State: WA | Hectares: 435 | IUCN Category: IV | Partners: Friends of the Porongurup Range (Inc)
The Twin Creeks Conservation Reserve, just north of Albany on Western Australia's southern tip, is living proof that small communities have big conservation power.
A native orchid Photo: David Smith, courtesy: Friends of the Porongurup Range
The 511 hectare reserve near Porongurup National Park has such a rich diversity of soil types that the habitat changes dramatically from one corner to the next. Heathlands give way to jarrah and marri trees atop ancient rust-coloured laterite ridges, and stands of Porongurup karri and wandoo woodlands dot the reserve.
The property covers part of an internationally recognised biodiversity hotspot and includes spectacular fields of wildflowers, so when it came up for sale in 2002 the community was determined to protect it from development.
Local community group The Friends of the Porongurup Range decided to buy the land to keep it safe and healthy, and they harnessed over $200,000 from the Australian Government's National Reserve System Program towards purchase and establishment costs. They raised another $200,000 themselves - much of it through loans and donations from their own members - and the Twin Creeks Conservation Reserve was born. The reserve is now a National Trust Property and is open for the whole community to enjoy.
David Smith from the Friends said it all started when they found out that some of the 1,000 species of plant believed to live on the reserve were really rare.
"One of the first members of our group, the late Ann Burchell, found late hammer orchids on the property, which are nationally endangered, and we found out that many of the plants here were found nowhere in the world except for our region," David says.
"We were astounded when the Western Australian Herbarium came to visit a few years after we established the reserve, and discovered what seem to be two completely new species of bottle brush flower.
"One of them is so rare that it's likely to be declared critically endangered once it's been properly described, so we're delighted that we could help preserve it - even if we didn't know it was here at the time!"
The road to establishing the reserve wasn't an easy one. Even with the Australian Government's help, the Friends had to come up with a lot of money themselves to buy the reserve, establish it and keep looking after it into the future. David says the whole community chipped in to help raise the funds.
"The group has had great fun raising money - holding banquets, our 'Art in the park' exhibition, and car parking for local wine festivals," he says.
"Some people donated money directly, ranging from a $60,000 lump sum through to $14 that one of the local girls had earned singing carols. It was all she had and she wanted to use it to save the reserve - now that to me is really special."
Managing the reserve is a team effort too. With 111 hectares of cleared farm land to revegetate, locals come along to plant trees and install fencing, and the nearby Pardelup prison farm helps build visitor facilities. Even Kew Gardens in England has shown interest, sending representatives from Perth to study the reserve's plants and collect seeds for their 'Seeds for the Future' project.
David is a cattle farmer himself, so he understood local farmers' concerns that weeds and feral animals be kept under control.
"We bait rabbits to keep the numbers down, and inject some of the trees to fight dieback, which is quite common here," he says.
"We've worked hard to show people we're doing the right thing, and the farmer next door is so impressed he's loaned us 40 hectares of his bushland to look after."
The reserve is a great education tool. The local TAFE has set up a plot on the reserve to teach students how to harvest native seed, and primary and high school students have come out to take wildlife tours and learn about the environment.
David says it just goes to show that you don't have to be a government or a big charity to look after the places you love.
"I hope our example encourages other people to think big - when you work together you'd be surprised how much you can achieve."