Year: 2021

Arabana Ranger Program Extended

The Arabana Ranger Program was initiated in late 2019 with funding through the Australian Government. As noted in our last newsletter of September 2020, FOMS and the Arabana Rangers have developed a very successful and productive working relationship. Despite the restrictions associated with COVID-19, FOMS and the Arabana Rangers collaborated in two field trips in 2020. As described in the following item, this continued with a major joint field trip in June 2021.

There have been some personnel changes with the Ranger team: Head Ranger Micheal Stuart departed in late 2020 and, since then, Micheal’s brother Sam has been the main contact. Sam has recently been appointed Acting Head Ranger.

The Arabana Ranger Program was initially funded to 30 June 2021. However, some very good news was announced as that date approached – the Program has been funded by the Australian Government for a further seven years. This will enable FOMS and the Arabana Rangers to build on the already solid working relationship and to consider a broad range of partnership projects for mound springs conservation.

FOMS Collaboration with Arabana Rangers Program continues

The bench installation team. Front (L to R): Bernice Cohen, Liz Sindely, Sherrie Gotch, Anne Williams. Rear: Ross Smith, Alan Williams, Sam Stuart, Keegan Solomon, Bruce Gotch. Beresford Hill is on the LH horizon
In early June 2021, FOMS undertook its major working bee for the year in collaboration with the Arabana Ranger team. Sixteen FOMS members participated along with Arabana Rangers Sam Stuart, Liz Sindely and Keegan Solomon. As summarised below, joint activities included works at Strangways Springs, Freeling Springs / Peake Overland Telegraph site and Levi Springs, and fence maintenance and vegetation monitoring at springs fenced by the State Environment agency in the 1980s.

At Strangways Springs and Freeling Springs (the site of the Peake Overland Telegraph (OT) ruins) the Arabana Rangers and FOMS volunteers maintained walking trails established by FOMS in 2011. A bench seat was also installed on one of the walks at Strangways in memory of late FOMS helper Bill Giles and new bollards were installed at the Peake OT carpark to manage vehicle movement.

The protection of priority mound springs from disturbance by stock and feral animals has been an important objective and the most recent success story has been the fencing of Levi Springs, on the Peake pastoral lease, by FOMS in 2019 – in consultation with the Arabana Aboriginal Corporation, the Department for Environment and Water, Arid Lands NRM Board and lessees Williams Cattle Company. In the June 2021 working bee, FOMS and the Arabana Rangers applied some finishing touches to the 2.3km of fencing and carried out vegetation monitoring at a number of photo- points established in 2019. The spring vegetation has recovered strongly following stock exclusion.

FOMS and the Arabana Rangers also combined forces to check a number of springs fenced by the State Environment agency in the 1980s on the Peake and Nilpinna pastoral leases. Minor fence maintenance and vegetation monitoring were undertaken. The contrast between protected springs and nearby unprotected spring wetlands is quite marked. The common reed, Phragmites, continues to be dominant in most of the protected springs although there are early signs that this dominance is diminishing after 30 plus years of stock exclusion.

The June 2021 springs working bee is a very good example of a productive collaboration aimed at improved conservation of mound springs – involving a mixture of research, monitoring and on- ground protective works. FOMS has appreciated the ongoing support of the SA Arid Lands Landscape Board and the Department for Environment and Water and it has been a privilege to be closely associated with the Arabana Ranger Program.

Newly installed seat at Strangways
New bollards installed by the Arabana Rangers and FOMS at the Peake Overland Telegraph carpark
Arabana Rangers Keegan Solomon and Sam Stuart working on the Levi Springs fence
Coolabah spring at Levi Springs at time of fencing, July 2019
Coolabah spring, June 2021, showing extensive regrowth of sedges