present Bush Heritage is building relationships with several private landholders with a view to developing conservation agreements for their properties. These ensure that agricultural practices on the property are sustainable and compatible with the property’s conservation values. Typically, a covenant will include a management plan that offers a guide to managing weeds, pest control and controlled burning.

Termite mound on Burrin Burrin Reserve, NSW. Photo Belinda Coutts.

Termite mound on Burrin Burrin Reserve, NSW. Photo Belinda Coutts.

In total, a network of over 40 conservation properties now exists in the region. Through collaboration, we're achieving our goal of a landscape that's recovering its key conservation values.

‘The long-term benefits of Kosciuszko to Coast are the protection of water catchments and the overall health of the landscape so that its environmental and agricultural capacities can be restored and maintained,’ says Lauren.

K2C has already been a catalyst, and the first active project area, for the development of a continental-scale program, the Great Eastern Ranges Initiative. This initiative, run by the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change, aims to extend landscape connectivity all the way from the Victorian Alps to Queensland’s Atherton Tablelands.

K2C is located between the coast and the Great Dividing Range in southern NSW, just south-east of Canberra. Bush Heritage concentrates on the inland region, which is within our South-East Grassy Box Woodlands priority region. For further information about K2C, or to see the full list of partner organisations, see k2c.org.au.

We'd like to acknowledge the George Alexander Foundation for their generous support of this work. This project has been assisted by the NSW Government through its Environmental Trust.
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