Bushfire Recovery helped by Rainforest Rangers

Our Rainforest Rangers are helping the residents and landowners at Huonbrook and Wanganui in the Byron Shire recover from the bushfires and prepare for the future.

The unprecedented bushfires that occurred in Northern NSW in November and December 2019 burnt over 5,500 hectares and were named the Mt Nardi fires. They impacted the Nightcap National Park and the surrounding areas including the community of Huonbrook and Wanganui inland from Byron Bay where landowners were faced with the flames and the aftermath. 

As the fires approached residents of the valley had to evacuate. Many felt the high rainfall and lush vegetation would prevent bushfires and when they returned it was to a new reality. The fires mostly burnt the sclerophyll forest along the ridgetops, the eucalyptus and other hard leaved plants, however, the extreme conditions also saw fire burn the edge of the rainforest where it was eventually extinguished.

Dr Jo Green is an ecologist and botanist who lives at Wanganui and she was one of the residents affected. She said "fortunately, no homes were lost however it was a big wake up call. Now we have to prepare for the future".

"As an ecologist, I see the solution as restoring the area fire-resistant rainforest species. We also have to remove exotic plants that are flammable like Running Bamboo".

"Since the fires, there has been some natural regeneration of rainforest trees with species like the Red Cedar, Bleeding Heart, Macaranga and Red Ash that have popped up… and so have a huge amount of weeds" said Dr Green. 

This is where the Rainforest 4 Foundation is stepping up. Today we had our Rainforest Rangers help the Huonbrook residents and landowners prepare for the future. The first task was to prepare a tree planting site by removing exotic weeds. The main weeds on-site are Lantana, Kahill Ginger, and Winter Senna. 

The team removing Lantana, Kahill Ginger Winter Senna. 

We are mindful natural regeneration will occur, however, we are working on areas where the original subtropical forest was cleared for dairy pastures 100 or more years ago and was farmed for many years. The area was then bought and turned in to multiple occupancy where community members share the land. Many of them are wanting to restore the native forest. We are planting to add species diversity in the understorey and midstory, and on the advice of Dr Green, we’ve also chosen species that will provide a fire-resistant barrier to prevent and any future fires moving up the slope.

Ecologist Dr Jo Green and Kelvin Davies "Rainforest Ranger" 

Some of the tree species we planted in this area were Lilli Pilli, Pink Euodia, Tamarind, Firewheel, and Flame trees. These are all fire-resistant species and will create a buffer zone for future bushfire threats. To the understory, we added Dianella and Lomandra along with the Native Ginger and Cordyline as part of the mix.

“We also have a bunch of hungry wallabies in the area so to ensure that the total plant survives the young trees that are particularly tasty to our furry pals will be protected by tree guards,” said Dr Jo. 

To deter hungry Wallabys the team installed tree guards

While we are taking action to recover from the bushfires, we’re also responding to the COVID-19 crisis. There is no doubt that many people are experiencing genuine hardship right now and as we begin to repair the economy it’s crucial that we invest in programs that help move society forward in a sustainable way. Green jobs will help us rebuild communities and economies and the good news is we can start right now. Rainforest 4 Foundation is involving the Madhima Gulgan bush regeneration team on the hands-on work. The Madhima Gulgan Community Association is a self-managed initiative established in 2008 to support Aboriginal people and their families by creating employment. The members of the team are experienced and trained bush regenerators.

Through our contribution to bushfire recovery we are helping to create Green Jobs and supporting the self-determination for Aboriginal people. We are very pleased to be continuing our involvement with the Madhima Gulgan Community Association.

Please make a donation to keep this important project growing. Every $10 will establish one tree including maintenance for three years to ensure they survive. 

Thank you to Landcare and WIRES for their support in this project through the 
WIRES – Landcare Wildlife Relief and Recovery Grants 2020

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