Since the Clarence Environment Centre (CEC) agreed to take on regional delivery of the Land for Wildlife program in late 2010, Clarence Valley has consistently ranked in the top three NSW regions for registered numbers annually. We now have 156 properties signed up with the program, representing almost 8,000 ha of land managed for wildlife. This does not immediately translate to 8,000ha of natural untouched habitat, but it does mean the landowners' intentions are, as far as possible, to keep the wildlife safe on their properties, whether cleared or not.
It costs the landowner nothing to have their property registered as Land for Wildlife, and to receive their coveted gate sign. But they do need, if possible, to spare 2-3 hours, usually on a weekend, for an accredited assessor to inspect the property, to evaluate its condition and habitat values and identify any problems that might need to be addressed.
That done, the landowner then must sign a brief A4 sheet agreeing to manage the land for wildlife, even though parts might be used for other purposes. At that point their gate sign is handed over, and a few days later, as a reward for joining the program, the owners then receive a fairly comprehensive list of flora species identified on their place during the visit.
It isn't imperative for the owner to join in the initial assessment, but invariably they are keen to learnabout plants they may have, and which are weeds, or best left alone. Also, while a GPS tracker is used for every visit, it is useful for the assessors to be informed of any tracks, boundaries, fences etc, and to learn things about the land that only the owner will know. Then, since watching a person forage in the bushes making a list isn't generally a riveting occupation, the assessor is (also invariably) granted permission to visit again at any time to cover the rest of the land and add to their flora list.
After that comes the lengthier task of preparing a full report for the property which, as a government document can be fairly challenging but necessary to have the property officially recorded. This step can also be quite interesting and even fun in many ways as it develops and falls into place. We are able to be more creative with these forms now, add maps and photographs if we like, and generally in each case there's something new to be learned about the diverse Clarence Valley vegetation communities.
From CEC's viewpoint taking on Land for Wildlife has been an exceptionally positive thing to do. At the start its funding opportunities enabled the CEC to train its own volunteer bush regeneration team, and those first early tree planting projects 10 years ago are today being visited by koalas.
The volunteer team quickly morphed into the highly-skilled, efficient professional contractors they are today, and with ready funding generated by those small beginnings there are always five to nine contractors out in the field removing lantana, cats claw creeper and other invasive weeds from thousands of hectares of land across the Valley.
The CEC sincerely thanks their several funding partners, their awesome team, committee, and dedicated, hardworking Land for Wildlife landowners for helping to take these positive progressive steps towards returning and preserving our natural bushlands and wildlife habitats.- Pat Edwards
To join the Land for Wildlife program find an Expression of Interest form on the Community Environment Network's website, from the CEC's website link (www.cec.org.au/rescouces)