Cultural burn to help spark new life for rare orchid

Aboriginal people in NSW recognise the cultural values of biodiversity and the environment. Plants, animals and ecosystems are at the heart of their attachment to the land and the sea. Plants and animals are valued as part of 'Country' and may also be represented as totems.

Tarengo leek orchid (Prasophyllum petilum)

Over the last few years, the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and Aboriginal communities in different parts of NSW have been working together to develop approaches to land management that recognise the cultural values of biodiversity and the environment.

An example of this took place last month where rangers from Mogo Local Aboriginal Land Council undertook a cultural burn south of Queanbeyan to reconnect to Country and help save a threatened orchid species, as part of the Saving our Species program.

The Tarengo Leek Orchid (Prasophyllum petilum) was known from a site south of Queanbeyan, but it hasn’t been seen on this site in over a decade. The other four sites in NSW where orchid is known to live suggest that it can sometimes remerge after fire.

A team from OEH, Rural Fire Service (RFS), Land Council and Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council coordinated the cultural and ecological burn on this site to help reinvigorate the landscape and restore the critical habitat for this rare orchid.

Young people from the Mogo Local Aboriginal Land Council were trained in fire management and taught the importance of the traditional land management practices.

Rob Armstrong, Senior Project Officer with Saving our Species hopes the strategic use of fire at this site sparks a germination event and temporarily reduces surrounding vegetation that competes with the orchid for light and nutrients.

"This burn is really our last-ditch effort to boost the recovery of this species and by teaming up with the LALC we have also created an opportunity for young Aboriginal people to get on Country and undertake traditional fire management.”

Phil Paterson from the Rural Fire Service said the Hotspots Fire Project is about equipping land managers to participate in fire management for biodiversity conservation and risk management.

'Whether you're a ranger, a private landholder or land management agency, it's all about working together," said Mr Paterson.

"We had a shared ecological objective for this burn which was to help save this species but it was also a chance to get together, share and learn from each other," Mr Paterson said.

We look forward to keeping a close eye on what happens at this site and will be eagerly awaiting signs of life of the Tarengo Leek Orchid.

You can read more about the Tarengo Leek Orchid.