About The Reserve
Prior to European settlement in the NSW Riverina region in the 1830’s, countless generations of Wiradjuri people had occupied a vast expanse of floodplains, woodlands and mallee country. However, extensive clearing for cropping and grazing by the newly arrived farmers and graziers transformed the landscape and progressively forced the traditional owners from their land. Agricultural development also had a critical impact on the region’s native wildlife, as millions of hectares of habitat for species of flora and fauna was removed, modified or degraded.
With few exceptions, only vegetation on ridges and poorer soils unsuitable for farming was spared clearing, creating the characteristic ‘Sheep-Wheat Belt’ landscape of small, isolated, and fragmented patches of woodland or mallee dispersed throughout farmland. These ‘islands’ have become increasingly significant for surviving species of native fauna, many of which are now rare or threatened due to a loss of habitat.
Of particular concern to conservationists is the decline of the suite of birds dependent on intact woodland ecosystems for foraging and nesting. These once common woodland birds, such as Dusky Woodswallow Artamus cyanopterus cyanopterus, are now found almost exclusively in small, scattered remnants of habitat on private land, within State Forests or Nature Reserves. The significance of these remnants throughout the region is exemplified in the 1600km2 area within a 30km radius south of West Wyalong, where records of Dusky Woodswallow are restricted to The Charcoal Tank Nature Reserve (86ha), Buddigower NR (326ha), South West Woodland (Buddigower) NR (628ha) and South West Woodland (Buggajool) NR (381ha).
Although Dusky Woodswallow and other threatened species also utilize whatever little habitat remains on private or public land, such remnants are unprotected and subject to further clearing and degradation. Consequently, conservation management strategies designed to halt the decline of woodland birds towards extinction include actions such as conserving remnant habitat on private land (preferably through in-perpetuity covenants), restoring degraded sites, preserving or establishing connectivity across the landscape, and expanding habitat through revegetation activities.
For the purpose of conserving woodland birds, Cassinia Environmental acquired ‘Avoca’ - a 1700ha property in the locality of Alleena, 17km south of West Wyalong. Typical of many such farms within the region, arable land within the property was historically utilized for cropping and sheep grazing, while less-fertile areas of ‘scrub’ remained uncleared, although open to grazing. However, Cassinia recognized the existing and potential ecological values of the property and set out to create a sanctuary for woodland birds to be known as the Dusky Woodswallow Conservation Reserve.
Significantly, most of the property’s 620ha of woodland and mallee communities adjoins the South West Woodland (Buddigower) NR. The application of a NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust Conservation Agreement over all remnant vegetation on the property has served to almost double the area of in-perpetuity protected foraging and nesting habitat for woodland birds. The Dusky Woodswallow Conservation Reserve also protects Mallee and Mallee-Broombush dominated woodland and shrubland, listed as Critically Endangered Ecological Community in NSW.
The restoration of previously cleared grazing and cropping land commenced in 2013 with the direct seeding of almost 850ha with local tree and shrub species. Undertaken by Greenfleet to both re-establish habitat and capture carbon emissions, the restored land is already attracting birdlife.
The emerging woodland will continue to mature and develop in complexity to provide a significant area of nesting and foraging habitat for woodlands birds in the locality for generations to come.