Landholders: Rob Youl and Alison Harris
Property: Three blocks around St Arnaud, Wimmera region
Traditional owners: Dja dja wurrung
Size: 268 hectares
I [Rob] am a retired forester and Landcare worker living in Melbourne. Alison is a retired town planner. In 1991, when I was with Greening Australia, Trust for Nature staff alerted me to a 127-ha block at Stuart Mill between Avoca and St Arnaud. We remain on good terms with the vendors.
To our delight, it was the type locality for a very rare spider orchid. Several other endangered orchids grew there. Since the mid-1990s the department, under its different names, has conducted orchid research here. Eleven hectares of old buloke grow there.
Later, when I worked for Landcare Australia, we bought more land around St Arnaud, particularly for carbon sequestration. We have renovated and greatly enjoy the cottage on our last block at Slaty Creek.
Whilst our Stuart Mill and Tottenham blocks are entirely bushland, the Slaty Creek property, former grazing country, has 50 ha of revegetation established by planting, direct seeding and natural regeneration. We also endeavour to re-create chains of ponds along drainage lines and have started to convert conventional dams into wetlands.
This has led to thinning grey box regrowth at Stuart Mill and transferring much of the slash to the nearby major gully, again to try to re-establish native grasslands and chains of ponds and eliminate streambed erosion.
We often use this land for Landcare training, community and school planting days and farm and nature walks, including Indigenous groups and installing nest boxes and creating small biolinks.
Our covenanted land brings us great pleasure. Firstly, after a lifetime in forestry and Landcare, I am still practically engaged and learning on-the-job. I am particularly interested in re-creating chains of ponds along drainage lines and new habitats.
Our three-monthly surveys of birdlife are rewarding. Next is our satisfaction from maintaining biodiverse bushland and catchment in perpetuity for the community.
We have gained many insights into regional Indigenous culture and reconciliation. Land management activities afford contact with neighbours, the south east Wimmera community and Trust for Nature. Association with natural landscapes improves one’s health – physical, mental and spiritual. Finally, friends and family can share our bounty.