Key words: agricultural landscape restoration, community involvement, salinity, threatened species
The West Hume Landcare Group was formed in 1989 as a community response to land degradation in the area. Funding to employ a coordinator for three years was obtained in 1990. This enabled a high level of project activity in addition to tree planting, including a roadside vegetation survey, farm planning workshops, demonstration sites for ground water recharge and discharge management, and perennial pasture establishment. In the first 5 years of its existence, the group organised nearly 250 different events, attracted funding of over $500,000 and managed 17 different projects.
The second 5 years saw a period of consolidation – then, from late 1997, the employment of a full time project officer enabled the development of a Land and Water Management Plan. By early 2000 the Group had attracted a total of $1,000,000 in project funding over 11 years.
“Taking Charge of Recharge” was the largest project undertaken by the West Hume Landcare Group, commencing in 2001. It involved 80 properties, with a total of 170,009 local trees and shrubs planted on 370 ha. Some 93 ha of remnant vegetation were fenced over the two years of the project. This project was the climax of a very busy 12 years of the Landcare Group’s life, during which 400,000 trees and shrubs were planted in a wide variety of projects across the landcare area – in addition to direct seeding and natural regeneration. This revegetation had a variety of purposes, including recharge and discharge management, corridor linkages between remnants, vegetation connections specifically designed to strengthen the local (threatened) Squirrel Glider (Petaurus norfolcensis) population, and livestock shelter.
Many of the planting projects initially involved only small numbers of trees, with a low proportion of shrubs. They were important in giving landholders confidence that tree planting was a credible farm management activity and in their ability to succeed in species selection and establishment. The Landcare group provided a lot of support in species selection, and, as the demand for shrubs grew, the nurseries responded by increasing their availability.
Nearly all revegetation in West Hume has used local species, and as far as possible these were grown from locally sourced seed. The diversity of shrub species used increased over the years as knowledge and availability of the local flora improved.
Roadside survey. Local knowledge was greatly increased following the roadside survey carried out by 38 landholder volunteers. They surveyed 460 km of road, recording floristics, conservation value and causes of degradation. A total of 111 native species were recorded, including 28 shrubs, but very few road sections had greater than 50% shrub cover. Many of the shrubs. grasses and forbs recorded are considered rare in the landcare area. Knowledge of the whereabouts of these small remnants has allowed seed collection and propagation of some of them in seed production areas on local properties and at the Wirraminna Environmental Centre at Burrumbuttock. The need for this local source of seed has been emphasised by the observation that in the case of a few acacia species, local forms are different from those growing in neighbouring areas.
Landcare survey. Landholder views about the importance of vegetation was shown in a landcare survey carried out in 1999. A majority of the 60% of respondents considered that dieback of trees and the lack of shrubs, understorey and wildflowers was of concern and there was a clear concern expressed about the decline of native birds in the area.
When the “Taking Charge of Recharge” project was funded in 2001, the response of landholders was enthusiastic. The group members were eager to take advantage of the high level of incentives available in this project to increase the scale of planting beyond that generally undertaken previously. While the prime purpose of the funding was for recharge management, members were keen to establish local species in ecologically appropriate sites. Ecological and botanical skills within the group were able to support the species choices.
This confidence in the value and feasibility of large revegetation projects has been continued in subsequent years when the Murray CMA has offered good incentives for large area plantings.
Contact: Judy Frankenberg, +61 2 6026 5326, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org