The Balnggarrawarra Rangers from Melsonby station (70 minutes north east of Cooktown), know that good fire and soil management is essential for healthy Country.
Over the past two years the team has worked hard to incorporate 3 traditional and scientific fire management and best practice erosion control. The Rangers main concerns were late season wildfires impacting on wildlife and erosion of firebreaks and tracks.
Soil conservation is particularly important on Melsonby. The sandy soil found in the area is very susceptible to erosion caused by hot fires removing ground cover and from vehicle access tracks. Erosion not only prevents access to Country to undertake natural and cultural management activities but also impacts upon aquatic habitats. Excessive sediment run-off decreases water quality, in-fills waterholes and wetlands and then ultimately spills out into the Great Barrier Reef.
Knowing this, the Rangers decided they wanted to reduce the erosion from their access tracks and fire breaks and worked with Jeff Shellberg, Northern Gulf Resource Management Group and Cape York Landcare to survey the roads on Melsonby and determine the correct placement of woo-boys and silt drains. Severely eroded sites were also identified, and targeted for repair.
Rangers are currently constructing drop structures, which act like minidams to slow water flow and trap sediment run off. The captured sediment builds behind the structure allowing plants to grow which further traps sediment.
To manage fire on Melsonby station the team used a combination of mosaic early burns from quad bikes and aerial burns in the more remote and inaccessible sand stone escarpment country. To understand the effectiveness of their fire management 30 fire monitoring plots were established, which will be monitored twice a year to see if the changes in fire regime will benefit the plants and animals.
Keeping an eye on the ground cover after fire is an important indicator of how well the soil will be protected from erosion.
The FULCRUM Caps? application has been adopted by the Balnggarrawarra Rangers to record and monitor their work in fire and erosion. Data collected can easily be reviewed to see if erosion control is effective or where previous burns were conducted.
By adopting effective fire and soil management practices and monitoring the effectiveness of their work, the Balnggarrawarra Rangers are now more confident their efforts will ensure the health of Melsonby Country in to the future. Thanks to Dr Jeff 4 Shellberg, Northern Gulf Resource Management Group, QPWS, Cape York NRM, Cape York Landcare and South Cape York Catchments.
Story by Jessie Price
Fire Management Building a drop structure