Arabana Rangers

Arabana Rangers and Friends of Mound Springs work together for Springs Conservation

The Arabana team replacing bollards at the carpark at
Freeling Springs

The Friends of Mound Springs (FOMS) group has enjoyed a good working relationship with the Arabana people over many years. Examples of cooperative programs have been the spring burning trials conducted on Finniss Springs in 2016 and the fencing of Levi Springs in 2019.

This relationship has received a major boost through the establishment of the Arabana Ranger Programme in 2019 with funding through the Australian Government. This program has provided for the employment of a team of (currently) five under the leadership of Head Ranger Micheal (Mick) Stuart. At this stage the program is funded to 30 June 2021. The team has a relatively broad brief to help care for natural resources in Arabana country and the conservation and management of mound springs is an important objective.

In January 2020, FOMS representatives met with the Arabana Ranger team at Port Augusta to discuss areas of common interest and scope for joint programs aimed at improved conservation and management of mound springs.

Following that meeting, plans were developed for a joint field program in 2020. This program was interrupted by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with FOMS volunteers unable to travel to the region until late May. In the meantime, the Arabana Ranger team was able to work in the region, and undertook fence maintenance work and vegetation monitoring at several springs fenced by the State Environment agency in the 1980s, as well as Levi Springs.

With some easing of COVID-19 restrictions towards the end of May, FOMS volunteers were able to join with the Arabana Rangers in further field work and a revised fieldwork program was developed. FOMS volunteers and the Arabana Rangers joined forces in two field trips during 2020.

The first trip took place from 31 May to 6 June. FOMS volunteers Bruce Gotch, Colin Harris, Bernice Cohen and Simon Lewis joined with the Arabana team in inspections of Bopeechee and Beatrice Springs on Finniss Springs (see separate item in this newsletter) and in maintenance of the walking trails at Strangways Springs and Freeling Springs / Peake Overland Telegraph site. While at the Peake Overland Telegraph site, the Arabana Rangers installed five recycled plastic bollards at the carpark to replace deteriorating timber bollards.

The second joint springs visit occurred in late August. The group inspected several springs and artesian bores on Finniss Springs – Bopeechee and Beatrice Springs, the now extinct Venable Spring and Charles Angas, Cooryabbie and Venable bores. The group also visited Gosse and McLachlan Springs, on the Stuart Creek pastoral lease, where feral horses have had severe impact in recent months. More information on these matters is included elsewhere in this newsletter.

These field inspections provided an excellent opportunity for the Arabana Ranger team and FOMS volunteers to work together to assist the conservation of mound springs and to develop a rapport that will provide a sound basis for ongoing cooperative activities. The Arabana Ranger team is making a very significant contribution in the conservation and management of mound springs and FOMS welcomes the opportunity to be associated with the program.

Job done. L to R: Bruce Gotch, Dylan Stuart, Indianah Butler, Mick Stuart, Aamish Warren, Braden Allen and Bernice Cohen

Arabana Ranger Program initiated by Federal Government

Attendees at the Port Augusta meeting. Rear (L to R): Colin Harris, Bruce Gotch (both FOMS), Cherie Gerlach, Sarah Stevens (SA Arid Lands NRM Board staff), Travis Gotch, Tony Magor (both National Parks & Widlife, DEW), Arabana Ranger Marshall Stuart, Arabana Head Ranger Micheal Stuart, Simon Lewis (FOMS), Arabana Ranger Garth Dodd, Paul Tanner. Seated at front: Arabana Rangers Braden Allen and Aamish Warren.

Some good news – an Arabana Ranger Program has been initiated through funding support from the Federal Government. Five Arabana Rangers have been appointed, including Head Arabana Ranger Micheal Stuart – son of Uncle Dean (see above article). General support and coordination is provided through Conservation Management Director Alistair Dermer, who is based interstate. The Ranger group is operating out of Port Augusta and, at this stage, has funding to June 30, 2021.

The Arabana Ranger team and FOMS personnel have wasted no time in becoming acquainted, with a joint meeting held at Port Augusta on 22 January 2020 – FOMS representatives being Colin Harris, Bruce Gotch and Simon Lewis. Also attending were Tony Magor, National Parks and Wildlife Manager, Flinders and Outback, and Travis Gotch, newly appointed District Ranger, Outback. Arid Lands NRM Board staff Sarah Stevens and Cherie Gerlach also joined the group for a short time.

The meeting highlighted that the Arabana Ranger Program and FOMS have a number of objectives in common. Micheal Stuart noted that priority areas for the Program are protecting and monitoring country, building and maintaining relationships and getting Arabana people on to country. FOMS representatives noted that FOMS has a particular interest in maintaining protective fencing around a number of important mound springs on pastoral lease land – seven fenced by the state Environment agency in the 1980s and Levi Springs, fenced by FOMS volunteers in 2019. Vegetation monitoring is also a priority at these springs.

It was agreed that the Arabana Rangers could take on a significant role with this fence maintenance and vegetation monitoring. As a next step, FOMS representatives and the Arabana Rangers will have a joint inspection of these sites – currently scheduled for May 2020.

This is a welcome initiative and FOMS looks forward to linking closely with the Arabana Ranger Program. It is to be hoped that funding for the Program will be extended well beyond June 2021.