Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project. Strategic Plan

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Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project

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Acknowledgements

We would like to acknowledge the Yaegl people who are the traditional custodians of this land on which we are working and pay respect to the Yaegl Elders both past and present.

Delivered in partnership with the Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC), Clarence Environment Centre (CEC) and landholders, the Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project builds on the substantial Land for Wildlife network across the Pillar Valley. The project aims to implement priority habitat restoration works as part of a four year, on-ground program of activities. Underpinning the long term aspirations of the project is a comprehensive series of capacity-building workshops and training opportunities that will engage and empower landholders to become involved in best-practice management and maintain the achievements of the project into the future.

Considerable knowledge, expertise and community connections were harnessed to develop a broad concept into a comprehensive project. Particular acknowledgement to those who led the application development: Peter Turland (landholder / Land for Wildlife), Pat Edwards (CEC / LFW), John Edwards (CEC), Mark Graham (NCC), Waminda Parker (NCC) and Kevin Taylor (NCC). This Strategic Plan was prepared by Josh Keating (NCC) with helpful reviews and comments from CEC and NCC staff. The Strategic Plan will always be an adaptable ‘work-in-progress’ to provide flexibility to respond to new and emerging priorities across the Upper Coldstream during the life of the project.

Development of the project has received expert guidance from various stakeholders including Office of Environment & Heritage (OEH) - Biodiversity, OEH - National Parks and Wildlife Service, Northern Local Land Services, Forestry Corporation NSW, Clarence Valley Council, NSW Rural Fire Service, Clarence Valley Landcare, Fisheries NSW, National Indigenous Science Education Program (NISEP-Macquarie University) and Commonwealth Department of Environment.

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Contents

Project Tenure... 1

Values ... 4

Issues and threats ... 8

Australian Government investment ... 12

Delivery structure ... 13

Implementation ... 17

Overview of participating properties ... 19

Pest Control... 21

Fire management ... 25

Training, workshops and field days ... 27

Monitoring ... 29

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Project Tenure

The Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project is being implemented in the Pillar Valley on the north coast of NSW. The project area spans the upper catchment of the Coldstream River at the eastern edge of the Clarence River floodplain. It covers an area approximately bounded by Glenugie Peak, the lower Coldstream River, Tucabia and the Coast Range with an outlying property at Wooloweyah Lagoon owned by the Birrigan-Gargle Local Aboriginal Land Council. The Wooloweyah property is connected to the remainder of the project area by the major coastal corridor of Yuraygir National Park and the Coast Range.

On ground activities are being implemented across over forty properties covering approximately 4,000 hectares of public and private land. The properties are interspersed across a broader project area of over 25,000 hectares constituting a major wildlife corridor.

Properties involved in the Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project range in size from relatively small parcels of land (around 10 hectares) to significantly larger ones of up to 274 hectares. Although several properties are slightly disjunct from the others, most properties are closely linked with up to 2,000 hectares of land interconnected across a continuous corridor.

Land use in the Pillar Valley has varied over time with a long history of grazing, logging and banana growing. These industries have mostly declined and most properties are managed for rural living, conservation and weekend retreats. Few banana plantations are still functional and grazing is mostly on the project area extremities where more open floodplain grasslands allow for productive pastures and grazing opportunities. Private logging is a regular occurrence across the landscape.

Residents of the project area vary markedly with many absentee landowners. Some property owners have been in the Pillar Valley for decades while others are more recent arrivals with younger families becoming established. The Pillar Valley Commune was established in the early 1980’s and has a number of shareholders that own the 231 hectares.

There is a strong sense of community across the Pillar Valley with rural institutions such as the local rural fire brigade and landcare groups involving many landholders and creating a connection and ownership to important issues such as weed control, fire management and sustainable land use. Significant developments such as highway upgrades and coal seam gas exploration have also galvanised the

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Sandy Crossing

Barrys Bridge Rd

Pillar Rock

Tucabia Pine Brush

State Forest

Mitchell Hill

Pile Saddle

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LAKE WOOLOWEYAH Wooloweyah Yamba Angourie Micalo Island Pacific Ocean

BIRRIGAN GARGLE LALC – WOOLOWEYAH PROPERTY

Prior to European contact, the Yaegl people traversed throughout this country and there’s no doubt there would have been strong cultural connections to the area and its spectacular ridges and rock outcrops, proximity to the rivers, estuaries and marine resources and well-trodden coastal pathways across the land.

The Yaegl community, through the Birrigan Gargl Local Aboriginal Land Council and Yaegl Elders, is involved in the project and will be engaged in activities that increase the community’s capacity to manage the ecological values of their lands at Wooloweyah.

Conversely, traditional Aboriginal management of the land, and use of the land, has influenced what the landscape is today, and what the natural values are that we now appreciate and want to protect and enhance into the future.

The Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project is seeking to integrate the cultural values and knowledge of the Yaegl community into the work that is delivered on the ground so that the activities are contributing to maintaining the landscape and the natural resources that were of value to the original inhabitants as well.

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Values

Landscape context

The Upper Coldstream catchment is at the south-eastern edge of the Clarence River catchment. The Coldstream River arises in the prominent Coast Range to the east and undulating hills between Halfway Creek and Glenugie Peak to the south, flowing northwards across the mostly-cleared and sugarcane cropped primary floodplain to the west, to join the main channel of the Clarence River near Tyndale. The Upper Coldstream wetlands on the major floodplains of the Coldstream River and Chaffin Creek near Tucabia are recognised as nationally significant wetlands and inscribed in the Directory of Important Wetlands of Australia (DIWA).

Cultural linkages

The Upper Coldstream is within the Yaegl Nation and the project area is known to be highly significant to the social practices and ceremonial and spiritual identity of the Yaegl people as well as the Gumbaynggirr people and Garby Elders to the south. Pillar Rock (after which Pillar Valley is named) is a prominent landscape feature known to be of very high significance to both the Yaegl people and their neighbouring tribes. Various landforms and features surrounding the rock outcrop formed important components of Yaegl and Gumbaynggirr ceremony. There are strong cultural connections to species such as the coastal emu and the dingo and, with important populations of both known from the Upper Coldstream, this landscape has particular significance. The presence of large complexes of wetlands and a diversity of forested habitats across the Upper Coldstream catchment provided a great abundance of food, medicine and materials that allowed the Yaegl people and their culture to thrive well after European contact.

Corridors and connectivity at different scales and types (forested or aquatic)

The Upper Coldstream contains a significant proportion of the largest coastal wildlife corridor on the North Coast. Yuraygir National Park and its hinterland including the Coast Range and the Pillar Ridge protect some of the largest and most diverse forested corridors. Along the creek lines and floodplains of the Coldstream River catchment are highly significant wetland and riverine corridors with major tributaries including Amos Creek, Pillar Valley Creek and Chaffin Creek.

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Ecosystems

The Upper Coldstream supports an incredible diversity of different habitat types and ecosystems, each of which supports many plants and animals limited to these ecosystems. The area is known to harbour some of the most diverse eucalypt forests and forested wetlands in the world. Major vegetation and habitat types include:

• Rainforests – subtropical, dry and warm temperate (elements);

• Wet sclerophyll forests – shrubby and grassy sub-formations;

• Dry sclerophyll forests – shrub and shrub/grass sub-formations;

• Grassy woodlands;

• Forested wetlands – paperbark, swamp oak, forest red gum, swamp box;

• Open freshwater wetlands – sedgelands, reedlands, rushlands, fernlands, lilies and other floating macrophytes on open lagoons;

• Heathlands. Species and populations

The Upper Coldstream is home to a rich array of native plants and animals. The area is known to provide habitat for over 110 threatened species and supports an exceptionally high diversity of native plants. Almost 800 native plant species have been documented to date across the project area and many more are being found as vegetation surveys continue across the project area. It is likely that the native plant list could reach 1,000 species - a significant proportion of Australia’s total. The Upper Coldstream is one of the largest strongholds in NSW for many rare and threatened species including:

• Coastal emu – a small, unique population of emu confined to an area between the Bungawalbin, Yuraygir National Park and the Upper Coldstream. Annual breeding is evident from known nest sites and regular sightings of chicks in clutches of up to ten or more chicks, however threats from predators, wildfire and car accidents are causing a major decline in numbers. Rainforests of the Upper Coldstream provide an important food source with a diverse range of fruits available.

• Moonee Quassia - a nationally endangered shrub known from Moonee to the Lower Clarence Valley. Significant populations are known from several areas of escarpment across the Upper Coldstream catchment.

• Yellow-flowered King of the Fairies - this endangered epiphytic orchid is only known in NSW from a small population south of the Evans River and on a single boulder on the eastern flanks of Mitchell Hill in the Chaffin Creek catchment.

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• Needle-leaf Fern - large populations of this endangered fern are known from a few rocky escarpments in the Upper Coldstream. These are the southern-most known populations.

• Rotala, Rotala tripartita - in NSW this endangered water plant is currently only known to occur as a single small population on the floodplain of Chaffin Creek. It has disappeared from a previously known site near Coutts Crossing.

• Hairy Melichrus - this nationally endangered heathland shrub is only known from sandstone landscapes between Glenreagh and the Coast Range.

• Giant Water Lily – in NSW this native species was previously abundant and widespread in coastal wetlands north of Sydney. It has been replaced by the exotic cape water lily and is only known to occur in a small population on the Richmond River floodplain west of Broadwater and substantial populations across the Coldstream River and Chaffin Creek.

• Glossy Black Cockatoo – smaller and much quieter than the common Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, the glossy black cockatoos select certain she-oaks across the landscape as feed trees with evidence of feeding obvious with chewed casuarina cones scattered beneath. Birds are often identified by their loud crunching of cones and a flash of red in the tail.

• Sandstone Apple - this nationally vulnerable tree is only known from sandstone landscapes between Glenreagh and Coaldale.

• Square-fruited Ironbark - this nationally vulnerable eucalypt is only known from dry sclerophyll forests between Halfway Creek and the Coast Range.

• Steel Box - this nationally rare eucalypt is only known an area between Nana Glen and the Coast Range and southwest of Casino.

• Willow Hygro, Hygrophila angustifolia - this wetland plant is only known from a few sites in NSW, near Casino and in Pillar Valley.

• Sandstone Blackthorn Bursaria cayzerae - this recently described shrub is only known from sandstone landscapes between Coutts Crossing and the Coast Range.

Landscape features

The Upper Coldstream features a diversity of landforms including a prominent series of north-south oriented ridgelines (the Coast Range, Sandstone Hill, Pillar Ridge and Mitchell Hill) interspersed with floodplains (Amos Creek, Pillar Valley Creek, Upper Coldstream River/Sandy Crossing and Chaffin Creek). Collectively these rocky and alluvial landforms provide the physical conditions (e.g. swampy flats and lagoons, rocky outcrops and sheltered ravines) necessary for the existence of a rich profusion of different vegetation types and the many species that dwell within them. It is largely because of this great diversity of landforms that the area is renowned as a biodiversity hotspot.

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Case study: coastal emu conservation

Emu Gully is considered to be an important emu conservation site. There are records of emus recently moving through and nest sites are known nearby. Emus prefer rainforest fruits but very few mature stands of rainforest trees still survive, so the diet shifts to what is available in the open grassy areas, drier forests and the emus are even known to forage in the old banana lands.

Landholders and volunteers are planting trees and plants that will regenerate emu food sources over time. The planted vegetation will create a wildlife corridor reconnecting fragmented vegetation – linking the ridge to more continuous vegetation through the Land for Wildlife properties along Firth Heinz Road. Revegetation is using known food plants (many identified from what’s observed in recent Emu scats): Lomandra, Ghania,

Dianella, Syzigiums, Geebungs, and Jam Tarts to name a few.

Revegetation will include koala food trees as well - Red Gums, Swamp Mahogany - mixed into the rainforest plantings. A chain of ponds system will create wetland habitat to support aquatic biodiversity and underpin the food chain. Wetlands are important for some significant frogs that occur across the Upper Coldstream, e.g. the great barred frog, Mixophyes iterates, which is recorded up through the better condition creeks with permanent water. Important species such as these allow conservation activities to be focussed towards high priority values. A flock of 60 magpie geese was recently observed on the nearby dam. This is one of the most easterly occurrences in recent times. The magpie goose was once abundant in the Clarence valley but is very rarely seen now.

The relationship between fire and emu foods is important. Many Emu foods occur as understorey species in the drier forests and fire has a major influence. Having the right fire intervals (somewhere around a minimum of 10 years, to 30 years for the drier forests and a bit longer for the wetter forests) allows rainforest fruits to reach maturity and provide a food source for the Emus. If it’s burnt too often the plants won’t be able to fruit. On the other hand, fire will also trigger fruiting and flowering of many species so a balanced and carefully considered use of fire can be good for the emus. Geebungs and Jam Tarts (which are great Emu food sources when they are in fruit) are found up through the ridges and fire can trigger their germination.

The Pacific Highway Upgrade is nearby and will have a direct impact on emu pathways and their movement across the landscape. Emu’s have been observed on the upgrade corridor. Fencing is proposed (sooner than the actual highway construction itself) which is going

to mean the emu will be contained to the east of the upgrade route. This makes the connectivity conservation activities such as Emu Gully and the broader Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project highly significant for this population. The network of interested and active landholders is important. Issues such as fencing and vertebrate pest control need to be investigated and acted on. Unfortunately the key threats to the emu are not fully understood. Corridors and pathways for the animals to cross over upgraded highway was an important issue raised with the Roads and Maritime Services by the Aboriginal community.

This case study is a summary of stakeholder input at the initial Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project planning workshop.

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Issues and threats

Land-use not compatible with conservation and connectivity

The Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project area has a long and diverse history of varied land use. Some of these activities are now in the past however new and emerging threats are likely to have severe impacts on conservation, connectivity and general environmental health.

Clearing of a major corridor of vegetation to build the proposed Pacific Highway upgrade through the Upper Coldstream will cause massive impacts on biodiversity. This includes contributing to the ongoing decline of the coastal emu and potentially causing its extinction by preventing or limiting access to the important westerly parts of its range. This barrier to fauna movement will also affect a broad suite of other wildlife.

Industrial logging across various parts of the Upper Coldstream (both private and public land) has caused the loss or degradation of conservation values and compromised connectivity across these landscapes. This has also promoted conditions conducive to the invasion of Bell Miners, namely a degraded forest structure with a dense understorey of lantana. At least one site in Pillar Valley has been identified with Bell Miner occurrence.

Banana growing was a common land use across much of the north and east facing slopes along the Pillar Ridge. Today only a few commercial operations are still functioning. The abandoned banana lands typically received no remediation and, with no canopy and disturbed soils, have degraded into large patches of serious weed infestation including crofton weed, groundsel bush, lantana and broadleaf paspalum. Located high in the landscape, these weeds have widespread impacts when seeds are wind-blown and spread across the broader Pillar Valley landscape. New and emerging horticulture operations, such as blueberry farming, have potential to negatively impact on land and water resources through erosion, nutrient runoff and further land clearing.

Coal Seam Gas (CSG) is a major issue on the north coast with large community opposition evident in the Glenugie CSG blockade which lasted for almost two months before being disbanded by police. The negative impacts of CSG are contentious but arguably broad with adverse social, economic, environmental and health implications for local communities.

Weeds

Most areas of native vegetation across the Upper Coldstream are in very good ecological condition. Many ridgelines and wetlands are entirely free of environmental weeds. However there are substantial areas widespread across the landscape where a small suite of weeds is present and causing degradation to important ecological assets. The most notable weed is Lantana that occurs across many areas of forest, being particularly dense where heavy logging has occurred with disturbance in the form of tracks and machinery. Other weeds present across much of the Upper Coldstream include crofton weed, groundsel bush, broadleaf paspalum, camphor laurel and slash pine. Isolated, outlier, new and emerging weeds are always key threats that require awareness, vigilance, and rapid response.

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Case study: weeds

When it comes to weeds, Pillar Valley is quite unique having a different microclimate to the remainder of the Clarence valley. Variables such as slightly more rainfall result in a suite of weeds that are different to the surrounding region.

Common weeds include Lantana which occurs across the whole landscape, Crofton Weed located on the ridges, gullies and old banana plantations, and Groundsel Bush which is also widespread. Weeds that are of particular interest are ones that have a limited distribution and therefore can be actively managed by landholders. Two emerging species are Hymenachne – a ponded pasture species that occurs on several adjoining properties; and Tropical Soda Apple - a very serious issue but fortunately confined to only a few sites within the Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project area. A more recent weed is Broad Leaf Paspalum which has only been in the Valley for around 10 years. The species has the potential to have significant environmental impacts because it can grow out in the open full sun but also grows under shade such as under a rainforest canopy. The grass is spread by people, vehicles and machinery but also by wildlife and horses. Broad Leaf Paspalum likes riparian areas, high fertility and a fair bit of moisture. At the landscape scale, there are thousands of kilometres of gully lines with the potential to be impacted by Broad Leaf Paspalum and it is being seen more and more across the landscape.

Other weeds of note include Smooth Senna, Coolatai Grass and Moth Vine.

This case study is a summary of stakeholder input at the initial Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project planning workshop.

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Pest Animals

Feral pigs are known from the wetlands and floodplains of the Upper Coldstream, particularly across the lowlands of Amos Creek, Pillar Valley Creek and Chaffin Creek. Although often in small numbers, feral pigs have been documented damaging significant areas of wetland and there is a high likelihood that they will prey upon coastal emu chicks. Pigs are known to harbour in the dense shelter provided by weeds such as Lantana, Crofton Weed and Broadleaf Paspalum. Removal of this pig harbour through targeted weed control in and around priority ecological assets that are under threat from pig damage is an effective method to limit the time pigs are in the area and reduce the damage caused.

There are few other problematic pest animals in the Upper Coldstream, although small numbers of foxes and feral cats are known. It is likely that populations of these feral predators are kept in check by the substantial populations of dingoes present in the area.

Fire

Fire can be a key threat to many of the conservation values of the Upper Coldstream. In particular fire can degrade rainforest ecosystems and impact on sensitive riparian and wetland habitats. Frequent burning can lead to declines in biodiversity and the loss of sensitive native species including many threatened species. High intensity wildfire can lead to the loss of slower moving or vulnerable forest fauna and cause the loss or collapse of hollow-bearing trees that take centuries to form. High intensity and broad scale wildfire has been suggested as one of the main factors in the ongoing decline of the Coastal Emu.

The challenge in ecological fire management, however, is balancing these negative impacts of fire with the need for fire at various scales, frequencies and intensities to support ecological function. This is essential across many ecosystems to stimulate flowering, fruiting, seeding, germination and regeneration of many plants that provide essential resources.

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New, emerging or potential threats

Bell Miner Associated Dieback

Across Northern NSW Bell Miner colonies are associated with the dieback and death of eucalypt forests. Until recently no colonies of Bell Miners were known within approximately 40 kilometres of the Upper Coldstream. Two small colonies have recently been documented in heavily logged forest with a dense lantana understorey, conditions ideal for these colonies to thrive.

Garden escapee weeds

Various weeds are present in small numbers in home gardens across the Upper Coldstream. Birds and bats are responsible for spreading most of these weeds, such as privet, curry leaf bush and cocos palm, while wind, gravity and water are responsible for spreading others, such as golden rain tree, yellow bells, formosa lily and morning glory.

Cane Toads

The Upper Coldstream is at the southern front of the cane toad invasion with these pests only 20 kilometres away from the project area. The southern-most known breeding populations of cane toad in Australia are immediately to the north and northeast. With the presence of major wetland complexes across the Upper Coldstream the invasion of the cane toad is considered a significant risk to the natural values of the area. Awareness, vigilance, and rapid reporting across the Upper Coldstream are essential to maintain this containment zone.

Indian Myna

Although at this stage Indian mynas are not known in the Upper Coldstream they are known to inhabit areas nearby. Indian mynas nest in hollows and are known to forcibly “evict” native fauna from these important habitat features.

Other

Several other pest animals are known to occur in adjoining areas including goats, horses, and deer. These animals may expand under favourable seasonal conditions and incursion into the Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project area may occur.

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Australian Government investment

The Land for Wildlife network that occurs across the Pillar Valley was the basis for an application to the Australian Government’s “Clean Energy Future” Biodiversity Fund. The proposal was strong based on the tenure, values, threats and best practice management that was planned. The concept was awarded $1.3 million over four years to focus on activities that:

- protect and enhance existing native vegetation;

- improve the condition, extent and connectivity of native vegetation across Australia; and - manage the threat of invasive species in connected landscapes.

The Biodiversity Fund invests in natural resource management projects in areas that are rich in biodiversity but which are facing increasing pressures such as:

- loss of habitat connectivity

- degradation of ecosystem function due to fragmentation; and

- proliferation of invasive species such as weeds and vertebrate pest animals.

The Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project area aligns with the Biodiversity Fund by focussing on-ground activities to areas that are considered nationally important owing to their level of species richness and endemism, their potential to support wildlife corridors and their potential to store carbon in the landscape.

Key activities supported by the Australian Government’s Biodiversity Fund include:

• Implementation of restoration works (bushland regeneration and fire management) in priority areas. Activities may include: Lantana (splatter gun, manual control, cut and paint), Slash Pine (felling), Exotic grasses (herbicide spraying), Crofton Weed/Mistflower (manual removal/ herbicide spraying), Camphor Laurel (stem injection), Yellow Bells (stem injection and herbicide spraying);

• Measures of success include conversion of exotic vegetation to native species, reduction in weed extent and density and increase in native vegetation cover;

• Whole-of-landscape feral pig control activities. Activities include landscape scale trapping using the traps purchased for the project. Trapping to mostly be undertaken during winter because of shortages of other food sources/hunger. Traps to be baited with grain;

• Measure of success include the reduction in pig numbers/eradication and the reduction or cessation of damage to wetlands and native flora and fauna;

• Deliver a four-year program of community workshops and field-based training opportunities focussed on planning, implementing and monitoring a restoration program across the Upper Coldstream landscape;

• Comprehensive monitoring and evaluation to continually assess progress and report on landscape-scale achievements.

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Delivery structure

Project delivery is fundamentally based on achieving agreed targets and outcomes under a funding agreement with the Australian Government. With momentum, stakeholder buy-in and value-adding through alternative funding sources, the scope of works broadens to include activities complementary to core contractual obligations. This results in better and broader engagement, addressing new and emerging priorities and linking ecological research and cultural integration to the Upper Coldstream landscape.

Engagement

Engagement involves working with stakeholders to develop agreed priorities across the landscape. These priorities include biodiversity assets, community values, issues and threats, and management actions. Key stakeholders were initially engaged in the development phase of the project application and then more thoroughly in a workshop situation once the project was awarded funding. Key stakeholders that have contributed to the project include:

Office of Environment & Heritage (OEH) - Biodiversity, OEH National Parks and Wildlife Service,

Local Land Services (Northern), Forestry Corporation NSW,

Birrigan Gargle Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) and Yaegl Elders, Crown Lands NSW,

Clarence Valley Council, NSW Rural Fire Service, Clarence Valley Landcare,

Department of Primary Industries - Fisheries,

National Indigenous Science Education Program (Macquarie University), and Commonwealth Department of Environment.

Landholder engagement was undertaken in the development phase of the project with a focus on properties that were in the Land for Wildlife network. Landholders have been contacted via various means to get formal approval for property involvement and on-ground works. Strategic properties that filled habitat connectivity gaps were then targeted across the Pillar Valley area.

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A total of 44 properties were identified to be involved in weed, pest and fire management works however this varies over time with changes in ownership and other factors. Ongoing engagement to build a sense of ownership of the project will be through two primary functions:

1. Capacity building workshops will be delivered throughout the four year project with a focus on increasing the knowledge and skills or landholders to deliver best practice management. This will contribute to the delivery of works during the four-year timeframe of the project while also ensuring that the landholder capacity to maintain the weed, pest and fire work is strengthened for the future.

2. Property plans will be developed for each property across the project area with expert input from the project ecologist. Project staff will work with landholders to identify key values, threats, issues and management options for the property. This component of the project will involve traversing as much of the property as possible with the landholders and building interest, awareness and understanding in the field.

Targets, priorities and strategic action Key targets include:

• 44 landholders involved in planning and implementing works;

• 3,690ha of weed control focussed on priority ecological assets;

• pig control across 4,000ha that complements and links in with neighbouring pest activities on public lands across a broader 25,000ha landscape;

• implementing a four-year workshop program comprising events that provide planning, training and capacity building for landholders to be involved and also maintain works into the future. Strategic action involves:

• identifying priorities, key objectives, and achievable targets (at various scales; across various stakeholders; integrating landholder and stakeholder aspirations);

• identifying overarching landscape scale restoration principles (approaches, techniques and best practice) to ensure that project activities are effective, efficient precincts and targeted towards agreed landscape priorities;

• defining priority work zones where restoration activities will achieve the highest biodiversity outcomes.

Knowledge

Planning and prioritisation of key values, issues, threats, and best practice management will be instigated across the project area at various scales (landscape, property and site focussed). Input from landholders and key stakeholders will inform the diverse values, priorities, and aspirations to develop management approaches. Ecological knowledge and data will be developed and refined through survey and assessment and this will be transferred in maps and plans to convert knowledge into on-ground action.

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Action

On-ground project activities in the Upper Coldstream are focussed on enhancing ecological integrity across a well-connected landscape of diverse habitats. Weed and pest control efforts will be focussed toward strategic ecological assets and high priority zones identified through assessment, mapping and planning.

Capacity building

Underpinning the long term aspirations of the project is a comprehensive series of capacity-building workshops and training opportunities that will engage and empower landholders to become involved in best-practice management and maintain the achievements of the project into the future. The project will provide a staged series of workshops, training and field-based activities such as involvement in fauna surveys.

A key approach to capacity building will be one-on-one mentoring with individual landholders or smaller clusters of neighbouring landholders. This approach allows for useful and property-relevant information to be imparted in a field based, on-site setting. Landholders have been found to have much greater uptake of information on wildlife, ecosystems, weeds, pests and other threats in a more localised setting either individually or with immediate neighbours who can work together to achieve consistent and connected biodiversity outcomes.

Engagement and capacity building with the local Yaegl Aboriginal community and the Birrigan Gargle LALC is being undertaken through formal meetings and written agreements along with informal approaches such as cultural workshops and field walks on country with local community members. The key objective is to identify and develop opportunities for Yaegl people and lands to be integrated into the works program for the Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project.

MERI

Monitoring, evaluation, reporting and improvement (MERI) is a central component of the Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project both for effective project planning, prioritisation and delivery as well as to enable timely and efficient reporting on contractual obligations.

Monitoring on-ground works:

At an on-ground, field based level, evaluation of weed control works will gauge the success of different approaches and techniques and will inform the schedule of follow-up treatment.

Flora and fauna survey:

A range of monitoring techniques is being used to further develop the ecological knowledge base of the Upper Coldstream including native and exotic plants and animals.

Monitoring of weed treatment areas using transects to capture changes in exotic and native plants is a key technique to evaluate improvements in habitat condition as a result of project activities. Photo-points are a key component of this evaluation to capture the before and after results.

Botanical surveys across the properties involved in the project are compiling a substantial list of native plants and recording significant new records and range extensions for some species.

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Systematic seasonal surveys of pig damage to high priority assets such as wetlands and rainforest gullies are being conducted to refine sites for monitoring, harbour destruction and trapping.

Motion detection camera trap surveys are tracking biodiversity and monitoring pests across the landscape. The use of similar technology such as camera-equipped drones may contribute to the efficient survey of inaccessible areas (e.g. remote gullies) and broad areas (e.g. open floodplains) for weed infestations, pigs, emus and other issues that can be captured remotely.

The use of tracker dogs to detect and monitor Emu and Koala presence is being investigated following successful use in threatened species surveys in the Border Ranges. There is potential to detect Emu nests through this technique which would allow for site management and threat abatement to be targeted to these locations.

Evaluating capacity building outcomes

Capacity building is designed to increase landholder awareness, understanding and ability to implement best practice biodiversity management. To achieve effective capacity building, it is important to both understand the baseline capacity of the audience and to evaluate the effectiveness of the workshops, field trips and mentoring activities. A baseline survey was instigated to gauge interest, awareness and preferences for training and workshops. Post-event evaluation will report on how effective the capacity building techniques are.

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Implementation

The Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project is being implemented based on some core principles of landscape scale restoration including:

• the main aim of the project is to restore ecological functions at the landscape scale; aiming for connectivity, diversity and long-term effective weed and pest suppression;

• landscape scale priorities will be agreed, collated and mapped so we know where natural resource management (NRM) investment will return the greatest regeneration;

• bush regeneration will focus on implementing weed control at sites identified as being high value ecological assets;

• best practice techniques will be used that result in a habitat conversion from weeds to native vegetation;

• invasive pest control will be focussed on reducing pig damage to high priority ecosystems such as wetlands and rainforest gullies. Trapping will target specific animals while targeted harbour destruction will reduce the time pigs are in an area and limit the amount of damage caused. The broad process for planning, implementation and monitoring of activities includes:

• landscape planning, mapping and prioritisation with stakeholders and landholders;

• property assessments including weed mapping undertaken with landholder input where possible;

• property Plans (and work zone plans) developed to guide immediate and ongoing activities;

• activities will be focussed on ‘precincts’ defined to achieve connected outcomes along e.g. creek lines, wetlands or rainforests;

• pre and post treatment habitat condition will be

recorded through photo points and other vegetation assessment as appropriate;

• effectiveness of treatment and follow-up requirements will be continually assessed at each work site over the life of the project.

Some specific approaches to bush regeneration relevant to the Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project are:

• a key focus will be on outlier or isolated weeds that have a potential to become a problem if not controlled immediately. These species will be a focus for eradication to prevent spread or new infestations;

• an initial focus on rainforest and other moist environments will ensure that restoration activities generate real regeneration - i.e. replacement of weeds with natives. Open, drier forests are less likely to show a regeneration response;

• primary target of 80% weed treatment will be set;

• lantana will be treated using the technique appropriate to the season, the situation and the actual plant being treated;

• lantana will be treated by hand pulling small individual plants; cut and painting isolated clumps and splatter gunning bigger dense infestations during warmer months depending on

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A bush regeneration team comprising of four members will work over the four years of the project. The team will comprise qualified regenerators and further on-site training will occur to build understanding of landscape restoration principles and ‘best practice management’ techniques. Case study: addressing priorities; delivering outcomes

For effective outcomes across the Upper Coldstream, work must focus on the high priorities and where activities can make a difference in the long term. The landscape has been disturbed. Exactly what constitutes a natural landscape is not easy to define or agree on. Even Aboriginal regimes are not certain. The Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project needs to have a realistic view of what’s possible and what influence the project activities can have on the surrounding landscape.

Property plans will be developed to address weed, pest and fire management issues. Strategies and activities will be developed for implementation immediately (as part of the four-year Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project) as well as in the longer term. The Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project is aiming to build good custodianship by increasing awareness that this area has incredible values. The project will support, wherever possible, good custodianship of each property as well as the broader landscape. While there’s 4000ha of individual properties in the project area, it is anticipated that the impact and influence from those areas will go much further afield across the Upper Coldstream landscape.

Monitoring will be a major component of the project so changes in habitat condition can be measured and reported on. Techniques, including photo-points, vegetation plots, camera traps for wildlife and pests, and landholder observations, will all be employed to capture data that can be documented to create stories that inspire other people to do good work on other properties.

New approaches to reporting on NRM outcomes and achievements need to be embraced. These include moving from the traditional, specific and narrow “one hectare of Lantana weeded” style to a more broad acknowledgement that effective capacity building will influence improved NRM at the broader site, property and landscape scales. So, for example, if landholders know how to manage Lantana using best practice, then their whole property can be reported as being under a better management regime where Lantana will be controlled in the long term. Similar for Cane Toads, if landholders know Toads are

coming, what they look like and what call they make, then they can be ready to act when one arrives. This landscape-scale preparation and capacity building can be reported on as an important pest animal outcome.

This case study is a summary of stakeholder input at the initial Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project planning workshop.

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Overview of participating properties

This table provides an overview of the properties involved in the Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project including their size, location in the project area, natural values and main threats to biodiversity.

Property reference

Precinct Area

(ha)

Key values Threats

101 Chaffin Creek 67 Riparian Lantana, BMAD, feral predators

633 Chaffin Creek 14 Riparian, floodplain, wetland Lantana, Camphor laurel

1127 Amos Creek 231 Riparian, rainforest Lantana, garden

escapees, running bamboo, feral predators

241 Pillar Valley Creek 274 Riparian, floodplain Lantana, Camphor laurel

1080 Black Snake Creek 56 Rainforest Lantana

685 Chaffin Creek 14 Floodplain, wetland Lantana, clearing, feral predators

800 Chaffin Creek 230 Rainforest, riparian Lantana, Crofton, Broadleaf Paspalum, pig, feral predators

72 Bostock Waterholes 9 Riparian Lantana

1395 Amos Creek / Black Snake Creek

186 Rainforest, floodplain, riparian Lantana, pig, feral predators

005 Chaffin Creek 40 Rainforest, riparian Lantana, feral predators

961 Chaffin Creek 42 Riparian Lantana

664 Lower Emu Gully 14 Riparian Lantana

996 Chaffin Creek 42 Rainforest Lantana, banana clearing, mistflower

177 Bostock Waterholes 42 Rainforest Lantana

1773 Amos Creek 189 Riparian, floodplain, wetland Lantana, Senna, Camphor laurel, feral predators

1191 Amos Creek 15 Riparian, floodplain Garden

escapees, Lantana

55 Chaffin Creek 21 Floodplain, wetland Lantana, clearing, BMAD, camphor laurel, Broadleaf paspalum, pig, feral predators

581 Chaffin Creek 85 Floodplain, riparian, wetland Lantana, feral predators

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548 Lower Emu Gully 52 Riparian Lantana

43 Amos Creek 39 Rainforest Lantana

526 Black Snake Creek 54 Rainforest Lantana, clearing, feral predators

1029 Chaffin Creek 10 Riparian Lantana

106 Chaffin Creek 273 Rainforest, riparian Lantana

897 Chaffin Creek 86 Riparian Lantana

500 Bostock Waterholes 181 Riparian, wetland Lantana, feral predators

171 Chaffin Creek 35 Rainforest Lantana

680 Lower Emu Gully 14 Riparian Lantana

895 Chaffin Creek 85 Riparian Lantana

1064 Amos Creek 10 Riparian Lantana,

banana clearing

137 Bostock Waterholes 259 Rainforest, riparian, floodplain, wetland

Lantana, corky passionfruit, feral predators, pig

271 Pillar Valley Creek 160 Rainforest, riparian, floodplain Lantana, grazing, clearing, feral predators

1125 Amos Creek 145 Riparian, rainforest, floodplain Lantana, feral predators, pig

66 Lower Emu Gully 47 Riparian Lantana, Camphor laurel

848 Chaffin Creek 178 Rainforest, riparian Mistflower, lantana, feral predators

1197 Amos Creek 46 Riparian, floodplain Lantana,

grazing, clearing

634 Lower Emu Gully 14 Riparian Lantana

561 Chaffin Creek 63 Floodplain, riparian Lantana, feral predators

12 Chaffin Creeek 91 Rainforest, riparian Lantana, feral predators, pig

692 Chaffin Creek 40 Riparian Lantana, feral predators

TSRSANDY Sandy Crossing 81 Floodplain, riparian, wetland Lantana, feral predators

TSRBOST Bostock Waterholes 40 Floodplain, riparian, wetland Lantana, feral predators, pig

TSRCORK Coast Range 8.5 Riparian Lantana

TSRPINE Pine Brush 16 Riparian Lantana, feral

predators

TOTAL HECTARES

3598.5 *BMAD = Bell Myna Associated Dieback

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Pest Control

The Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project will aim to address key invasive pest animal issues through a suite of activities including:

• provision of best-available information that increases awareness and knowledge;

• field days and events that promote key pest management issues;

• research and assessment to increase knowledge of pest animal distribution, abundance and impacts;

• liaison with industry experts to identify and employ innovative, realistic and effective tools and techniques for pest management;

• establishment of guidelines and processes and provision of equipment to allow landholders to instigate pest management independently on an ongoing basis; and

• active control of priority pest animals with a particular emphasis on reducing the damage to ecosystems by feral pigs.

The threat of cane toad invasion will be managed by providing information to the Upper Coldstream landholders including the cane toad call, native frog fact sheet and identification brochure. This will ensure rapid detection and action to remove individual animals in the event of a potential cane toad incursion into the Upper Coldstream;

The impact of feral predators such as foxes and cats will be managed through the provision of equipment such as traps, opportunistic and targeted trapping and hunting and the use of innovative techniques to bait foxes but limit bait-take by dingos.

Options are being investigated for intensive management of predators around known emu nest sites to maximise the benefit of control during the emu breeding season. A program of feral predator control is being negotiated and developed with key experts and stakeholders.

Bell Myna Associated Dieback (BMAD) is an isolated occurrence in the Upper Coldstream – currently only known from two properties. The small number of Bell Mynas will be controlled through targeted shooting.

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Case study: pest animals

On the north coast, wild dogs are the main area of concern for cattle farmers. Control programs vary from year to year depending on seasonal conditions. Landholders, including public land managers, have a responsibility to control wild dogs. Wild dogs roam throughout the landscape and responsibility can’t be attributed to any single landholder or public agency. To devise appropriate management strategies, landholders need to determine whether wild dogs are having an impact on what they want to have on their property. In terms of emus, wild dogs do impact on nesting emus and young chicks and some form of wild dog control may be required in different situations. Underpinning wild dog management is the need to understand where they are active.

Yuraygir is designated as a dingo conservation area in which they are acknowledged to be native animals and afforded appropriate protection and management. DNA testing on animals in this area shows that they display the whole range of genetics from almost pure dingo through to domestic dog. In the Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project, an approach would be to control dogs so they don’t impact on neighbours and emus. The challenge is how to put out 1080 bait and get foxes and dogs to eat it and a dingo not to eat it. Innovative options are being trialled.

Pigs are hard to control in the coastal areas. There is a need to know what the animals are doing to be effective with control. Management programs need to firstly understand where the pigs are, where they’re active and when and where they are moving. They typically don’t have a regular location but rather are highly mobile. In Yuraygir, pigs will be seen on the coast for two or three days but then won’t be seen for a month. Cane Toads are a major threat on the edge of the Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project area. The current frontline is as far south as Angourie, and to the western side of Palmers Island with outlying populations at Townsend and Mororo. A population established around Brooms Head in 2004 and has spread three quarters of the way to Sandon. The Cane Toads are still on the coastal side of the Coast Range Road with the frontline in the vicinity of Bosches Waterhole Road and Wallaby Lane. The spread has been contained for now and contractors are involved in management programs including active collection and removal of animals.

Up until recently, Cane Toads weren’t active in the Clarence Valley in June, July and August but now they are being seen through those months. They seem to be breeding earlier, helped by some milder and wetter winters. They really respond to the favourable climatic conditions with an explosion in breeding. The Upper Coldstream is very much in the immediate pathway of the Cane Toad advance and vigilance is required. Reports from the Pillar Valley seem to be the usual vagrants that come in on building materials, landscape supplies or other means of transport. Increasing landholder awareness of the Cane Toad call and key identification features will allow incursions to be reported and a rapid response to be enacted.

Deer are known to be on the southern edge of Yuraygir National Park and Sherwood Nature Reserve. There is no doubt that they will be moving across the landscape and eventually reaching the Upper Coldstream. Vigilance and prompt reporting to NPWS or LLS is required.

Goats aren’t currently known to be in significant numbers however around 40 to 50 were seen in Newfoundland State Forest around 1995. Horses occur further south of the Upper Coldstream and may roam north into project area in the future. Foxes occur across the landscape.

This case study is a summary of stakeholder input at the initial Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project planning workshop.

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Landscape-scale pig control across the Upper Coldstream

The project aims to reduce the damage by pigs to significant ecosystems by actively suppressing feral pig abundance across the Upper Coldstream landscape as part of a coordinated, strategic and ongoing pest control program.

The key objectives of the program are:

1. Developing a knowledge base regarding pig abundance, distribution, movement and habitat damage across the Upper Coldstream landscape

2. Designing and implementing a landscape-scale pig control program using best practice techniques (including both pest control, harbour destruction and monitoring) appropriate to the location and scale of the Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project

3. Providing capacity building opportunities to engage and involve landholders in pig control on their properties

4. Achieving an 80% reduction in pig density at priority control sites

5. Collaborating with adjoining public land pig control programs including NPWS pig monitoring and trapping activities.

Priorities:

The focus of the control program is protecting the priority ecological assets of the Upper Coldstream including:

• Wetlands and waterways;

• Gullies;

• Mesic ecosystems (e.g. rainforest);

• Rare and endangered species (particularly plants directly impacted on);

• Emu nests and chicks (and other fauna susceptible to predation by pigs);

• Erosion, trampling, compaction, poor water quality, spread of weed seeds. Capacity building:

The project will train landholders in:

• potential sites to look for pig damage;

• systems for timely reporting to the project team;

• the step-by-step process of pig pipes, trap erection, free feeding, monitoring, trapping and disposal;

• "on the job" support from the project team on their property; assisting with free feeding at trap sites, monitoring camera images and checking traps once set;

• identifying harbour zones and removing exotic vegetation that is supporting pigs with refuge in and around priority ecosystems.

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Program implementation:

1. Undertake strategic surveys of priority sites for evidence of pig damage; and encourage opportunistic sightings and occurrences of damage to be reported promptly (by landholders and regen teams);

2. Once recent/fresh pig activity has been identified as causing damage to a priority ecological asset, install a free-baiting ""pig pipe"" to hold the herd in that location until a pig trap can be erected; (See http://www.wildhoghunters.com/content/424-how-build-pig-pipe.html)

3. Install a motion sensor camera, positioned to record pig numbers and timing of pig visits to the site;

4. Install a trap (located around the existing "pig pipe") and commence free feeding to attract the pigs into the trap;

5. Monitor camera images to determine pig numbers and use of the trap;

6. Set the trap once the highest density of pigs are observed to be using the trap;

NOTE: human activity at the trap site should be kept to a minimum to reduce human scents being left. Gloves should be worn during all activities to reduce human scent being left at the trap site. Other options such as using smoke to cover scent could be considered.

7. The trap should be set every night and checked each morning;

8. Trapping should continue until no more pigs are caught and the camera images are showing no more pigs visiting the site (if pigs are still seen to be visiting the area but not entering the trap, free feeding may be restarted with consideration of using a different bait);

9. Options for enticing shy pigs into the trap include: • disturbing the ground inside the trap with a hoe

• using aromatic attractants such as vanilla essence, aniseed, or fish oil; • laying a bait trail from the pad or fresh diggings to the trap.

10. Pigs should be shot and carcasses removed from the immediate trapping site;

11. While pigs are being caught at one site continue to pre-feed at other sites so that the trap can be moved and immediately continue to catch pigs when the first site is exhausted;

12. Relevant data should be recorded including total number at the site, total number trapped and removed, herd structure (approx broad age groups), trap effort (days, hours and resources used); 13. Harbour destruction should be carefully planned and implemented to ensure removal of dense weeds does not cause or exacerbate adverse impacts such as erosion, loss of canopy or allowing for further weed encroachment without appropriate follow-up maintenance measures in place.

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Fire management

Fire is an important process in many Australian landscapes and one that has the potential to both maintain biodiversity, or cause decline. Within the Upper Coldstream there are many ecosystems and species that need periodic fire and many others that require the exclusion of fire. Through the delivery of a Hotspots Fire Project workshop series for landholders in the Upper Coldstream there will be excellent opportunities for working across the landscape to:

• Maintain biodiversity through implementation of appropriate fire regimes

• Reduce the risk of high intensity wildfire across the landscape

• Manage risks to life and property

• Use fire to restore degraded ecosystems.

Many areas of the Upper Coldstream have experienced frequent burning and there are strong indications that areas of rainforest have been degraded and lost because of fire. There is also strong evidence that the range of some plant species that are sensitive to fire has been reduced. Through better management of fire, the many values of the Upper Coldstream can be maintained and in some instances improved.

In order to maintain the significant biodiversity values of the Upper Coldstream fire will need to be excluded from:

• Rainforests

• Riparian areas

• some types of freshwater wetlands

The use of fire at an appropriate frequency is also needed across much of the Upper Coldstream landscape. In many instances this will mean excluding fire for a considerable period of time to allow many ecosystems to recover from overly frequent burning.

The Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project will work with the Hotspots Fire Project delivered through the coordinated efforts of the NSW Rural Fire Service and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.

Based on best available science and operational knowledge, the Hotspots Fire Project is a NSW training program which provides landholders and land managers with the skills and knowledge needed to actively and collectively participate in fire management planning and implementation for the protection and enhancement of biodiversity conservation.

Hotspots understands that well-informed and well prepared communities complement the roles of land managers and fire agencies and that a shared approach to fire management is critical to any form of planning.

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Case study: fire in the landscape

The Upper Coldstream / Pillar Valley doesn’t see much agricultural burning. Only a few landholders run cattle and this is mostly on the western slopes of the Pillar Ridge. The general attitude based on RFS interactions with landholders seems to be fire is good, let it go, see what happens, few people raise concerns.

The other perspective - from the individual landholder trying to restore diversity and provide quality wildlife habitat - is that much of Pillar Valley has been degraded by fire (too frequent and too intense) and vegetation recovery is slow, the seed bank is gone and understorey and groundcover species are slow to re-establish. Too frequent burning encourages Bladey Grass which is a fine, readily-combustible fuel perfect for supporting fire. Once left unburnt for a period of time, diverse ground covers start returning, the forest floor changes, and more fire resistant species such as Lomandra begin to dominate. This different vegetation can change the behaviour of fire, particularly slow, low intensity fire, when it does eventually come through again. The Hotspots program will teach landholders to read the country, what the vegetation is doing, interpret recent fire history, intensity, frequency, fuel loads – essentially teaching landholders some science to help with their fire management.

Fire is a threat to the Emu, particularly fast moving fires and fires that occur when the Emus are nesting (May/June/July and even August the males can be sitting). There’s no real data on whether there’s a specific habitat the Emu nests in – but anecdotal evidence suggests there’s probably not any real preference. For example, a recent nest was in a fallow cane paddock. So it is difficult to try and prescribe fire or exclude certain forest types or habitats from fire for the benefit of the Emu. Certainly fire during nesting season in general is a priority issue to investigate and manage.

The Bundjalung Emu population is pretty much gone having declined over the past 10-15 years largely as a result of fire impacting on a really small population – particularly really hot wildfire, and fast moving fire. Some hazard reduction burns are planned for 2014 along Firth Heinz Road in the Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project area. Regarding fire intensity, the landscape carries a fair bit of fuel. Fuel levels at the burn sites would be just under the 20 tonne per hectare mark which

will be more than enough to have a crown fire go through or over the top of it. Recent fire weather has been a major factor with long dry spells and a lot of days where fire danger was above the norm. The region ‘dodged a bullet’ with some of the fires that started recently and if those fires had started at 3 or 4pm on some of the bad fire weather days there could have been a major incident. Irresponsible burning by landholders is a key factor in the occurrence of wildfire.

The Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project is aiming to develop and implement management strategies to try and avoid those types of high intensity, fast moving wildfire. Through Hotspots and other mechanisms the project will look at planning each property and planning collectively – encouraging vigilance and responsible burning.

This case study is a summary of stakeholder input at the initial Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project planning workshop.

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Training, workshops and field days

A central component of the project is to build the knowledge, skills and ability of landholders to undertake best practice management of weeds, pest animals and fire. This capacity building is essential to ensure that the achievements of the four-year project are maintained into the future. An important theme to develop through this is building a sense of collaboration at various scales:

• neighbours working towards common shared goals;

• 44 landholders working consistently on key landscape threats across 4,000hectares;

• private and public land managers implementing complementary activities such as pig control achieving effective and cooperative management across over 25,000 hectares;

• an overall sense of meaningful achievement delivering agreed priority activities in a national significant coastal landscape.

Workshops and field days

Workshop style events are designed to bring project partners and landholders together to discuss major issues, spatially define key threats and prioritise management across the landscape. The workshops are designed to build the collaborative spirit of the project. Similarly, field days will be held in various formats but largely focussed on getting landholders out to appreciate the natural values of the Upper Coldstream, participating in ecological assessment such as spotlighting and frog surveys, and touring work sites to see what

is being achieved as part of the project activities. The Hotspots Fire workshops will provide a formal planning process for considering ecological fire management.

Mentoring

In most cases the best capacity building is achieved through one-on-one mentoring focussed on an individual property. Being out in the field and referring to a large property map allows for the landholder to gain an appreciation of the values of their property, learn about flora and fauna from experienced ecologists, identify key threats in the form of weeds and invasive pest animals and go through the process of prioritisation and planning of management activities.

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Training

Training events will be focussed on developing the practical skills of landholders in being able to implement best practice management programs for weed and pest animal control. For weed control, training will focus on the appropriate mixture of herbicide for different weeds, different techniques suitable for different conditions and situations, and strategies for monitoring and follow-up. For invasive pest animal control, training will focus on the step-by-step process to be enacted in the event that pig damage is found on a property, from initial assessment through to trapping and removal.

Short films

A series of short films will be developed and provided online to be readily accessible. The films will focus on different aspects of the project and will convey key messages to build knowledge and skills.

Case study: capacity building and access to information

Provision of information and capacity building is a major component of the Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project which aims to build the collective skills and knowledge of landholders in best practice habitat management.

Two fairly simple ideas are:

1) providing good photos of potential emerging weeds so people can identify, report and/or eradicate; and

2) making people aware of the call of cane toads so they can be alert at night to possible incursions.

Some sort of information portal is required but flexibility is needed across a range of technological abilities from smart phones to the internet to posting out printed information and calls on CD.

As much as possible, landholders and project staff will try and find opportunities for individual opportunities to tour properties and do on-site training and one-on-one mentoring.

This case study is a summary of stakeholder input at the initial Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project planning workshop in 2013.

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Monitoring

An important part of any successful environmental restoration project is understanding the conditions that exist at the beginning of the project and using the right tools and techniques to measure and document the changes that occur as a result of works undertaken by the project. With well-planned and coordinated environmental restoration works, positive changes, such as a reduction in weed cover and replacement with native vegetation can be expected.

The Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project has a rigorous approach to monitoring and documenting environmental changes, using techniques that include:

• establishing permanent monitoring sites (plots) to measure environmental restoration outcomes on each of the participating properties;

• involving landholders in surveys to better-understand the biodiversity that inhabits their properties using techniques such as spotlighting, call-playback, habitat searches, camera-trapping and flora surveys;

• deploying a network of camera traps to better-understand the populations and movements of key native and exotic fauna species including the coastal emu, dingo, rufous bettong, whiptail/pretty-face wallaby, feral pig, wild dog, feral cat and fox;

• establishing photo-point monitoring sites and using digital video monitoring tools;

• presence/absence surveys for pigs and pig damage.

The active involvement in the project of landholders across the Upper Coldstream is critical to the longer-term success of this project and a range of techniques such as interviews, “neighbourhood workshops” and evaluation surveys will be drawn upon to measure the success in achieving this important element of the project.

Figure

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References

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