FIREPROOFING THE AUSTRALIAN RAINFOREST – Mullumbimby conservationists tackling ‘highly-flammable’ bamboo weed to protect koala and rainforest habitat from looming fire season secure financial boost from WIRES and Landcare Australia
After 5,000 hectares in the Nightcap and surrounding National Parks were devastated in the Black Summer fires, Northern Rivers’ landholders are leading the way against fire-prone plant species in the hopes of future-proofing neighbouring rainforest.
Safeguarding habitat for impacted animals including koala and Red-legged Pademelon, Mullumbimby volunteers from Rainforest 4 Foundation, along with bush regeneration members of Madhima Gulgan Community Association, are concentrating on eradicating Running Bamboo, a highly flammable weed which burns exceptionally well, on impacted sites near the Whian Whian and Nightcap National Park.
Funded through the WIRES Landcare Australia Wildlife Relief and Recovery Grants, the project will also focus on planting ‘more fire resistant’ local rainforest species in place of exotic species, which catch fire easily.
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“After the fires last November, we’re aiming to restore the rainforest for threatened species and most importantly, mitigate future fires,” explained Kelvin Davies, founder of Rainforest 4 Foundation.
“The vegetation that has come to dominate since then is largely non-native, like Running Bamboo which is highly flammable and its removal will diminish fire risk. So we will work to cut the plant down and remove the roots.”
Kelvin added: “And the money and support from this joint alliance between WIRES and Landcare Australia will make such a big difference. Projects like this are vital to the survival of vulnerable native species when faced with increasing frequency of bushfire and drought. We wouldn’t be able to do this work without funding from generous donations.”
Working with volunteers from the Mullumbimby community, the project will benefit 25 Threatened species including Alberts Lyrebird, Marbled Frogmouth and Koala, and rebuild habitat with nest boxes and water stations for many mammals including Red-legged Pademelon, thus helping to provide ongoing habitat in future droughts and subsequent fires.
The project aims to engage with private landholders at the edge of the national parks and work with them on protecting their homes – and habitat – on their property.
Kelvin said: “Many landholders at the base of Mt Nardi and surrounding areas were completely blindsided by the fires. Some had to evacuate their homes during November 2019 not knowing what to expect on their return. So developing an understanding of vegetation management to mitigate fire risk and maintain habitat will benefit national parks and all adjoining landholders.
“New residents and landowners will benefit from this project to aid successful environmental management of land. They are very willing to learn the required knowledge to deal with the regeneration of their land. It is envisaged this will assist others with the control and eradication of fire prone vegetation on their own land in favour of less flammable rainforest thus increasing habitat for native fauna in a broader area.”
With members of Madhima Gulgan Community Association working as experienced bush regenerators on the project, the grants funding is also being utilised to offer paid work to these members.
Kelvin said:”MGCA is a group of Aboriginal Elders formed to support aboriginal families in the Byron Shire. The core function is to provide employment in Natural Area Restoration for the local Aboriginal community that live within the Minyungbal lands. While employment is the core focus of MGCA, they are an Aboriginal Community Association where the needs of their community, guide their decision making.
“And we are delighted that we can tap into this experience for our 2020 tree planting and regen program and offer paid work to some of its members through this grant.”
Launched in April 2020, the WIRES Landcare Australia Wildlife Relief and Recovery Grants is a pioneering alliance between two not-for-profits that have been part of the fabric of local communities for over 30 years.
64 environmental groups across the country will benefit from the landmark $1.185million grants partnership supporting recovery of wildlife habitats impacted by bushfire and drought.
Made possible due to the unprecedented volume of donations to WIRES from within Australia and around the world following the Black Summer bushfires, this grants program will support wide-ranging regeneration projects focused on restoring habitat impacted by the bushfires.
Projects include rainforest revegetation, installation of nest boxes to replace destroyed tree hollows for decimated native species, feeding programs for endangered wildlife, management of invasive weeds, erosion control and protection of our waterways and aquatic habitat.
*As the largest wildlife rescue organisation in the country, WIRES rescues, rehabilitates and releases native animals and partners on projects that improve long-term outcomes for native animals and help preserve vulnerable Australian wildlife populations. Visit wires.org.au
*Carrying on the legacy of Bob Hawke, who launched National Landcare in 1989, Landcare Australia supports the Landcare grassroots movement of individuals and groups who have a shared vision to restore and protect the environment in local communities through sustainable land management and conservation activities. Visit landcareaustralia.org.au