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A Healthy Farming Future for Piccaninny Plains

Cape York NRM’s Healthy Farming Futures project is supporting a Cape York Wildlife Sanctuary which has so far received over 2,500 mm of rain this wet season, to stabilise the landscape to protect critical habitat.

Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary lies in the heart of Cape York Peninsula, a region of global significance for conservation Covering almost 165,000hectares, Piccaninny Plains is a property of stunning ecological diversity, protecting a mosaic of rainforests, woodlands, wetlands and grasslands and iconic wildlife like the Palm Cockatoo, Red Goshawk and Spotted Cuscus.

Sally Gray and her partner Graham Woods manage the Sanctuary for the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC).

‘Everything we do here is aimed at achieving the AWC goal of protecting and enhancing habitat for endangered and threatened species,’ Sally explained.

‘Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary is our life at the moment. This is a 24/7 job, something you take on for love. The Cape is so important as one of the last wild places and we want to do everything we can to keep it that way. Looking after the landscape, including reducing erosion caused by epic rainfall, is an important part of this work.’

The wet season tally on Picaninny varies from around 900mm to 1500mm - all falling between December and March.

‘During the 2019-20 wet season, we were impacted by three cyclone events and total rainfall topped 2600mm!’ Sally said.

‘With this volume of water there’s a lot of soil instability which leads to erosion. Often it is part of a natural cycle of change across the land, however erosion issues can be exacerbated by other

disturbances, such as the historic Old Telegraph Line track that traverses the property.’

This is where the Healthy Farming Futures team come in. Regional Agriculture Land Facilitator Andrew Hartwig has been working with Sallyl and Graham to identify key erosion sites and make plans for their remediation.

Two sites have been identified with preliminary assessment and documentation completed. On- ground works are due to get underway once the country dries.

‘We need to wait for the dry to get works underway,’ Sally said. ‘At the moment we are confined to the homestead due to the nature of the Piccaninny country – the black soil and many, many creeks make it impossible to move around for months at a time during the monsoon.

We focus our energy on catching up on maintenance, workshop jobs as well as taming the crazy grass growth, so lots of mowing, plus some weed control works.

‘With the wet season still impacting our movements, we are yet to commence the on-ground works program. Obviously this is something we tackle once the dry kicks in and impact of the wet season inundation for the year can be assessed.’

Sally said she appreciated the energy and commitment of Cape York NRM’s Healthy Farming Futures team.

‘It’s challenging for everyone working up here and it takes special kinds of people to make things happen. The Cape York NRM team seem to have what it takes!

This project is supported by Cape York NRM through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program