The brigalow belt bioregion, in which Carnarvon sits, is the one of the most extensive, fertile and well-watered areas in northern Australia.
It covers 1.6 times the area of Victoria and its most productive ecosystems are both very distinctive on a national scale and home to a number of threatened communities.
The vast majority of the bioregion has been cleared of vegetation and is mostly maintained that way (regrowth is cleared). The once dominant and characteristic vegetation types on the more fertile plains and a number of the associated species have been reduced to small patches.
Landscape-scale conservation is now only possible in the least productive and rugged terrain. There are some extensive patches of this remaining and within this there are pockets of the ecosystems that were once expansive on the plains.
Carnarvon Station is one such pocket - a 60,000ha mountain-protected valley in the midst of the largest remnant in the bioregion - the Carnarvon Ranges. The renowned National Park spans mostly the rugged ranges. Carnarvon Station Reserve extends that reserve down to the grasslands and fertile valleys to help make the reserve estate a contained microcosm of what once was. The rugged sandstone hills, narrow valley floors and high escarpments of the reserve create a dramatic setting, and provide some natural protection to inhabitants.
Of around 170 of animal species found on the reserve so far, at least 10 are threatened, including the nationally endangered northern quoll. This reserve also protects hundreds of plant species, four of which are threatened.
The woodlands protect a wide range of native species, including geckos, gliders, honeyeaters, the tiny narrow-nosed planigale and the common dunnart.
All this has been protected thanks to the generosity of our supporters.
What this reserve protects
The northern quoll.
Photo: Jiri Lochman/ Lochman Transparencies
Our ecologists got very excited when remote-sensing cameras confirmed that the nationally endangered northern quoll can still be found at Carnarvon Station.The reserve also protects the following significant species and communities:
- Squatter pigeon
- Herbert's rock-wallaby
- Glossy black-cockatoo
Squatter pigeon. Photo: Wayne Lawler/ Ecopix
- Illawarra greenhood (endangered orchid)
- Austral cornflower (vulnerable wildflower)
- Ooline (vulnerable tree)
- Austral toadflax (vulnerable herb)
- Bluegrass grasslands
- Vine thicket
- Brigalow scrub
- Spring wetland communities
- Redgum forest
- Poplar box woodlands
- Mountain coolabah woodlands
What we’re doing on the property
Carnarvon Station was a cattle station for 140 years, so our first priority was to remove any remaining stock to allow the restoration of the grasslands and sensitive natural springs.
Bush Heritage volunteers doing important fencing work.
'Farming' for conservation involves much of the same work that might take place on a farm, and can take considerable resources. Boundary fences are needed to keep out stock. Access tracks have to be maintained to do that and to manage feral animals and weeds.
Significant run-away erosion has had to be stabilised and infrastructure such as the historic homestead have been restored by staff and volunteers so people can live on reserve and maintain the assets. These and the network of tracks host many visitors to the reserve.
Some of the precious alluvial grasslands and grassy woodlands have been cropped in the past and in the process they were infested with weeds such as Johnson grass and buffel grass. These need to be held in check while the native species regain hold. This has been critical work, greatly assisted by volunteers.
Getting rid of feral horses and pigs is also of primary importance. Horses destroy shelter for ground-nesting birds and other wildlife, cause erosion, and trample springs and watercourses, ruining important turtle and frog habitat. Pigs root up earth around the springs, fouling the water and degrading the tiny wetland habitats encircling the springs.
Planned burns reduce the extent and completeness of wildfires threatening life and property. They allow for the retention of vegetation islands within burns as refuges and arcs for wildlife.
The grasslands have regenerated and are dominated by native species. Our planned burns have seen a mix of species return across the valleys. The poplar box and coolabah woodlands that were cleared are regrowing rapidly. Those that were spared clearing, some still showing scar trees from precolonial times, are now in a varied sea of native grasses.
The most spectacular difference has been in the upland coolabah and ironbark woodlands. Here the removal of feral horses has seen battered, often bare, earth return to dense grass and herbs. The return of managed burns has also seen acacias start returning the midstorey of the woodlands.
Fencing out feral animals (with fences that allow natives to pass, but not pigs or horses) is having spectacular results on the spring ecosystems, while weed work has greatly reduced the cover of Johnson grass and native grasses are starting to re-establish on cultivated paddocks.
The fire management has greatly reduced the extent of wildfires.
Bidjara woman Keelen Mailman.
Keelen Mailman is a Bidjara woman who lives at Mt Tabor Station in central Queensland. For many years the Bidjara people were denied access to their neighbouring property, Carnarvon Station Reserve, even though it is part of their Traditional Lands.
But since Bush Heritage bought the property that’s all changed.
“When Bush Heritage acquired Carnarvon Station they took steps to identify the traditional owners, which was brilliant for us,” says Keelen.
“It really touched my heart seeing the joy on the face of my old uncle when he was allowed to visit the place where he’d lived as a child for the first time in years. This land is our grassroots and there will always be that connection for the Bidjara people.”
“I have learnt how to help the plants and wildlife on Mt Tabor Station by watching the Bush Heritage ecologists at work. In return, I have taught them how to identify our cultural sites, as well as speak our lingo.”
History and cultural values
Rock art at Carnarvon Station Reserve. Photo by Wayne Lawler/Ecopix
The Bidjara people are the traditional owners of Carnarvon Station Reserve, with a historical connection to the land stretching back at least 18 000 years before European settlement.
The reserve holds many sites of cultural importance to the Bidjara, including rock art, burial places, scar trees and quarry sites.
Carnarvon Station seems to have been grazed from the early days of European settlement, with records dating back to 1884. Libby Smith has researched and documented the history of the property since European settlement, which is a fascinating reflection on the changing attitudes of Australia through the years. It includes stages in which the wholesale desctruction of native wildlife was officially approved by a 'Marsupial Desctruction Act' for the purpose of trade in exotic furs and countless thousands of koalas, possums and dingos were slaughtered. It's also been the home of notorious bush rangers, survived infestation with prickly pear and seen many owners come and go as it weathered severe droughts and floods. For history buffs, the full account can be downloaded below.
Carnarvon Station: A history of European Settlement since 1863 (Libby Smith 2003) 5mb