General Management of Native Bush

Bush scene.These are guidelines designed to give you an overview of the principles of managing remnant native bush. However, as with all the recommendations in the Tasmanian Bushcare Toolkit, the guidelines are not meant to be followed rigidly. Rather, they are intended to give you some guiding principles for managing remnant bush. You can then modify the guidelines to suit your particular situation and needs.

This kit only discusses the general principles of managing remnant native bush. It does not give specific guidelines for dealing with each particular bush type that may be found on your property. These are given in the kits dealing with the different bush types. Therefore, you will need to read this kit and the kit that discusses your bush type in order to decide on the best way to manage your patch of native bush.

Native bush can be managed to make the most of its economic, nature conservation and land conservation values. Ten general principles for managing native bush are:

1. Don't change your current management practices unless there is an obvious reason to do so. If the bush is in good condition don't change your activities just to fit with what is seen as the 'best' method.

2. Decide on your management objectives. Determining the reason why you are managing the remnant bush helps you to decide what type of management is needed. Bush may be important for rough grazing, for shelter, or just because you like having bush on your property. You should be clear on the reasons why you are managing it.

3. Manage to protect threatened species first. If you have threatened species in your bush, manage it to protect them first, to protect the threatened vegetation types second, and to maintain the bush in good condition third. Extinct threatened species cannot be resurrected. Vegetation types can reassemble themselves in the long term if all their species survive. Management that promotes good condition is not necessarily the management that promotes the survival of threatened species.

4. View the bush on your property from a broader perspective. Don't just take a paddock-by-paddock approach. Rather, look at your farm as a whole unit, then consider where it fits in at a district level. Where bush or native pasture joins that of neighbouring properties, a coordinated management approach will be more effective than an individual approach.

5. Maintaining a variety of management practices is important. If everyone followed the same management regime there would be far less diversity in the landscape. If you have a different management regime to surrounding farms maintain it, unless there is an obvious reason not to. For example, it is important that somewhere in the landscape we have bush that is never burned, bush that is burned regularly, bush that is burned in spring, and bush that is burned in autumn. Each farm will have a different mix of species as a result of the fire regime used.

6. Manage by need, not by formulae. The general recommendations for desirable burning and grazing regimes may not be appropriate for your bush and your aims. For example, decide when you need to burn or graze by looking at the size of the regenerating trees you want to keep. In particular, make sure they are large enough and tall enough to withstand a fire. In grassy bush keeping gaps between the tussocks is valuable for the regeneration of wildflowers, sedges and shrubs. Burning is needed when the gaps start closing up.

7. Think about the impact of any new management decision on the overall viability of your bush. In marginal rough grazing country it may be tempting to convert a small flat area to pasture but this could lead to gradual degradation of the area.

8. Maintain the bush as habitat for native animals and birds. Older trees and dead trees should be left in place as they offer nesting hollows for birds and animals, especially parrots and owls, and provide a vantage spot or perching site for all birds of prey. If you are thinking of removing trees for fencing materials or firewood remember that coppicing and pollarding are more sustainable uses of trees. If you take firewood from the bush, ringbark some younger trees several years before you need the wood.
However, the bush is much more than just trees. Birds such as wrens, robins, honeyeaters and pigeons need a diverse and healthy understorey. Once the understorey is degraded aggressive birds such as noisy miners move in and displace the bush birds. Keeping a diverse shrub and ground layer is fundamental to managing a bush remnant. Prickly plants like needlebushes and some wattles offer nesting sites, shelter and food. Shrubs such as bottlebrushes, tea-trees and prickly box also provide food for insects that help to control pest species. Logs, dead wood, rocks and stones on the ground provide shelter for animals, birds and insects so they should be left untouched.

9. Don't use the bush as a tip or a sump. Avoid dumping rocks, earth, garden waste and rubbish in the bush, as this eliminates native plants and allows weeds to flourish. The diversion of water into native bush leads to invasion by weeds, especially if it is rich in nutrients. Fertilising bush favours the growth of exotic annuals over native perennials.

10. Remember it is always cheaper to maintain or improve bush than to restore or recreate it. Clearing is an irreversible action in the medium term. The re-establishment of bush on improved pasture or crop land is usually a very expensive exercise, involving ground preparation, propagation or seed collection, planting or sowing, and continuing weed control. While it may be easy to establish individual trees or shrubs on cleared land they take many decades to mature, and the hundreds of other species found in native vegetation may not return for centuries.


Private Land Conservation Enquiries

GPO Box 44,
Hobart, TAS, 7001.