Media release – Thursday 2 April 2020

GROWING MORE THAN JUST TREES … FORESTERS = CONSERVATIONISTS

Growing healthy plantations isn’t the only key tasks in Jack Carter’s work plan at Australian Bluegum Plantations (ABP) – a major objective is protecting the region’s most endangered wildlife.

The Hamilton-based ABP supervisor hosts an innovative nest box program which provides a safe and secure breeding sanctuary for threatened species, such as the endangered south-eastern Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, which is achieving never-before-seen breeding outcomes.

A recent inspection of a project site at Powers Creek, north of Casterton, showed more than 60 per cent of the cockatoos breeding nests at the location were positioned in artificially placed nest boxes.

“It’s projects like this that make me love working in land management – it goes to show that forestry and conservation really can work together,” Mr Carter said.

For the past two decades, nesting boxes have been installed in remnant forest scattered across ABPs bluegum plantation estates, which encompass 55,000 hectares of the Green Triangle.

Mr Carter said given much of the estate was planted on former farmland, there were various parcels of remnant vegetation which it continued to preserve, enhance and protect.

“Our goal is to continually improve our practices and to have a positive impact on the environment. The nesting box program is just one of the measures we have made to enhance the population of native birds across our estate,” Mr Carter said.

“The nesting box program started in the early 2000s in partnership with local environmental groups with the installation of 19 boxes at the Powers Creek plantation targeting the Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo which historically nest in the area.

“Today that has grown to 46 nest boxes across the entire ABP Green Triangle estate, successfully targeting species such as owls, microbats, parrots, and gliders.”

DELWP partnership

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) Red-tailed Black Cockatoo specialist Richard Hill, who monitors nests across the district, including ABPs estates, found 13 Red-tailed Black Cockatoo nests during a recent inspection at Powers Creek.

He said it was “unusual” to find such a high number of nests, noting that eight were found in ABPs nest boxes.

“These nest boxes are really important … ABP are certainly doing a great job ensuring a safe site for Red-tails to nest,” Mr Hill said.

“The breeding boxes program complements DELWP’s work to protect this threatened species, which includes flock counts, monitoring, and our involvement in research to better understand South-eastern Red-tailed Black Cockatoos.”

He added the bird’s population decline, which now sits between 1000 and 1500, was being fuelled by a shortage of good quality feed in stringybark woodlands.

This is being further aided by illegal firewood cutting activities.

Mr Carter said ABP was also supporting the installation of nest boxes for the Powerful Owl, which is listed as vulnerable, at two sites including the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape and remnant forest near Hotspur. A further 12 nests have been installed for microbats and seven for large parrots across various ABP plantations.

Landcare support

A partnership with the Basalt to Bay Landcare Network at the Saint Helens Flora Reserve, north of Yambuk, includes seven various sized boxes supporting forest owls, gliders and bats.

Network facilitator Lisette Mill said it worked with agricultural landholders, such as ABP, across Moyne Shire to support their environmental business goals.

“ABP have been a partner in pest control and species protection since 2012. These recently installed extra boxes – including one for a Powerful Owl, are a continuation of that strong partnership in the St Helens area, assisting native biodiversity to thrive,” she said.

Mr Carter said the program had been further complimented by a number of revegetation and restoration projects targeting key ecosystems and habitats.

“Whilst our work focuses on creating safe breeding locations, we have also replanted more than 20 hectares of stringybark in recent years, a crucial food source during the impacted species’ breeding season,” he said.

“This measure was made as a direct result of feedback from key local environmental groups. This year alone we are planting an additional 500 stringybarks in the Powers Creek estate in partnership with Greening Australia which will assist in sustaining the population of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos.”

Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub executive general manager Liz McKinnon said ABPs commitment to conservation highlighted the Hub’s strategy to sustainably grow the Green Triangle’s plantation estate.

“Whilst the Hub’s plan is to grow the region’s forestry estate by 200 million trees in the next decade to meet anticipated domestic demand, this will only be achieved with sustainable and holistic forestry practice working alongside our community partners,” she said.

“Work such as the nest boxes is just one example of the innovative work being achieved by the region’s dedicated professionals who have environmental management at the forefront of their work plans.”

Project supervisor Jack Carter