Bringing back native grasslands from brink of extinction

From: ABC Rural 30 June 2021 by Eden Hynninen

Beef farmer working to bring back native grasslands

from brink of extinction


A man is sitting on a log in a paddock
Beef farmer Drew Gailey is working to protect native grasslands in northern Victoria.Drew Gailey loves farming and also his land.

He bought a property on the Patho Plains in northern Victoria 10 years ago.It came with a Conservation Covenant on the title that protects all the native vegetation on the land.

Over the past year, Mr Gailey has been working with Trust for Nature, a conservation organisation, to plant and help revive lost populations of spiny rice-flower and turnip copperburr.


Trust for Nature planting


Trust for Nature is helping Mr Gailey plant spiny rice-flower and turnip copperburr. Supplied: Trust for Nature

New seed source 

Mr Gailey is hopeful the new plantings on his property will be a new seed source for the region and for others across the state.

"Spiny rice-flower is a shrub and lives up to 100 years and grows up to about 50 centimetres," he said."[It] has a really pretty yellow flower between April and August. "And the turnip copperburr grows about 30cm high and is part of the saltbush family – there's less than 1 per cent of their original population left."

A shrub with a white and yellow flower

Spiny rice-flower is a shrub that lives for up to 100 years. Supplied: Trust for Nature

Mr Gailey has been involved with the local Landcare group for almost 30 years, is part of the Northern Plains Conservation Management Network and said grasslands are rich with history and biodiversity.

"The biodiversity in grasslands is as good as any rainforest, if you get a good grassland, with the diversity of species and the way they're structured."


a picture of a shrub in a grassland

Although not a visually appealing shrub, the turnip copperburr is an important native species. Supplied: Royal Botanic Garden


But Mr Gailey said it was crucial to graze grasslands at certain times of the year.

"This property was originally cropped in the 1980s, then it was left alone and went back to the native grasses and used as an out paddock for a local dairy farm," he said.

"They used to run 600 to 900 cows between May and August in here.

"They'd come in with grass up to their bellies and leave when the grass was down to nothing – that's just perfect management.

Local flora and fauna

Mr Gailey took over the property about 10 years ago and has been working hard to collect seeds and restore the local flora and fauna.

And he was surprised at just how much he found.

Ground with dirt mounted between grass and bushlands

Mr Gailey says he has found at least three indigenous ovens on his property. Supplied: Drew Gailey

Trust for Nature

Trust for Nature conservation officer in the north-central region Elizabeth Newton said work over the past year on Mr Gailey's property had helped restore populations of the critically endangered species.

"We can already see the paddock changing," Ms Newton said."I'm very much the type of person who values species for their existence, and their contribution to the local ecology."The spiny rice-flower is one of the only plants in that ecosystem that will flower over winter, and they are covered in flies and butterflies – a whole sweep of pollinators that are important for when everything else starts flowering."So we're really trying to hold on to these species, and if we don't intervene and have protected areas, we're at risk of losing more."

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published