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Protecting one of the largest gums in the country

By Catherine and Clive Carlyle

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Much of our lives has been spent exploring and enjoying wild places. Living on a bush property had always been something we aspired to but this largely entailed periodic surfing the internet to see what was around. That is, until one day, a friend pointed out we weren’t getting any younger and, if we really wanted to move to a bush property, we had better do it sooner rather than later!

We purchased our property in 2013, moving there permanently in 2016, with the view to managing it for biodiversity values. Early on we joined Land for Wildlife.

The property is situated between Halls Gap and Stawell at the foot of the Mt Difficult range, to the West it abuts the Grampians National Park. Much of the 145-ha property would have been grazed since the 1870’s. It comprises partially cleared, but now fast-regenerating red gum floodplain (with many very large trees some of which have been culturally modified, one is the largest measured River Red Gum in Australia). The property also has Yellow Box/Red Gum woodland and Scentbarks.

An area of around 70 ha of mixed Yellow Box/Red Gum woodland has a medium to very dense bracken understory with glades of native grasses. There is a seasonal creek and a large seasonal wetland. We have recorded over 100 bird species including Diamond Firetails, Hooded Robins, Barking Owls, Powerful Owls, and Brown Treecreepers.

Over the years we have removed all internal fences, and barbed wire from most of our boundary fences, implemented a weed control and feral animal program, rehabilitated the wetland (which had been drained and was drying out too quickly) by placing a weir on the seasonal creek, and planted vegetation.

Main photo: Catherine and Clive Carlyle in front of one of the largest River Red Gums recorded in Australia.

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We used camera traps to get an idea of what was on the property and to get a handle on feral pests. This led to the exciting discovery of a population of Southern Brown Bandicoots in the dense bracken area, presumably the bracken offers protection from foxes and cats.

The wetland was rehabilitated with help from the Nature Glenelg Trust and the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority. It has been immensely satisfying to see the wetland hold water over a wider area and for longer, with an increase in the number and type of waterfowl and wetland plants.

It dawned on us, as I suspect it does with most land “owners” that we really only have a brief custody of our property.

We started to think seriously about how to protect it in perpetuity and, of course, that meant Trust for Nature. A number of friends in our Landcare group had conservation covenants on their properties and we had already met with local Trust for Nature staffer Adam Merrick during our wetland rehabilitation work.

We contacted Trust for Nature when we got our first bandicoot photos.

Signing off on the final conservation covenant process is one of the most satisfying things we have done. It is uplifting to know that all the past and future work we undertake to maintain and improve biodiversity on our property will be valued and protected.

It is also extremely helpful to have ready access to the expertise and networks of Trust for Nature to help with the “what if…”, “how do we…” questions.

This project was supported by the Victorian Government.

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