Native vegetation remnants are small pockets of marginal land, of up to a few hundred hectares in size, found mostly on private land. Land clearing traps wildlife within these remnants which, because of their high concentration of endangered flora and fauna, are areas of high nature heritage and conservation value.
Wildlife can only move around to fresh habitats if these vegetation remnants are physically linked - and the only way to link these remnants is using Crown roads, some of which are abandoned, but still owned by the Crown.
The Department of Lands is trying to sell these linking areas to landholders. The Friends of Oolong (FOO), a southeast New South Wales and ACT bush environmental organisation, are trying to stop this from happening by promoting the survival and protection of vegetation remnants and the links between them.
Government organisations purchase large properties as national parks and nature reserves, such as the grandiose 2,800 kilometre-long corridor designed by the NSW and Federal Governments, and run them under expensive management - while ignoring small yet extremely valuable areas of high conservation value. We are trying to get small vegetation remnants in the upper Lachlan region recognised as nature reserves in a less costly solution to wilderness management, by the creation of a “Fund for Nature Reserves”.
The Fund will be used to promote donations towards the purchase of selected habitats and remnants of high heritage and conservation value. The numerous remnants in the Lachlan Region, their distance from national parks, and the very small number of recognised nature reserves are clearly illustrated on the FOO website.
We are engaging Mycause (mycause.com.au), a privately owned and operated company, to promote our fundraising. We will collect donations to specifically assist this purpose. Our organisation has a special fund, scrutinised by the ATO, and we shall make use of our DGR (deductible gift recipients) and ITEC (Income Tax Exempt Charity) status for tax deductions.
We have already approached organisations such as the NSW Nature Conservation Trust, the Australian Heritage Bush Fund, the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy, with a proposal to purchase the Oolong model, which is located on two private properties that are for sale, to be included in the nature reserves managed by the NPWS in co-operation with local communities. However, these organisations have all rejected any form of co-operation with us, as well as our proposal, which the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife consider as very low priority.
The State and Federal Departments of Conservation must consider vegetation remnants worthy of support, financial contributions, and recognition as nature reserves. Nature reserves are the “Cinderellas” of conservation and play a very important role in conservation. It is hard to believe that these remnant pockets, which are home to many endangered plants and animals, are such a low priority with established large environmental organisations that administer large amounts of government money and attract private donations. Some of these funds must be redirected towards preserving our heritage and conserving vegetation remnants in the Lachlan region.
Charles Sturt University recently hosted a conference called “Better Bush on Farms” which discussed the health and long term viability of small remnants of native vegetation and paddock trees, which are critical elements of our rural landscapes. The conference posed the following question about the decline of native vegetation remnants: “Government programs and landowners have invested millions of dollars in an attempt to halt or reverse the decline, yet many key questions remain. What are the ecological outcomes of this investment; are we making a difference; and can we do things better?”
Well, the FOO are trying to “do things better” by using a collaborative, integrated approach to promote the survival of these crucial native vegetation remnants. So far, we have approached the Department of Lands with a proposal about the use and value of Crown roads for maintaining links between vegetation remnants on private land, which was favourably received by the Minister. Department of Lands staff viewed the FOO website and agreed that the management of areas currently designated as Crown roads is critical to remnant habitat survival and health. The Department of Lands has asked the manager of the Dubbo Landscape Centre to examine our proposition regarding the future of Crown roads in critical landscapes in co-operation with land-holders who own the land along these roads.
Two projects, The Oolong Challenge and the Landcare CarbonSmart project, will be promoted and implemented in co-operation with the Lachlan Catchments Management Authority. These projects promote the participation of local Landcare communities and landholders in the reforestation of remnants and links between them, which could be Crown roads or any other strip of land within private land agreed to by the landholders for this purpose. The FOO are very proud to be the initiators of this great co-operative achievement.
The Oolong Challenge, which is supported by our patron, Member for Burrinjuck and State Shadow Minister for Communities Mrs Katrina Hodgkinson, also collects and propagates native endemic seeds in a bank and distributes them freely to local communities involved in our program. We will use these endemic species to reforest any site with its pre-existing ecosystem, planting the correct species for the area that will attract wildlife as well as birds to eat insect pests.
This is a novel approach by FOO to enhance local ecosystems without introducing non-endemic species, while establishing the right proportion 1:2 between trees and shrubs to remove any stress to trees and preserve the environment.
FOO and Landcare, together with the Lachlan Catchment Management Authority, will contribute largely to the whole program of reforestation, salinity and erosion control but we need to canvass public opinion and support to have the high nature heritage and conservation value of vegetation remnants in public land recognised as Nature Reserves and the NSW Government to recognise this need and to allocate funds specifically to purchase selected remnants on large expanse of private land where mostly endangered wildlife is trapped. The FOO will contribute to this effort by establishing a "Fund for Nature Reserves".
To find out about the work we do and how you can help visit our website.