Before being bought and protected by Bush Heritage Austrailia in 2001, Carnarvon station was a cattle station for 140 years. The site sits in the Brigalow Belt bioregion – one of the most extensive, fertile and well-watered areas in northern Australia. The Brigalow Belt covers 1.6 times the area of Victoria but has been mostly cleared of vegetation. Species once dominant on the more fertile plains have been reduced to small patches.
Landscape-scale conservation is now only possible in the least productive and rugged terrain. Extensive patches of this remain and within these are pockets of the ecosystems once seen on a wide scale.
Carnarvon Station reserve is one such pocket that extends from grasslands to fertile valleys to help make the reserve estate a contained microcosm. Despite being a pocket, it harbours an important variety of biodiversity. The reserve holds to around 170 animal species, of which at least 10 are threatened and protects hundreds of plant species, five of which are threatened. The woodlands in particular shelter geckos, gliders, honeyeaters, the tiny Narrow-nosed Planigale, and the Common Dunnart. Carnarvon also has its own endemic snail, Pallidelix simonhudsoni, and allows freedom of movement for these species since it is adjacent to Carnarvon National Park.
On establishment, the reserve removed its cattle stock to protect its grasslands and natural springs.
Much of the current work involves general maintenance of boundary fences to keep out stock and access tracks so that feral animals (horses, pigs...) and weeds can be managed. For example, where some of the precious alluvial grasslands and grassy woodlands have been cropped in the past, and in the process infested with invasive weeds, these are now being managed while the native species regain hold. Much of this work is done by volunteers.
The reserve managers have also been active in stabilising erosion that has devastated the region and planned burns reduce the extent of wildfires threatening life and property. Part of traditional land management as well, these controlled burns allow for the retention of vegetation islands within burns as refuges and arks for wildlife. Success here has meant the return of some species that had been lost and also acacias starting to return to the mid-storey of the woodlands.
The most spectacular difference has been in the upland coolibah and ironbark woodlands. Here the removal of feral horses has seen battered, often bare, earth return to dense grass and herbs.