The Ranges Link, as the locals call it, is the link between the Stirling and Porongurup Ranges to the north of Albany.
The area shown above, of over 40,000 hectares, is the focus for the work of the Ranges Link group. It is situated in the Upper and Middle Catchment of the Kalgan River and is a transitional zone, characterised by extreme variation in rainfall, geology, soils and vegetation. The rainfall gradient is intense, declining by around 25 mm per kilometre in areas north of the Porongurup National Park (see map below).
The soils range from young primary soils in the vicinity of the Porongurup to ancient, heavily weathered and redeposited soils to the north. The vegetation systems change from the tall karri forests on the slopes of the Porongurup Range to mallee-heath within 10 km to the north.
Approximately 65% of the native vegetation of the area has been cleared for agriculture with cropping/ grazing being the predominant land use, and some viticulture and plantation forestry in the south.
A number of interesting fauna species are found within the Ranges Link area, from Gondwanan relics such as Mygalomorph spiders, land snails and giant earthworms associated with the wet-sclerophyll forests to wheatbelt-associated species such as the rare Western Whipbird and the endangered Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo that nests in hollows of large trees such as Wandoo (white gum). The two well known national parks attract high numbers of tourists who enjoy sightseeing and nature-based recreation.
The Ranges Link group
The Oyster Harbour Catchment Group (www.ohcg.org.au) was established in 1992 from the former Kalgan Land Conservation District Committee with the aim of improving water quality in the Kalgan River Catchment area, approximately 3,000 km2 (or 300,000 ha) in area spanning the Great Southern and South Coast regions of Western Australia.
The Ranges Link-Stirling to Porongurup group is a subcommittee of the Oyster Harbour Catchment Group. They are all committed and passionate volunteers with many years of landcare/natural resource management experience. They work closely with other farmers and landowners in the area to raise awareness of environmental conservation, as all their on-ground works take place on private property.
The aim of the Ranges Link group is to continue identifying, protecting and enhancing wildlife corridors between the Stirling Range and the Porongurup National Parks. Native vegetation with high biodiversity values currently exists along waterways and in remnants on private properties (mainly broadacre farms). There are areas under threat from livestock grazing, wind and water erosion, salinity and nutrification. The biodiversity of the plants/animals in some areas is under threat due to isolation. The group use their extensive local knowledge and experience to target individual areas at risk and work with the individual landholders to plan and implement on-ground works. To date they have facilitated hundreds of kilometres of stock exclusion fencing to protect native vegetation, and have been involved with the establishment of over 200 ha of native revegetation using seed mixes/seedlings of local provenance. The group get together for discussions and decision making at bimonthly meetings and have undertaken a conservation action plan.
Conservation plan for the Ranges Link
Barry Heydenrych, while working with Gondwana Link, assisted the Ranges Link group in developing a conservation action plan. Undertaking this planning has allowed this hard working group to focus their energy and resources on priority actions and to assess their work to determine if it is producing the desired outcomes. The group were originally loath to put time and effort into the planning process but now feel that it was a very worthwhile exercise. Not only does it allow them to concentrate on priorities determined by rigorous thinking underpinned by local knowledge and science, it also allows the group to clearly articulate their work to funders, sponsors and to their landholders. They are all singing from the same song sheet.