Carpentaria burn a boon for birds and cattle

Endangered Carpentarian grasswren and cattle benefit from cool burn


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Incendiary devices distributed from a helicopter under the guidance of Mick Blackman from Friendly Fire Ecological Consultants were used to light the fires. Picture - Southern Gulf NRM.

Incendiary devices distributed from a helicopter under the guidance of Mick Blackman from Friendly Fire Ecological Consultants were used to light the fires. Picture - Southern Gulf NRM.

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The needs of a small bird living among the spinifex clumps on Calton Hills Station north west of Mount Isa are benefiting cattle producers in the region.

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The needs of a small bird living among the spinifex clumps on Calton Hills Station north west of Mount Isa are bringing mutual benefits to the cattle producers in the region.

A controlled burn that took place on the property to protect the habitat of the nationally-endangered Carpentarian grasswren means there is less risk of large hot wildfires that destroy fodder, fences and other property assets.

The innovative fire management project was a partnership between the Kalkadoon community-owned Calton Hills Station, Southern Gulf NRM and Birdlife Australia and builds on previous project work undertaken as part of the National Landcare Program.

Frequent, low intensity fires managed over millennia by Aboriginal people was the fire regime Carpentarian grasswrens became adapted to.

The Carpentarian grasswren in its native habitat. Picture - Steve Murphy, Adaptive NRM.

The Carpentarian grasswren in its native habitat. Picture - Steve Murphy, Adaptive NRM.

According to Southern Gulf NRM chairwoman Megan Munchenberg, there is a strong alignment between grasswren conservation and cattle production.

She said preparations for the burn had been made over several months and operations could not commence until after sufficient rainfall to ensure moderate fire behaviour.

The wet season rains finally arrived in February and project partners jumped at the opportunity to safely conduct the burning while conditions were suitable.

Burning was conducted using incendiary devices distributed from a helicopter under the guidance of Mick Blackman from Friendly Fire Ecological Consultants, and satellite image analysis was used to monitor the extent of the fires in the remote and rugged landscape.

Another view of the burn-off in the rugged country north of Mount Isa. Picture - Southern Gulf NRM.

Another view of the burn-off in the rugged country north of Mount Isa. Picture - Southern Gulf NRM.

The project also aimed to build fire management knowledge and skills among cattle station personnel.

The Queensland Rural Fire Service provided substantial support for the project including capacity building through their professional training and also the loan of fire suppression equipment.

Birdlife Australia volunteers will survey the project area in coming months to assess the impact of operations on the population of the wren.

Southern Gulf NRM has secured funding from the National Landcare Program to continue the project for an additional four years and Ms Munchenberg said it was an opportunity for neighbouring stations to benefit from a regional fire management initiative that will extend from Calton Hills Station to Boodjamulla National Park.

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