A focal point in the Fitz-Stirling

Sunday 21 September, 2014
Photo by Jessica Wyld.

After ‘coveting’ Monjebup Creek as a potential Bush Heritage reserve for years, our team in Western Australia has finaly got their hands on it.

Now the long wait is over they’re wasting no time getting plans for the property underway.

Thanks to our generous supporters, Bush Heritage has settled on the purchase. In what is largely a cleared or heavily altered landscape, Monjebup Creek Reserve will now stand protected as part of a mosaic of natural sanctuaries between the Fitzgerald River and Stirling Range National Parks (the Fitz‑Stirling).

Covering over 1,000 breathtaking hectares of virtually intact bushland, Monjebup Creek protects some of the area’s most at‑risk plant communities including mallee heath and yate woodlands, and animals like the black‑gloved and tammar wallaby and the threatened malleefowl.

So far, the only piece of infrastructure on the reserve – an old shed – has been demolished, two obsolete entrances closed off and a new entrance opened, giving us more practical access.

Meetings with architects have also taken place to discuss the construction of a field station – marking what Bush Heritage’s Gondwana Link Landscape Manager Simon Smale sees as a major ramping up of our activity in the region.

Shingleback lizard Bobtail (or shingleback) lizard. Photo by Jessica Wyld.

“Until now, we’ve had no permanent base in the Fitz‑Stirling,” he explains. “Besides a shipping container I brought up many years ago, we’ve had nowhere to really store machinery or use as a workshop.

A site has been chosen in a spectacular location with views over expansive savannah‑type grassland, and Simon sees having a permanent station there as a chance to leverage far more from the many offers of support we receive.

“We’ve had no overnight accommodation, which means either ‘making do’ in temporary digs or camping out. Otherwise it’s a four‑hour round trip from Albany  – not just for us, but for our research partners, volunteers and contractors.”

At the time of publication, Simon and Bush Heritage Ecologist Angela Sanders will be on their way to the property for a two‑day walk – a task they’re absolutely relishing. Aerial photographs have revealed some very interesting patches of vegetation and they’re looking forward to getting in there to take the first close‑up look. “We know it’s going to be amazing,” says Angela. “This trip will give us the first chance to start filling in some details.”

“With the purchase of Monjebup Creek we’ve hit critical mass with our work in the Fitz-Stirling.”

Recording botanical dataRecording botanical survey information. Photo by Jessica Wyld.

In fact, the reserve has already begun to reveal some of its unexpected ecological treasures.

“On an hour’s walk recently with one of our Gondwana Link partners, we found a york gum woodland covering a number of hectares,” says Angela. “They’re extremely unusual in this area – it was amazing to see them. They’ll create a lot of interest amongst botanists.”

On their upcoming walk, Simon and Angela will also begin the process of selecting and mapping areas with potential to be long‑term plant and animal monitoring sites.

“For instance, Monjebup Creek has a wealth of information to share about how fire helps to keep the bush here healthy,” explains Angela. “Fire swept through a large section of the property about 20 years ago and now it has incredibly diverse and vigorous native regrowth.

“On our other Fitz‑Stirling reserves, some parts haven’t seen fire for 50 years or more, and some plant species like banksias are starting to collapse and not re‑generate, which we can’t allow to happen.

With the purchase of Monjebup Creek we’ve hit critical mass with our work in the Fitz‑Stirling. This field station will allow us to pull a whole lot of programs and people together – giving us a real focal point

“We’ll use what we learn on Monjebup Creek to set up a patchwork burning program to invigorate older areas of vegetation on our other reserves – knowledge that’s not just valuable to us but also to our conservation partners.”

Adding this exquisite property to our growing ‘jigsaw puzzle’ of reserves in south‑west Western Australia is another step towards restoring a 70km green corridor in the Fitz‑Stirling.

More broadly, our work in the Fitz‑Stirling region is part of our wider commitment as a key partner in the even more ambitious Gondwana Link Project.

This visionary conservation program aims to reconnect a 1,000km swathe of bushland from the karri forests of the far south‑west of Western Australia to the woodlands and mallee bordering the Nullarbor  Plain – a region that’s internationally recognised as a biodiversity hotspot.

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