Scott Hunter hopes the bare hills just outside Rathdowney, QLD will soon return to life as carbon offset forest sink programs ramp up native forest planting in old farming country. On the 400 ha Minjelha Dhagun farm he manages, 60 ha was set aside for a Greenfleet revegetation project, with 60,000 native eucalypts planted in April 2008. Greenfleet have paid for the trees and their planting, and the farmhands at Minjelha Dhagun now voluntarily weed and monitor theforest.
Biodiverse forest sinks help individuals and businesses reduce the impact of their greenhouse gas emissions and return added benefits to the Australian environment. For Minjelha Dhagun, there are additional social benefits as well, with the revegetation program providing bush tucker and forest management experience for the local indigenous community.
"It's always been the dream of the people who own this land to heal it, if you like, bring it back as much as possible to what it was before European settlement," said Mr Hunter.
Minjelha Dhagun, nestled at the foot of Mt Barney, Queensland, is a co-operative of eight indigenous clans from the Yugambeh language group.
The plantings at Minjelha Dhagun started out as ten-centimetre seedlings in 2008. Four years later many of the trees are over three metres - some reaching five metres. Greenfleet Senior Forester pointed out that the plantings benefited from the end of the decade-long drought in much of eastern Australia and the forest’s growth has been very impressive.
“The seedlings have responded to a couple of relatively wet years and are now well established. Being next to the national park has also helped, with several understorey species establishing across the fence. This all builds on the biodiversity importance and integrity of the site, and to its cultural value to the traditional owners”, he explained.
In November 2010, Greenfleet completed the first carbon measurements at Minjelha Dhagun. The growth of the trees is running ahead of schedule and the biodiversity values are exceeding even the most optimistic forecasts.
Mt Barney is a key habitat for the Glossy Black Cockatoo, listed as vulnerable in Queensland and endangered on a national level - with habitat loss its greatest threat.
Greenfleet and the Yugambeh people included Forest Sheoak (Allocasuarina torulosa) in the planting to provide crucial habitat for the Glossy Black.
Glossy Black Cockatoos are notoriously fussy eaters with their diet exclusively consisting of seeds from the Forest Sheoak. We’ve included several hundred Forest Sheoak trees in the planting mix as food trees and the gums will eventually provide shelter.
"Before we got the land there was only grass and hardly a tree on this place as it was a cattle grazing area," said Mr Hunter. "Now we have birds and wallabies again and you also see koalas."