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After the devastation of the Black Summer fires, landholders and landcarers have joined together to enhance impacted habitat for the critically endangered Coastal Emu, which estimates indicate only 50 birds remain on the North Coast.
Numbers of the species has been in significant decline since the 1980s due to native vegetation clearing, introduced animal predation and vehicle strike.
But with funding from the 2020 Landcare Bushfire Recovery Grants, Bungawalbyn Landcare engaged with six private landholders across 250 hectares within the Bungawalbin Catchment - south east of Casino - and in and around the Clarence and Richmond Valley regions.
Conservationists dealt with weed control, nest box installation and the restoration of fauna friendly fencing to protect habitat for Coastal Emus after the devastation of the fires.
And along with Bungawalbyn Landcare, eligible groups in regions impacted by the Black Summer fires, including NSW North Coast and Tablelands, can score bushfire recovery grants up to $50,000 thanks to the new 2021 Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants.
"It's incredible financial support like the Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants program which make it possible for our supporters to make a real difference in preserving a unique native species like the Coastal Emu," said Jimmy Malecki, President of Bungawalbyn Landcare.
"Thanks to funding last year from Landcare Australia, we were able to make a vast array of improvements including installation of nest boxes on four properties to help mitigate the loss of hollow bearing trees.
"On two properties we removed and replaced barbed wire fencing impacted by fire with wildlife friendly fencing while weeds became an increasingly evident issue following the extensive rain event in January of 2020, so we were able tackle the worst offenders.
"These properties provide essential habitat for the endangered Coastal Emu population which runs on only about 200 kilometres of this coastline, and are crucial to their ongoing survival."
Jimmy explained the Coastal Emu is also critical to the balance of biodiversity within the Clarence and Richmond Valley regions and Bungawalbin Catchment area, which includes Bungawalbin National Park, Bungawalbin Nature Reserve, and Yaringully Nature Reserve.
"This endangered population of Coastal Emu is genetically different from other emus and many native plants depend on the bird to distribute their seeds over distances of up to 50 kilometres - a vital role and why every effort has to be made to preserve and restore habitat for them and all other native species," Jimmy said.
Bungawalbin was impacted by both the Rapville Fire and the Bora Ridge/Myall Creek Rd fire in November of 2019.
"We're more than eighteen months after the fires and the effects are still evident to see, and with the impacts of Covid, bushfire recovery work has been severely hampered. Which is why we rely on the generous funding and support from organisations like Landcare," Jimmy said.
Along with Bungawalbyn Landcare, eligible groups in regions impacted by the Black Summer fires can land bushfire recovery grants up to $50,000 thanks to the new 2021 Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants program funded by the Australian government department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
Recently announced by Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley, the $14 million program is supporting recovery projects in seven government designated regions impacted by the Black Summer bushfires in Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and South Australia.
Areas include rainforests of South-East Queensland (QLD), rainforests of the NSW North Coast and Tablelands (NSW), Greater Blue Mountains and World Heritage area (NSW), forests of the NSW South Coast (NSW), alpine environments across ACT, NSW and Victoria (NSW and VIC), forests and coastal ecosystems of East Gippsland (VIC) and Kangaroo Island (SA)
In addition to funding of approximately $50,000, landscape-scale partnerships working together on bushfire recovery projects can also access funding of up $300,000.
Landcare NSW CEO, Dr Adrian Zammit said the $14 million bushfire grants program will ensure community led environmental activities can be delivered in the most vulnerable bushfire-impacted regions.
"Our communities have been ravaged by fire, drought and flood and this funding will benefit habitats and landscapes through landscape restoration, improving biodiversity and supporting community resilience," Adrian said.
"From revegetation and regeneration projects to invasive species control, data collection and community engagement, the diversity of funding will ensure all bushfire impacted communities have the support they need to rebuild and recover."
The grants program is jointly managed by Landcare Australia and the National Landcare Network, delivered in conjunction with Queensland Water and Land Carers, Landcare NSW, Landcare ACT, Landcare Victoria, and the Landcare Association of South Australia to mobilise, build capacity, increase participation and support Landcare and community groups, landowners, land managers and other partners for improved delivery of bushfire recovery actions.
The program has been supported by the Australian Government's Bushfire Recovery Program for Wildlife and their Habitat.
Applications will remain open until June 16 with successful applicants notified late June.
To apply and for further information visit www.landcareledbushfiregrants.org.au