Rangelands NRM is working with pastoralists in the Pilbara to implement priority actions from previously undertaken Ecologically Sustainable Rangelands Management (ESRM) planning.
In the Fortescue catchment, the ESRM planning process was undertaken on Mt Florance and Yalleen Stations in the Pilbara during 2009 by Richard Glover and Kaz Collins.
Dr Bill Cotching, Pilbara Program Manager at Rangelands NRM said a number of priority actions for these stations had been identified, and some of these have now been completed.
Rangelands NRM and Greening Australia are jointly undertaking the ‘Pilbara Corridors’ project, which will fund additional activities identified in the ESRM plans. New activities for funding have been identified following on-site inspection and discussion with Tony and Robyn Richardson (Mt Florance) and Michael Percy (Yalleen) by Bill Cotching (Rangelands NRM), Linda Anderson (Pilbara Mesquite management Committee) and Grey Mackay (Greening Australia).
On Mt Florance, better management of degraded cracking clay soils and pastures in a 2500 hectare paddock will be addressed by completing fencing around the paddock and repairing the road side fence.
“The fencing will allow for spelling of the pastures and soils, particularly during the wet season when the soils are most susceptible to pugging damage by cattle which results in degradation of soil structure and surface sealing,” Dr Cotching said.
“Perennial grass seed will be collected from other parts of the Station after the wet season and the seed will be broadcast in degraded areas of the paddock to rejuvenate the pasture.”
“Cracking clay soils traditionally carry perennial grass species but some patches now lack perennial grass and so seed needs to be reintroduced,” he said.
On Yalleen, management of Parkinsonia weeds in hard-to-access areas on the Fortescue River will be addressed using a contractor team with joint investment from Rangelands NRM and Rio Tinto.
Dr Cotching said the contractors will gain access to these areas by both quad bike and aerial insertions via helicopter.
“Investment in fencing out of land systems with high biodiversity value but low cattle productivity on Yalleen will ensure biodiversity outcomes along with improved grazing management.”
Investment in the activities on Mt Florance and Yalleen will allow control of livestock in areas of high biodiversity value and manage heavy grazing pressure, thus reducing the impact on the landscape of pastoral use by reducing loss of ground cover and improving vegetation condition.
Rehabilitation and revegetation of cracking clay soils will also sequester carbon mainly in the topsoil.
“Research by Peter Russell, DAFWA (and now with Rangelands WA) has shown the potential for up to five tones per hectare of soil carbon being sequested in the long term on cracking clays as a direct result of rest and recovery grazing,” Dr Cotching said.
These are two examples of pastoral investment from the Pilbara Corridors project in the Fortescue catchment where investment is being targeted as a result of ESRM planning and local research.
Pastoralists in the DeGrey catchment are also working to improve their cattle production and the health of their land. The DeGrey Sustainable Pastoralism group are setting up trials with support from Tim Wiley, Sustainable Rangelands Project Manager at Rangelands NRM.
“This group followed up a field day by Peter Andrews with a workshop to analyse how their catchment should naturally function,” Mr Wiley said.
Critical areas in sub-catchments were identified where erosion has caused water to be diverted from, or drained from, natural flood plains. Strategically placed earth works and replanting is being planned to fix the problems.
“The first trial undertaken on DeGrey station was given a good test during Cyclone Rusty with over 400 mm of rain,” Mr Wiley said.
Last year two very successful weekends where held in the DeGrey catchment with townspeople from the Care for Hedland group and indigenous youths. This year local aboriginal communities will also become involved through CDEP with the Ashburton Aboriginal Corporation (AAC).
The AAC is now managing Peedamulla station with the Parker family and a live-in training centre is being set up for Pilbara aboriginal people.
“Last year Richard Glover helped develop an ESRM plan for Peedamulla that includes improved grazing, habitat restoration, carbon offsets, environmental offsets and protection of heritage sites (link to slide show and paper in our web site),” Mr Wiley said.
Indigenous trainees will get hands on training to implement projects from the ESRM plan.