Regenerating the Monaro by planting 4,500 native trees to help restore a critically endangered woodland community
The Upper Snowy Landcare Network works on private and public lands in response to the massive Eucalyptus tree dieback in the Snowy Monaro area. The group prioritises areas that are visible to the public to help raise public and corporate awareness of dieback and the benefits and challenges involved in land restoration work.
In late 2020, the Network applied for, and was successful in being awarded the inaugural CHEP Land Management and Sustainable Agriculture Landcare Grant. The funding of $60,000 was used for a project to help restore an original grassy woodland community, supporting the return of ecosystem function.
Five-hectares of grazing land on Coolringdon, a historic Monaro grazing property that has suffered badly from drought and Eucalyptus dieback in recent years, was chosen as the project site. The property is situated opposite Cooma Airport on the Snowy Mountains Highway.
In May 2021, the major project milestone was achieved with the planting of 4,500 native trees and shrubs. At the time of writing this report, six weeks after the planting, the survival rate of seedlings is at 100 percent. This means the project has achieved successful establishment of the trees and shrubs, and overcome the largest hurdle in the process of generating new woodland.
By conducting the project adjacent to a largely healthy remnant of critically endangered woodland, it is expected that this new revegetation effort will help protect the woodland. Margaret Mackinnon, Chair of the Upper Snowy Landcare Network, said “Planting such a substantial number of native trees will support the ecological health of this agricultural land.
“It will also restore habitat for native birds, bats and marsupials, including some of the 46 species that are listed as vulnerable or endangered in NSW and rely on woodland habitat for survival and reproduction.”
On a larger scale, the plantation will provide a stepping-stone for animals and birds to move across the landscape. This will help address habitat fragmentation arising from agricultural activity and dieback that is a key threat to further loss of endangered species.
The return of ground litter and lack of soil disturbance arising from the revegetation site will also help to control invasion of weeds, especially African Lovegrass, a significant threat to the grazing productivity in the central Monaro area.
It is also expected that this vegetation will help rehydrate, restore soil life and return ecosystem services to the working agricultural land that surrounds the site.
Using cutting edge software from the Mullion Group, CHEP has forecast carbon sequestered in the reforestation project to be approximately 3,277 tonnes over the next 25 years. While only a small project covering 5.7 hectares, the estimated carbon abatement represents an island of hope in the context of declining forest cover in the region over the last 150 years.
Community Engagement and Participation
The planting was managed by Upper Snowy Landcare Network using contractors from Creative Lines, a local Eden-Monaro business with a clear commitment to restoring land to its former condition and ecological health. A group of 30 Upper Snowy Landcare Network volunteers helped with the planting and 25 CHEP Australia employees appreciated the opportunity to travel to the site from Sydney to spend two days volunteering on this project.
This planting exercise connected a diverse set of people representing multiple sectors of Australia’s wider community including local landcare volunteers, the 10-person planting contractor team, Howard Charles, a prominent Monaro landholder and Coolringdon Trustee and Sydney-based CHEP staff.
A landcare volunteer prepares tree guards for planting day.
Positive aspects of CHEP staff involvement
A unique and very positive aspect of this project was the involvement of volunteers from CHEP’s offices in Sydney. They relished the opportunity to ‘get their hands dirty’ and to view a rural, historic property that they would otherwise not be able to access. By setting up the guard-making workshop inside the homestead, coupled with tree planting, the project generated a team-building activity that was fun and creative.
The work of the CHEP volunteers extended to the field where they quizzed the planting contractors, familiarised themselves with local tree and shrub species, asked questions and overcame logistical challenges presented by the frequent rain showers and mud.
The Upper Snowy Landcare Network feels that by involving CHEP volunteers from Sydney in the planting, the project achieved its additional objective of raising public awareness of dieback and of the benefits and challenges involved in land restoration work.
They hope this will help to encourage others in the corporate sector to invest in environmental restoration projects and encourage urban-dwelling individuals to become involved in local landcare activities.
At the time of writing this report, six weeks after the planting, the survival rate of the 4,500 seedlings is at a record high of 100 per cent. The project has achieved successful establishment of the trees and shrubs, and overcome the largest hurdle in the process of generating new woodland.
“This project brought together a historic property on the iconic Monaro tableland, city-dwellers eager to get their hands dirty, a contractor planting team passionate about land restoration, and a local Landcare group of volunteers, all committed to putting back a large chunk of land to trees. You can see the plantation from the Cooma Highway. Everybody is asking about it. It’s fantastic,” said Margaret Mackinnon, Chair, Upper Snowy Landcare Network
The activities on this particular project have generated interest from the local media and community due to the high visibility of the plantation from the busy Cooma-Jindabyne Highway.
It is hoped that the project will inspire other Monaro landholders to plant trees to help restore hydration, soils and ecosystem services to their land and encourage more volunteers to join Landcare and help with this process.
The sign at the front of the plot, with its backdrop of dieback trees, healthy trees and new trees, will be visible by the one million visitors to the area each year. This will boost awareness of the problem of dieback and what CHEP Australia, Landcare Australia and the Upper Snowy Landcare Network are doing to help combat it.