Over the last 200 years of European settlement, all the best farming land has been cleared for agriculture and lots of forests have been cleared for the wood, the timber, and in all cases that’s been taking out the very best of the timber. The very richest farming country is of course where it was the richest habitat for the animals too, it had more food possibilities. Out on the plains for example there’s only 3 ½ percent of the Grey Box woodlands that are left – 3 ½ percent and all of the species, not just the rare ones, are trying to make a living in the same place.
Over the last 14 years our project has been working very hard to restore the little bits of habitat that are remaining, like patches of trees in farmers' paddocks, trees along road sides, trees along rivers and creeks. Wherever there are existing habitat areas, and they’re often very degraded, we fence them to keep the sheep and the cows out of there and then we can plant extra trees to make these areas bigger and denser, better habitat for the threatened animals like the Regent Honeyeater.
The Regent Honeyeater’s a beautiful black, yellow and white bird, with really broad, bright, lemon flashes on its wings and its tail, about the size of a Blackbird, something like that. One of its strongholds has been in the box-ironbark country because ironbark trees flower in winter when there’s nothing else flowering. So if you are a honeyeater where do you go? You look for the nearest ironbarks. It also needs forests that have a good understorey that’s dense enough with shrubs where it can hide and not be beaten up by more aggressive honeyeaters. That’s a very important part.
Forests aren’t just trees, they have many other layers of taller shrubs and shorter shrubs and ground flora and grasses and things like that and each of those provides some extra habitat possibilities. We’ve worked for 14 years in the Lurg Hills east of Benalla in north-east Victoria and that’s meant working with a lot of schools in the area to help propagate the plants, over 400 000 we’ve propagated and planted, and we have achieved more than a 1000 hectares of habitat restored. That’s been tremendous, we know it’s worked because we have threatened birds living in areas that were planted only five or six years ago and some of those birds are even breeding there.