The Stirling Ranges and the Great Southern are stunning at any time of the year. Planting season is in July, though, and so, wrapping up for the winter season, we headed down to Cranbrook to join Justin Jonson and Freya Spencer. Justin is a specialist in ecological restoration and it’s his organisation Threshold Environmental who are designing the planting site to ensure maximum biodiversity and that the planting is suitable for the saline soil here. Threshold Environmental is also providing a team of 8 planters. Freya from the Gillamii Centre has been acting as the liaison between CNCF and the landholder.
Cranbrook is on Minang Noongar country and not far from Mount Barker. The site where we are planting has been farmed for six generations and the planting is taking place on a working farm adjacent to the Stirling Ranges national park. What a view!
“This year’s site is bolted directly adjacent to the Stirling Range National Park! CNCF funding is expanding natural areas next to an iconic national park that is home to some 1500 plant species, representing 20% of the all of Western Australia’s known flora.”
-Justin Jonson, Managing Director, Threshold Environmental
On this land, there is the challenging task of rehabilitating salty country by hand planting 25,000 seedlings across the site in 2020. The plan was myself and our Chair Ian Rawlings would help. We soon discovered through that planting in the heavy clay soil here is not as easy as it looks, and is actually a job for experts. There is something particularly exciting though about planting your own tree, and as I planted I felt a special connection not just to the trees but to the land here. I’m excited to come back in 5 years and see my trees!
The tree stems are grown from locally collected seed from plants that can tolerate salt. Not much is known about the potential to offset carbon on land that has been degraded by dryland salinity. This experimental planting will test how well-assorted native trees can grow in areas of differing salinity and how well they can sequester carbon. Justin is hopeful that the project will demonstrate how converting low productivity saline land can turn into well-functioning and usable land that supports native biodiversity while sequestering carbon.
This is a working farm, and I asked Justin if it would impact the cropping areas having the trees nearby? Both Justin and the landowner were more than happy with the trees being close to the cropping area and didn’t see any future issues. In fact, they both believed that planting trees on the land would be beneficial for the future.
I spent some time talking to the landowner. He explained that he was trying to tackle the saline pieces of the land now before it got too bad. His Grandfather like many landowners had been encouraged to clear the land of trees. Now he was putting some of them back. I asked him what motivated him to do so, and he said that he was doing it for his children and the future generations who would farm here.
We spent a lot of time talking about the weather, and how badly impacted the area was from lack of rain. The sun shined whilst we were on-site but I felt very happy as I drove back into Albany and the skies opened. Not only would this give the trees a good start but provide much-needed rain for the whole area.
This project is supported by funding from the State Natural Resource Management Program and offset donations from Carbon Neutral Charitable fund donors.