This land at Bencubbin used to be covered with native acacia sandalwood woodlands, until it was cleared for agriculture in the early 1900s.
It’s now widely accepted that areas of deep acid yellow wodjil soil such as this should not have been cleared – they are fragile, prone to wind and water erosion, are difficult to farm and very low yielding. They also tend to have higher water recharge rates than other soils, exacerbating the rise of saline water tables and secondary salinity problems.
To stop the land “blowing”, the Fitzpatrick family are working with us to restore 25ha of their land with over 40 species of native trees and shrubs, including sandalwood and acacia. Sandalwood is ‘root hemi-parasitic’, which means it needs to attach its roots to the roots of other plants to extract water and soil nutrients. The entire planting will be protected by a 30 year covenant, and Carbon Neutral Charitable Fund will retain the rights to the offsets generated by this new carbon sink.
After around 3 years, once our plantings are sufficiently tall, soft sheep grazing will be allowed in the area to control weeds and reduce the fire hazard. The landowners will be allowed to collect fallen sandalwood nuts, and after 25 years they can harvest the sandalwood, which makes up only a small part of the total biomass of the plantings.
We’re very excited about this project – it’s the first project CNCF has done with this model. Land has become too expensive to purchase, so our executive director Ray Wilson sees this as the only way we can get more broadacre farmers to allow us to plant trees and register a covenant on their land.
By incentivising the landowners to allow us to plant on their property, we’re establishing a mutually beneficial and sustainable model which we hope will encourage more farmers to allow their land to be restored in the future.
This allows us to focus on planting trees and restoring the land rather than on land acquisition, so we can focus on restoring our natural environment and providing a cleaner planet for future generations.