“Noble forests” might not be the first thing that comes to mind when contemplating the New England Tablelands. But around 1818, that is how John Oxley described our landscape.
He went on to write, “Finest stringybark I ever saw … far better and larger than usually seen”. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to last, and our New England landscape is still suffering from the effects of over clearing in the 1800s and the mass dieback event in the 1970s and ’80s, when we lost millions of our trees. This had major impacts on our land health, wildlife and biodiversity.
Currently, there is good remnant vegetation on the western and eastern sides of the Tableland, but the vast expanse of blasted landscape in between is forming a formidable barrier to flora and fauna needing to move through the landscape; we hope to change that with Every Tree Counts.
Why was this idea created?
We have long been concerned with the fractured, denuded landscape of the tablelands and how it affects flora, fauna, water quality and livestock.
This project will allow wildlife, including our beloved koalas, sugar gliders and rare and threatened birds, to safely move through the landscape. It will enable them to seek food, mates, homes and to escape environmental pressures such as fires or localised droughts. It will increase genetic diversity in the landscape as we put back the trees and shrubs that provide a host of benefits to the land itself in the form of erosion control and natural insect pest management. Sugar gliders and the beautiful blue flower wasps prey on the beetles that regularly devastate our eucalypts. It will also have a positive impact on our farmers, as it has been consistently shown that joining nature and agriculture translates to improved livestock and pasture health and better financial returns.
We have chosen the Saumarez Creek/Salisbury Waters route, as it is one of the shortest expanses across the tablelands; it will also improve the quality of the water that flows into the beautiful Oxley Wild Rivers National Park.
Describe what the Armidale Tree Group are planning to do.
We are aiming to work with landholders, Local Land Services and other stakeholders to create a cross-tablelands wildlife corridor that will connect the western and eastern edges of the Northern Tablelands.
This corridor will begin at Saumarez Ponds and follow a roughly 30-kilometre stretch of Saumarez Creek and Salisbury Waters, finishing near Dangars Falls. Rather than creating a long linear corridor, it will be comprised of patches of vegetation, like jewels on a necklace. There will be large patches of habitat linked by “stepping stones”. Stepping stones can be smaller blocks of vegetation, pre-existing shelterbelts etc.
Joining these two parts sounds like a massive undertaking. Tell us, how many plants will this take?
It’s impossible to say exactly, but we estimate that on completion, it could be around one million trees and shrubs. We’ve also committed to a two-year maintenance program for all the plantings, which will ensure that every tree we plant really will count.
Will the Tree Group be supplying all the plants and planting them?
Yes, we’ve been growing and planting trees and shrubs for 35 years now, and in that time we’ve refined our landscape revegetation and restoration methods.
Has there been much interest in the project?
We recently held an information session on Every Tree Counts at Dangarsleigh Community Hall. We invited local landholders, our first generous donors and other interested parties to come along, and it was a great night. There’s a lot of interest in the project, and it’s heartening to see people willing to contribute to the long-term future of our landscape.
Have you found the funds to complete such a project?
We have the funds to start our first habitat planting, but finishing the corridor is another matter! A number of very generous locals have made private donations to the project, and we received our first corporate donation from Cleanaway last month. Obviously being a not-for-profit, we’ll need to rely on the goodwill of individuals and organisations to help us achieve this mammoth undertaking.
How can the community get involved?
Donations and/or bequests will put trees in the ground – a living legacy that will continue for many decades to come. We’re also looking to build partnerships, and we can help organisations and businesses with carbon offsetting, environmental commitments and staff giving programs. If anyone has any ideas or skills they feel would be of benefit, or if they would like more information, you can reach us via the following:
Phone: (02) 6771 1620
Any final words?
We believe there’s something of value in this project for everyone – whether it’s a desire to revitalise our landscape, leave a better future for the generations to come, help our threatened birds and beloved furry critters, improve livestock welfare or contribute to carbon storage; the list goes on! We’d love to hear from anyone who’s interested in helping or getting involved; just give us a call or drop in. Together we can make every tree count!