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Recognition as a Nature Refuge Area

Rob Murphy (Executive Manager North)
Published 07 Jul 2015 by Rob Murphy (Executive Manager North)

One year since its declaration as a Nature Refuge Area, Bush Heritage Australia’s Yourka Reserve has completed all NatureAssist funded projects on the property, significantly boosting the Reserve’s conservation capabilities and allowing Yourka to continue on a trajectory of sustainable land management independent of project funding.

The projects were funded by the Queensland Department of Environment Heritage and Protection (EHP) and totalled almost $300,000. Activities undertaken included:

  • weed control;
  • improving road access and quality;
  • dam filling;
  • construction of between 12-15 km of fencing to complete the property’s southern boundary and to assist in cattle removal;
  • building of approximately 120km of firebreaks and installation of drains;
  • Construction of three pig and cattle exclusion zones.

Yourka Reserve manager Paul Hales says that the dam filling immediately worked to address the problem of overstocking on the land.

“Six dams that were attractive to cattle and pigs were filled in. Immediately after we started this work, cattle started to show up, which allowed us to muster approximately 100 head of cattle within a month.”

“The funding has allowed us to complete in 12 months important conservation work that would usually take between 3 and 4 years, with the benefits being felt by neighbouring properties as well,” he says.

NatureAssist’s support meant that Paul and his reserve management staff – including contractors and volunteers – could continue working on the dam project, independent of the project funding.

“Yourka has approximately 16 dams in total. We have about another half a dozen to fill in, which we can now do ourselves,” says Paul.

Yourka was chosen as a Nature Refuge Area by EHP in recognition of its significant conservation value and its predicted resilience to a changing climate. NatureAssist funding was provided for projects that had clear conservation outcomes and would contribute towards sustainable management of the property.

EHP’s decision was informed by data from James Cook University, where researchers from the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change were investigating areas that promote species persistence and ecosystem resilience in the face of global climate change. Yourka was the first property to be declared a Nature Refuge Area as a result of this data. 

Yourka Reserve is a stronghold for 39 regional ecosystems and protects north Queensland forests and woodlands west of the Great Dividing Range. Yourka also protects a mix of relatively dry forests and woodlands in the rain-shadow of the Great Dividing Range that are under-represented in the National Reserve System, as well as moist forests abutting the World Heritage Wet Tropics Area.

Bush Heritage Australia purchased Yourka Reserve in late 2007 to safeguard a tract of remnant vegetation in a biodiversity hotspot in Queensland’s Einasleigh Uplands on the edge of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.

Bush Heritage Australia is the largest Nature Refuge landholder in Queensland, with eight Bush Heritage Reserves covering more than 500,000 hectares of high-conservation land signed to Nature Refuge Agreements.

Yourka facts

Endangered and vulnerable species: Yourka Reserve is home to the red goshawk, Australia's rarest bird of prey; there remain only 700 breeding pairs. The goshawk is endangered under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992 and vulnerable under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999. The Mareeba rock-wallaby, found on Yourka Reserve, is listed as near threatened under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992.

Wildlife corridor: The conservation of Yourka Reserve completes a second east-west corridor across the southern Wet Tropics – from Japoon National Park through to Tully Gorge National Park, Koombooloomba Forest Reserve and Yourka Reserve. 

In August 2014, Yourka Reserve was declared a Nature Refuge Area.

Yourka Reserve contains several permanent creeks and natural billabongs, as well as many seasonal creeks and streams. Forming its western boundary, the Herbert River is flanked with tall red gum and paperbark forests. The reserve protects habitat for a diverse range of wildlife, including the red goshawk, and mammals such as gliders, possums, bettongs, bandicoots and rock wallabies.

Cattle mustered for shipping off the reserve. Photo Leanne Hales. Cattle mustered for shipping off the reserve. Photo Leanne Hales.
Water Lillies. Photo Wayne Lawler/EcoPix. Water Lillies. Photo Wayne Lawler/EcoPix.
Granite outcrop on the floodplain of the Herbert River in river paddock, Yourka Reserve. Photo Wayne Lawler/EcoPix. Granite outcrop on the floodplain of the Herbert River in river paddock, Yourka Reserve. Photo Wayne Lawler/EcoPix.
Yourka Gorge. Photo Jen Grindrod. Yourka Gorge. Photo Jen Grindrod.

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