Rallying together on the Patho Plains
When we visited a property of a farmer who had asked about putting a conservation covenant on it, we couldn’t believe what we saw. The property had never been cultivated and was the most intact block we’d seen for a while on the Patho Plains.
It was perfect habitat for the Plains-wanderer, one of the world’s most endangered and unique birds. The farmer decided he would like to protect it after reading an article in The Weekly Times (August, 2019) about farmers putting conservation covenants on land to protect the Plains-wanderer.
The Northern Plains grassland on the Patho Plains originally covered 730,000 ha but just six per cent of it remains. The Patho Plains takes in towns such as Echuca, Gunbower, and Lockington. Much of it is cropped but the remaining native grassland/pasture areas grazed by cattle and sheep often still provide habitat for the Plains-wanderer. Trust for Nature has been working with local landholders, many of whom are members of the Northern Plains Conservation Management Network, for more than 20 years and we’re encouraged that support from landholders interested in looking after the bird is growing.
We need to protect 10,000 ha of the Patho Plains to ensure Plains-wanderers have a future and time is ticking. Farmers in the area are under pressure from high water costs and increasing gold exploration is likely to add to the threats facing habitat.
Over the past few years we have protected more than 500 ha, with another 144 ha in the process of being covenanted on the Patho Plains thanks to support from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, the North Central Catchment Management Authority and Zoos Victoria. We are also working on solutions to help farmers balance the costs of protecting habitat and having enough land to provide them with room to graze in order to run a financially viable farm.
That farmers are now contacting us and expressing interest in protecting land gives us hope that we can save enough grasslands on the Patho Plains to prevent the extinction of a species endemic to Australia and of global taxonomic significance.
If you’re interested to know more about protecting the Plains-wanderer contact our Senior Conservation Officer Kirsten Hutchison on (03) 8631 5888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Patho Plains will be one of the release sites for Zoos Victoria’s Plains-wanderer captive breeding program. We’re working with landholders to manage grazing to ensure the paddocks are ‘just right’ for the young birds.