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Landscape-scale conservation

Highlights from our work in 2020-21 conserving Australia's unique species and irreplaceable landscapes on a vast scale.

National park-level protection for Pullen Pullen

On 22 September 2020, Bush Heritage’s Pullen Pullen Reserve on Maiawali country in western Queensland made history when the Queensland Government granted it ‘Special Wildlife Reserve’ status.

The designation was an Australia-first and affords the 56,000 hectare reserve the same level of protection as that given to national parks, meaning it is now permanently protected from mining, timber-harvesting and grazing.

Bush Heritage, other landholders and conservation groups advocated for many years to increase the level of protection available to privately-owned lands in Queensland. Our efforts were rewarded in 2019 when the state government legislated the new ‘Special Wildlife Reserve’ class, making it the only state or territory in Australia to offer national-park level protection to private land.

PHD researchers Al Healy  & Nick Leseberg. Photo by  Lachlan Gardiner.
PHD researchers Al Healy & Nick Leseberg. Photo by Lachlan Gardiner.

For Pullen Pullen to be awarded the first Special Wildlife Reserve designation is a recognition of its immense natural and cultural value. Bush Heritage purchased the reserve in 2016 to protect what was then the only known population of critically endangered Night Parrots, after their rediscovery in 2013.

The reserve was named after the Maiawali name for Night Parrots, and Bush Heritage has worked closely with Maiawali people over the past five years to identify and protect Pullen Pullen’s natural and cultural values.

Several other Bush Heritage reserves are now being assessed to receive the same elevated protected status as Pullen Pullen. Some of those reserves have current mining tenements over them, which although not advanced, pose a real threat to their values.

The ‘Special Wildlife Reserve’ status will ensure Pullen Pullen’s species are permanently protected from possible incompatible land uses.
- Rob Murphy, Executive Manager (North region)

Right-way fire brings balance to Bunuba country

For a few months every year, from August to December, destructive bushfires threaten large parts of Bunuba country, in the central-west Kimberley region of Western Australia.

This spectacular landscape contains many significant species, including Short-eared Rock-wallabies, Gouldian Finches and Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens. Winthali (right-way fire) in the early dry season reduces the extent and frequency of these destructive bushfires, but for many decades Bunuba people weren’t able to access their country to carry out winthali.

It’s important to burn to get rid of the old grasses and rejuvenate for new growth. The fire helps keep the country healthy.
- Kendrick ‘Kendo’ Chungal, Bunuba Ranger

Now, with support from Bush Heritage and the Australian Government’s Australian Heritage Grants Program, Bunuba Rangers and Traditional Owners are reinstating their traditional fire management over their 502,000 hectare exclusive possession native title area.

22,020 hectares protected in central NSW

For more than a decade, Bush Heritage has supported Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan people’s dream to have country back in their management, to continue the role of their ancestors. Their vision was realised in early 2020 with the declaration of the Mawonga Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) – 22,020 hectares of ngurrampaa (country) in central-western NSW.

The IPA adjoins both the Yathong and Nombinnie nature reserves and protects significant cultural and natural heritage, including numerous cultural places, small caves, rock shelters and art sites, and many significant plants and animals such as Yungkay (Malleefowl), a Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan totem animal and nationally threatened species.

Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan people have been working towards this goal since 2009, when they regained ownership of their country. Bush Heritage helped facilitate this acquisition and supported the subsequent development of the Mawonga management plan to enable the establishment of the new IPA. We will continue to support the IPA’s management and ecological monitoring activities.

Restoring native animal populations in WA

At the heart of Western Australia’s south-west biodiversity hotspot, Noongar country, three feral animals – cats, foxes and rabbits – threaten the health of native ecosystems and the survival of endemic animals such as the Honey Possum, Western Pygmy Possum, Chuditch (or Western Quoll), and Red-tailed Phascogale.

A pygmy possum on Monjebup Reserve. Photo William Marwick.
A pygmy possum on Monjebup Reserve. Photo William Marwick.

In 2020, Bush Heritage and the WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions joined forces to launch a unique project that's combatting these three feral species simultaneously through a combined regime of ground and aerial baiting.

The project, supported by Lotterywest, will restore native fauna and allow for native species to thrive throughout the Fitz-Stirling landscape. It will take place over five years and covers 40,000 hectares, including 5000 hectares of Bush Heritage reserves, 26 private properties involving 17 landholders, nature reserves, national parks, and Noongar-managed land.

Increasing the protection of Swift Parrot habitat

Bush Heritage grew its Tarcutta Hills Reserve, Wiradjuri country in southern NSW, by 70% in 2020 with the purchase of adjacent land. The 288-hectare extension protects more woodland habitat that's vital for the survival of birds such as the critically endangered Swift Parrot, which migrates to south-eastern Australia from Tasmania each Winter to forage.

In recent years, flocks of up to 60 Swift Parrots have been seen feeding on Tarcutta’s White Box, Mugga Ironbark and Yellow Box trees – a significant number considering the species’ population is thought to be less than 2000.