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Knights of Sidonia

Six years ago, Sam White took over the day-to-day running of the family farm from his father Frank, making him a fourth generation farmer.
Nanjing Night Net

After being surrounded by farms his entire life, Mr White has finally taken the first and most important steps towards realising his dream of revegetating his land in Sidonia.

White says he has intended to revegetate the land since becoming manager.

“A huge fire event back in the 1940s pretty much wiped out every tree and bush on the place and it’s been my goal to revegetate as much as possible,” he said.

“When I look out at my farm and I see a bare hill, I don’t like that look … I want to see trees there and then it just became an idea and a dream to connect it right through.”

Now, thanks to the support of landscape restoration organisation, Connecting Country, White’s dream has been made possible.

Connecting Country is a community-run organisation that supports and funds a range of landholders for landscape improvement across the Mount Alexander Shire.

The coordinator of the Yellow Box – Phascogale program, Chris Timewell, described Connecting Country’s mission as one that aims to connect people and landscapes in ways that support the management of a healthy, resilient and productive natural environment.

Connecting Country had discussions with the Whites in June 2011, about the creation of a significant ridge-line and mass revegetation on the property.

There is much more to the project than just revegetation and in conjunction with Connecting Country, White has begun working towards the development of a wildlife corridor that runs north-to-south through his 2000-acre property.

This corridor means big things for the survival of the brush-tailed phascogale as a part of the Yellow Box – Phascogale program, which was started in 2009.

“The primary aim of the program is to provide technical and funding support for landholders and land-managers to protect and enhance priority habitats for the threatened brush-tailed phascogale on their properties,” Timewell said.

The National Resources Investment Program has played a role in White’s vision also, getting behind him and Connecting Country for the sake of the brush-tailed phascogale. The brush-tailed phascogale is one of 33 endangered terrestrial fauna species for which protecting, enhancing and re-establishing habitat in fragmented landscapes is a key objective of the program.

The carnivorous, nocturnal marsupial lives in tree hollows, and particularly likes living inside yellow box woodlands. It is approximately 180 to 200 millimetres long and have a distinctive black, brush-like tail, hence the name.

White’s project is one of significant proportions, spanning an area of over five kilometres, and plans have been made for at least 5000 plants to be introduced on the property.

A high number of these plants will be yellow box woodlands, which is a eucalypt species of vegetation that is threatened at the national level.

The Whites are putting up the fence-lines themselves, but the planting is being done by a somewhat unexpected group of workers.

“Five thousand plants have already been planted by the crew from the Loddon Prison,” White said.

White had only positive things to say about the work the prisoners were doing on his farm.

“We enjoy having them here, they work exceptionally fast and I think they enjoy being out in the fresh air,” he said.

White said a good start has been made, but there is still a long road ahead.

“If you understand a wildlife corridor, it’s got to be a fairly decent-sized area and it’s going to take a long time, but eventually this will be something that will bring wildlife back,” he said.

“In the first 10 years, there’ll be significant change in wildlife as they start to inhabit, nest and live in the area.”

“A lot will depend on the seasons, if it’s going to be like the last few seasons, nice and wet, it’ll be quick, it’s only going to get better with time though.”

But it could be decades before significant improvements are seen in terms of the number of brush-tailed phascogales.

It could take up to 50 or even 100 years before the trees being planted develop hollows suitable for the marsupial to nest in.

White and Timewell, however, have a solution that will hopefully attract a number of the species to the area, with the use of nest-boxes.

“Sam’s going to put up a few of those across the property so even though it might take a long time for the trees themselves to form hollows there’s some habitat for the phascogale,” Timewell said.

“This will be of tremendous value to phascogales and other native fauna, both as habitat and also for linking areas of remnant habitat within and beyond the property boundaries.”

White said the project would have been nearly impossible without the help and support of his father.

“I need to thank Dad for his support in making changes to fencing and paddocks to facilitate this project and Pat Connor for introducing us to the people at Connecting Country,” he said.

Sidonia farmer Sam White and Connecting Country’s Chris Timewell.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.