Rangelands NRM Blog, News & Resources

Landscape restoration inspiration and knowledge sharing in the Pilbara

[November 2015]

More than 50 people attended a Landscape Restoration workshop held at Moly Mines’ Spinifex Ridge camp on Yarrie cattle station in the DeGrey River catchment on 14’15 October 2015.

Organised by Greening Australia, the workshop was supported by Royalties for Regions, the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia (DAFWA), Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW), Moly Mines Ltd, BHP Billiton, the DeGrey LCDC and Rangelands NRM.

The workshop comprised 14 indoor presentations, covering a wide range of landscape restoration topics including planning, ecology, the Northern Beef Futures Project including irrigated/mosaic agriculture trials, monitoring, grazing and fire management, environmental stewardship, biodiversity offsets and carbon farming, and several restoration case studies.

The presentations were supplemented by several field demonstrations of landscape rehydration techniques including ‘reading the landscape’, contour bank construction, direct seeding of native plants and seed physiology.

Blair Parsons from Greening Australia opened the workshop by describing their vision for healthy and productive landscapes where people and nature thrive, and identified where improvements need to be made, namely better monitoring and better engagement with mining companies.

From the floor, Ken Shaw (Cunyu Station) added that better engagement and knowledge exchange with and between pastoralists is required.

Chris Henggeler from Kachana Station in the Kimberley, Evan Pensini from Cheela Plains Station in the Ashburton Shire and David Pollock from Wooleen Station in the Murchison spoke of understanding nature and natural systems.

These three pastoralists are actively restoring degraded rangelands through an applied understanding of landscape ecology.

Chris and Evan are using high density stocking short rotation grazing to restore degraded parts of their landscapes.  Both pastoralists use stock to improve rainfall infiltration, incorporation of organic matter into the soil, water retention across the landscape resulting in significantly improved vegetation cover including the return of palatable shrubs and grasses.

Mr Henggeler said that cattle are the tools for improving the ecological energy flows towards better beef production and longevity in the systems that sustain this.

“Cattle are my fire breaks, my river channel restoration pathway. High density is not about stocking rates, but rather a way to re-educate cattle and re-instil herd mentality and behaviour,” he said

It’s this reinvigorated herd behaviour in our domestic grazing stock that brings the longer term benefits.

Mr Pensini said that typical set stocking rates have wiped out perennial plants and the overgrazing is not a question of too many animals on too little land, but rather about the too frequent return to the same grazed areas.

“Cattle don’t walk to water, they walk to graze,” he said.

Mr Pollock has used erosion control techniques and very low stocking rates over eight years to allow natural recovery and said that the later recovery years, are the most valuable, with palatable grasses now growing. He is now setting up infrastructure in preparation for strategic rotational grazing.

Senior Rangelands Scientist Peter Russell said the workshop brought together an interesting and informative group of WA and interstate presenters, providing comprehensive coverage of rangeland restoration techniques, knowledge, opportunities and challenges.

“The workshop was informative and inspired people to undertake on-ground works to restore degraded land,” he said.