Landholders connect habitat


Landholders are helping the Far North’s iconic rainforests and cassowaries by joining a strategic action to connect forested areas from the Daintree to Hinchinbrook.

Green corridors have been prioritised across the region and landholders are working with natural resource management organisation Terrain NRM and with community groups to buffer world heritage rainforest and to “fill in the gaps”.

Grants for revegetation, weed management and habitat protection are part of Terrain’s Building Rainforest Resilience Project. Two hundred and fifty property owners in important cassowary, Mabi forest and littoral rainforest areas, and members of threatened species recovery teams, were invited to apply in the first round.
A new grants round is coming up.

In the Daintree and greater Douglas Shire

Bloomfield’s Mt Louis Station manager Ben Morley is one of two Daintree graziers targeting weeds on the edge of the rainforest, while Douglas Shire Council has planted over 1000 trees in the Wangetti area.

Ben and Courtenay Morley have been creating buffer zones for world heritage rainforest and easy access for cassowaries, by removing woody weeds from non-grazing sections of the station along Gap Creek and at the base of Mt Louis and Mt Annie.

“The results have been fantastic. We usually only focus on the paddocks but after getting support, we’ve cleaned up 10 to 12km around the base of the hills and about 12km on both sides of the creek,’’ he said. “Among other environmental benefits, the cassowaries now have easy access to water and feed. We’ve learned more about them too, and we document sightings on the station.”

The Douglas Shire Council has planted 1000 trees and managed weed outbreaks in open areas around Wangetti to connect littoral rainforest patches and extend habitat for cassowaries. Both littoral rainforest and cassowaries are listed nationally as endangered.

In Kuranda

Nevenka Salinovic says tree-planting and weed management work on her family’s 130-hectare property has opened her eyes to the possibilities – and to cassowaries crossing the land.

“Our property backs onto world heritage areas on all sides, and includes pockets of remnant rainforest,’’ Ms Salinovic said. “Getting help with weed management and what trees to plant on the edges of the rainforest and sloping creek banks has been invaluable.”

The family has also been working with Kuranda Envirocare on the project, which has involved slashing and spot-spraying large areas of weeds including guinea grass, prickly raspberry and lantana, and selecting cassowary food trees for future plantings.

“It has been rewarding. We’ve found native trees in under and amongst the weeds, so we won’t have to plant completely from scratch. We knew a bit about cassowaries beforehand but not what they liked to eat and how to plant for their feeding needs throughout the year. Now we are seeing where they come and go – they seem to use our place as a path through to other rainforest.”

The Salinovic project, along with two other weed removal and tree-planting grant projects supported by Terrain NRM and Kuranda Conservation, is helping to restore the Black Mountain cassowary corridor. This corridor is one of the Cassowary Recovery Team’s top priorities.

On the Atherton Tableland

Landholders Louise and John Gavin live on a rural residential property adjoining world-heritage rainforest and endangered Mabi forest.

Ms Gavin said creating a green buffer zone for surrounding national park was their way of giving back to the environment and the farming community.

“We’ve only lived in the region for three years and we had no idea before this that there was a type of rainforest – Mabi forest – that was critically endangered,’’ she said. “It’s really good to be able to have a small project here that fits into the bigger picture of connecting forested areas.”

Three hundred Mabi trees have been planted on the Gavin’s property, with the help of local conservation group TREAT, to improve a revegetation site begun 10 years ago on the land. Weed control has also been a big part of the new project.

“Small grants like this give individual landholders a chance to help build the resilience in pockets of Mabi forest,’’ she said. “It’s a way for landholders like us to do something to balance the eco-system and help others to keep farming their land.”

In the Malaan area, Michelle Bradley has used her grant to kickstart a Himalayan Magnolia and bamboo removal project.

“They’re a really nice tree (magnolias) but in this environment they were taking over everything,’’ she said.  “We’ve gone from one or two appearing out the front to a tight copse of magnolias that nothing can get through. It’s a big job now to remove them all.”

The Bradleys live in the Malaan cassowary corridor, which is the upland part of Australia’s longest and widest east-west rainforest corridor.  They are planting cassowary-friendly trees to replace the magnolias.

Tree planting to connect critical habitat

“This was the kickstart we needed – we bought our six-acre property 13 years ago when it was filled with guinea grass, lantana and wild raspberry, and we progressively removed it all and planted rainforest trees that have moulded into the world-heritage rainforest on three sides of us.

“Now we’ve been able to make a clear plan, with the help of Terrain, for weed management.”

In Mission Beach and Tully

Property owners Ray Hunter and Sue Gillett have planted thousands of rainforest trees on their land while neighbour Renate Habermann is waging a war on weeds on her cattle property bordering world heritage rainforest.

Ray and Sue have been revegetating their Bingil Bay property for the past four years. The 53-acre property was covered in guinea grass.

“It was two to three metres high when we bought the land. Now some of the trees are four metres tall. We’ve bought seedlings and grown our own from seeds in cassowary scats. This grant was a real bonus because we could plant another 2000 trees.

“The changes we’ve seen have been amazing, including the amount and diversity of birdlife we have now. We knew cassowaries were here when we bought the land, but we didn’t know it was in a cassowary corridor. Now we see them eating native fruits from our trees and bringing in their chicks – it’s such a thrill. You do what you can to help an endangered species like this one.”

Renate has used her grant to clean up the forest edges of a cattle property that borders Clump Mountain National Park.

“We’re removing the Siam weed, pond apple, lantana, guinea grass… And we’re fencing to keep the cattle out of more than 70 acres of forest. That’s something we wouldn’t have been able to do without help. We’ve already seen the improvements from keeping the cattle out – it’s reducing erosion at the creeks and native seedlings are coming up and rejuvenating the forest.

“We are used to seeing cassowaries around the area, but we didn’t know we live in a corridor that goes from Mission Beach through to Kurrimine. Being part of this project has changed our farming behaviour.”

Other projects in the Mission Beach-Tully area include revegetation and weed control work on a Bingil Bay Rd property through conservation group C4, tree-planting by Queensland Trust for Nature in Smith’s Gap near El Arish, a voluntary declaration application for private land at Narragon Beach and work by the Cassowary Coast Regional Council and Djiru and Girringun traditional owners to control weeds in littoral rainforest habitat at Clump Point.

About the grants

Grants range from $1000 to $25,000. More will be available later this year.

“We contacted 250 landholders from across the Wet Tropics region whose properties border world-heritage areas,’’ Terrain’s Tony O’Malley said. “These properties also meet criteria ranging from being within the region’s top-six cassowary corridors to being a potential littoral rainforest refugia from sea level rise and storm surges. We give project grants to members of the region’s cassowary, Mabi forest and littoral rainforest recovery groups as well. The overall goal is to support landholders with the most important habitat for endangered species and ecosystems, in order to maintain that habitat.”

He said threatened species recovery teams – including all levels of government, scientists, traditional owners and conservation group members – had worked together to prioritise green corridors.

This project is supported by Terrain NRM through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program. For more information, visit

About the Rebuilding Rainforest Resilience Project

This project is helping to reduce threats to rainforest species and ecological communities by improving priority areas through revegetation, weed management and habitat protection, and by finding solutions to cassowary deaths and injuries on roads. Terrain is working with community groups, traditional owners and government organisations on the project. Find out more here.

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