About us

Washpool National Park: case study

Washpool National Park occupies approximately 70,000 hectares, straddling the crest of the Gibraltar Range, on the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range. Core areas of the park were first gazetted in 1982, following one of the highly publicised ‘battles’ over rainforest protection that characterised forestry and conservation policy debate in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1985 the bulk of the newly proclaimed park was declared a wilderness area and in 1987 was included as part of the world heritage listing for ‘Gondwana Rainforests of Australia’. The western parts of Washpool National Park, formerly parts of the Curramore and Spirabo State Forests, were added to the park in 1996, following the Comprehensive Regional Assessment process.

Washpool National Park lies within the lands of the Bundjalung, Gumbaingirr and Ngarrabul Aboriginal people. An unpublished history of the park landscape has been prepared by Mark Allen (2006) for the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Forest as historic artefact

In what ways have the cultural values of historical land users and land managers shaped the structure and character of forested landscapes? What are the implications of humanly modified forests for the management of forests now within parks (protected areas) managed for conservation?

Typically a focus by heritage practitioners on structures associated with residence and work has limited focus on historical interaction with the wider landscape. The application of cultural landscapes concepts provides a way of looking at the complex interactions between people and environment at the landscape scale. It does this by recognising that history has taken place across all parts of the landscape. Thus evidence of human activity will be detectable in the vegetation and in landscape modifications as well as in the material traces of history.

In 2007 a study was undertaken in the tall open forest and tall moist forests of Washpool National Park (Umwelt Environmental Consultants 2007). The study investigated links between values held by graziers and foresters; their choices of land management practices; the ways in which historic land management techniques affect the floristic composition and structure of vegetation communities; and the ways in which these constructed or modified landscapes continued to evolve since forestry and grazing activities ceased. The study also considered the implications of constructing present day forest as inseparably cultural and natural in the context of conservation and park management.

The Washpool National Park case study investigated ‘ecology as archaeology’ and ‘ecology as cultural heritage’. A cultural landscape approach considers human influences on landscape changes as part of creating a cultural space, rather than in terms of environmental impact. Clearly there is an abundant literature, indeed an entire industry, focussed on assessing and mitigating human impacts on environmental values. This case study looked at the cultural values of people living in remote landscapes, who mostly have ‘touched the landscape only lightly’. The report argues that park management requires knowledge of the character of vegetation as a physical marker of historical activity, as well as knowledge of biodiversity, in order to integrate ecological and cultural heritage management.


Allen, M 2006, Washpool and Gibraltar Range National Parks: Cultural Heritage Assessment, unpublished report, Glen Innes: NPWS. Fully revised edition.

Dean-Jones P and Brown S 2010, ‘Forest as historic artefact: understanding cumulative landscape transformation in grazed and logged forests in north east NSW’. Paper presented at Australian Forest History Conference, Lismore, June 2010.

Umwelt Environmental Consultants, 2007, Washpool Forests Cultural Landscapes: Understanding Cumulative Landscape Transformation in Grazed and Logged Forests in North East NSW, unpublished report for Department of Environment and Climate Change NSW, Umwelt Environmental Consultants, Toronto.

Related information

Washpool National Park
Gibraltar Range National Park

Index to Cultural landscapes and national parks

Page last updated: 26 February 2011