More than 300,000 hectares in Central Australia will be protected in a partnership between the Traditional Owners of the Ngalurrtju Aboriginal Land Trust, Central Land Council (CLC) and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC).
The Ngalurrtju Partnership will centre Aboriginal cultural and ecological knowledge and conservation land management practices alongside scientific research methods in a move that could help mitigate the local impacts of climate change.
It stems from pre-existing relationships between the Warlpiri, Anmatyerr and Luritja with the CLC and AWC.
“We look forward to working on our Country with the CLC and AWC, to protect our sacred sites and look after all the plants and animals,” says Karrinyarra Traditional Owner Nigel Andy.
The land trust will include significant sites of cultural and spiritual importance, with a ngapa (water) songline travelling through its middle.
AWC chief executive Tim Allard says the partnership will see ecological threats controlled and biodiversity restored on a landscape scale.
It is anticipated that the combined partnership will establish a novel means of collaborative conservation in Central Australia, extending from 15 years of conservation programs and further collaboration alongside CLC’s Warlpiri and Anangu Luritjiku rangers and AWC’s Ngalurrtju and Newhaven Warlpiri rangers.
AWC ecologist Danae Moore said Aboriginal knowledge would inform and support these efforts.
“This knowledge will enable Australian Wildlife Conservancy and Traditional Owners to collaboratively plan, prioritise and implement conservation land management activities, so that we are addressing key threats within key locations,” she says.
“For example, we will target our introduced predator control around vulnerable threatened-species populations, or conduct prescribed burning in specific places to protect fire-sensitive vegetation communities.”
These conservation processes have the potential for significant impact.
“The land management program will aim to reduce current threats to biodiversity through the implementation of a prescribed burning program, weed management, introduced feral herbivore management and targeted introduced predator control,” Moore says.
“Within Central Australia, one of the impacts of climate change is likely to be an increase in extreme weather events – for example, longer time periods where daytime temperatures are extremely hot.
“One way in which the land management program will help to mitigate against such an impact is through the delivery of a prescribed burning program.
“The prescribed burning program is likely to result in greater proportions of ground and canopy cover remaining within the landscape, providing the shade critical to survive such extreme events.”
Beyond the cultivation of regeneration efforts, CLC chief executive Les Turner says the agreement included an employment package of about $170,000 per year.
“The package will create employment and training opportunities for the members of four estate groups and their communities,” he says.
“All these groups will be represented on the partnership’s steering committee, ensuring the area will be managed in line with the Traditional Owners’ cultural knowledge and obligations.”
Almost 600,000 hectares is now protected between the 323,000 hectares of the land trust in the Great Sandy Desert bioregion and AWC’s 262,000-hectare Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary.
Rachel Stringfellow is a journalist at National Indigenous Times (NIT)
The Greenlight Project is a year-long look at how regional Australia is preparing for and adapting to climate change.
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