Bathurst farming family plants 16,000 trees to boost biodiversity

SUBSCRIBE to our fortnightly e-newsletter to receive more stories like this. Local Land Services officer Allan Wray with livestock farmer Graeme Ross at 'Willowglen': the Ross family have planted 16,000 trees and 3,000 native seedlings on their 800 hectare property near Bathurst, NSW.

Over the past 15 years, livestock farmers and landholders Graeme and Wendy Ross have planted around 16,000 trees and 3,000-odd seedlings on their 800-hectare cattle and merino sheep farm near Bathurst, NSW, restoring precious woodland habitat and native grasslands.

The revegetation project

The Ross family fenced off more than 125 hectares of remnant vegetation on their property, Willowglen, to improve ground cover and promote regeneration of native plant species, with the goal of returning the landscape to its natural state.

They collected seed from red box and yellow box eucalypts and propagated several thousand seedlings, which were used in new plantings.

Central Tablelands Local Land Services (CT LLS) supplied additional native tube stock and tree guards for the Willowglen site and helped out with funding for site fencing and installing a watering point for livestock in the new paddock.  

“Local Land Services is encouraging landholders to increase vegetation connectivity in the landscape and to improve groundcover through sustainable grazing practices, so it’s a pleasure working with farmers like Graeme and Wendy,” Land Services Officer, Allan Wray, said.

“They have already done a lot of work on their property that demonstrates how farm productivity and biodiversity can go hand in and hand. This latest project is a great example of well-planned and practical revegetation and farm management.”

In 2016, participants in the Australian Government’s Green Army Program, a nationwide practical environmental action program, delivered through Skillset, gave the Rosses a hand with their ambitious regeneration project. “They did a very good job helping us out with fencing and with planting,” Graeme Ross recalls.

Green Army participants planted 2,000 native seedlings, including yellow box, apple box, Blakely’s red gum, silver wattle and she-oaks, on the Willowglen site, with Graeme and Wendy planting a further 3,000 seedlings to complete the project.Some of the 2,000 native seedlings planted on the Ross family's property Willowglen by Green Army participants as part of the regeneration project.

Managing the new vegetation

Graeme and Wendy Ross will continue to monitor and manage the new, revegetated area, reducing grazing pressure in “critical periods”, such as during dry spells and after rain events, to ensure the native plants get the chance to flower and set seed.

“We have been working to improve ground cover on the farm and we also saw this project as a good opportunity to get better control of stock movement by dividing our paddocks,” said Graeme.

“More control over grazing access will give native plant diversity greater opportunity to survive and regenerate. The more diversity you have, the healthier the landscape, and we like to see the native plants and animals in the bush; it creates a very appealing environment.”

A refuge for native wildlife

The new vegetation at Willowglen has been located strategically to improve landscape connectivity, provide habitat for wildlife, and shelter their livestock from sun, wind and rain.

Along with the native trees and seedlings, elements of the natural landscape – bush rock, fallen timber and dead standing trees – will be maintained to provide important habitat for wildlife, while plain wire fencing allows native animals to move through the area without the risk of barbed-wire injury.

Government accolades

Central Tablelands LLS has praised the Willowglen project, deeming it well-planned, practical and sustainable.

“Local Land Services is encouraging landholders to increase vegetation connectivity in the landscape and to improve groundcover through sustainable grazing practices, so it’s a pleasure working with farmers like Graeme and Wendy,” said Land Services Officer, Allan Wray.

“They have already done a lot of work on their property that demonstrates how farm productivity and biodiversity can go hand in and hand. This latest project is a great example of well-planned and practical revegetation and farm management.”

On a recent visit to Willowglen, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister Luke Hartsuyker and Member for Calare, Andrew Gee, were equally enthusiastic about the Ross’s efforts, promoting them as a standout example of Landcare and resource management projects in action.

“By improving ground cover on the land, owner Graeme Ross has gained greater control of stock movement, leading to a reduction in grazing pressure, the regeneration of native plants, and the protection of biodiversity,” Minister Hartsuyker said.

Local MP Andrew Gee was impressed, noting that the Rosses had planted 16,000 trees on their property between 2002 and 2012, along with the 3,000 seedlings, to restore the natural habitat.

“The trees serve as windbreaks to protect his sheep, giving them shelter from the elements and [encouraging] successful lambing, while the seedlings enhance landscape connectivity and wildlife habitat,” Mr Gee explained. 

“Like many other projects around the country, the Ross family property demonstrates how the National Landcare Programme is achieving on-the-ground results for the environment while also promoting increased agricultural productivity for landowners.” 

Further information

To find out more about the government’s National Landcare Programme, visit the official Landcare site

For information about the benefits of sustainable land management, and how NSW Government Local Land Services can help with planning and implementing management practices that protect the environment and improve productivity, phone Allan Wray on 02 6333 2318 or email allan.wray@lls.nsw.gov.au

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