Area: 59,000 ha
Location: Central Qld 200km south of Emerald
Traditional Owners: Bidjara people
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The Brigalow Belt bioregion, in which Carnarvon sits, is the one of the most extensive, fertile and well-watered areas in northern Australia. The bioregion covers 1.6 times the area of Victoria but has been mostly cleared of vegetation and is maintained that way (regrowth is cleared). Species once dominant on the more fertile plains have been reduced to small patches.
Landscape-scale conservation is now only possible in the least productive and rugged terrain. Extensive patches of this remain and within these are pockets of the ecosystems once on the plains.
Carnarvon Station is one such pocket – a 60,000ha valley in the midst of the largest remnant in the bioregion adjacent to Carnarvon National Park, which covers mostly rugged ranges. Our reserve extends conservation land down to the grasslands and fertile valleys to help make the reserve estate a contained microcosm of what once was.
Of around 170 animal species found on the reserve so far, at least 10 are threatened. 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 protected thanks to the generosity of our supporters.
What Carnarvon Reserve protects
The nationally endangered Northern Quoll has been recorded on Carnarvon in the past and more recently within the adjacent national park. Carnarvon also has its own endemic snail, Pallidelix simonhudsoni and protects the following significant species and communities:
Animals: Koala, Herbert's Rock Wallaby, Greater Glider, Dingo, Squatter Pigeon, Glossy Black-cockatoo, Corben's Long-eared Bat, Yakka Skink, Adorned Delma, Pale Imperial Hairstreak, Tusked Frog.
Plants: Austral Cornflower (Rhaponticum australe), a sedge (Cyperus clarus), Spiky Anchorplant (Discaria pubescens), Tall Velvet Sea-berry (Haloragis exalata subsp. velutina).
Vegetation communities: Bluegrass grasslands, vine thicket, Brigalow scrub, spring wetland communities, redgum forest, Poplar Box woodlands, Mountain Coolibah woodlands.
What we’re doing
Carnarvon Station was a cattle station for 140 years, so our first priority was removing stock to protect the grasslands and sensitive natural springs.
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 and feral animals and weeds managed.
Significant run-away erosion has had to be stabilised and infrastructure such as the historic homestead have been restored by staff and volunteers so staff can live on reserve and maintain its assets.
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 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 of wildfires threatening life and property. They allow for the retention of vegetation islands within burns as refuges and arks for wildlife.
The grasslands are now dominated by native species. Planned burns have seen a mix of species return across the valleys. The Poplar Box and coolibah 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 coolibah 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.
History and cultural values
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's part of their traditional lands. 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.”
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.
Carnarvon Station: A history of European Settlement since 1863 (Libby Smith 2003) 5mb