Generations of land clearing since colonization had left the unique landscape in Lake Cargelligo's Sandhill Pines Woodland in a perilous state, but a group of enthusiastic young individuals is stepping up to safeguard its future.
Down the Track, an organisation from Lake Cargelligo focused on supporting disengaged and marginalised youth, has embarked on a mission to revitalize the area by gathering native seeds for revegetation. This woodland, once thriving with cypress pines and lush vegetation, has suffered the consequences of many years of land clearing, grazing, and erosion, leading to a significant reduction in its size and density.
Assigned the task of collecting 70 kilograms of saltbush seeds, Down the Track surpassed expectations by collecting over 80 kilograms of the precious seeds. Andrea Cashmere, the acting team leader at Local Land Services, acknowledged that without the contribution from the young locals it would have been an arduous task to accomplish alone.
"The highlight of the whole program for me [has been] working with the Down the Track kids," Cashmere told ABC News while reflecting on the project.
“If I can just get one of these kids involved in natural resource management that will be a job well done, I'd be so happy.”
Katy Quinn, a senior youth worker at Down the Track, told ABC News the positive impact of the program on vulnerable youth. She emphasized that young people in Lake Cargelligo often lack opportunities to explore new endeavors, and programs like this offer them a chance to channel their energy towards the betterment of both the community and the environment.
"So coming out and doing programs like this gives them the opportunity to do something new," Quinn said.
The connection to culture is especially significant for Down the Track as they work closely with many Indigenous children. Seed collection serves as an educational opportunity, allowing these young individuals to learn about the native plants that hold historical importance.
"The connection to culture is really significant — [the kids are] able to learn about the native plants that were here," Quinn said.
The collected seeds undergo a meticulous process in Deniliquin, involving cleaning, sorting, and eventually planting them on the sandhills across three properties in collaboration with Local Land Services. Native trees like the cypress pine were extensively used for homesteads and fencing resulting in years of clearing. Other factors resulting negatively on the area’s ecology include introduced species like rabbits and delicate recovery mechanisms that prevent rapid rehabilitation.
Local Land Services is taking strategic steps to rejuvenate the sandhills environment by introducing smaller plants like saltbush with the hope of nurturing a resurgence of native pines.
Through the efforts of Down the Track and the guidance of Local Land Services, Lake Cargelligo's ancient ecosystem may be on a path toward restoration, ensuring that generations to come can enjoy its natural beauty and historical significance.
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