Quote of the Moment:

“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.”
D.E.

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Millennium Project

The Kachana Millennium Project…

A Statement by Chris Henggeler

"Some of our landscapes are starving and losing weight!"

Years of living in a camp exposed to the elements…
Thousands of hours of flying, walking and riding through rugged upper-river rainfall-catchment country…
Keen study of nature and of landscape health…
The disconcerting realisation that the very landscapes that had originally attracted me to settle and to live in the Kimberley are undergoing a massive human-induced change for the worse…
What am I supposed to do?
Do I walk away from the scene of an accident that is happening all around me?

We all readily recognise many of the symptoms of anorexia or starvation in a human or in an animal… Yet how aware are we that a desert is often simply loss of life in a landscape that can no longer hold onto the energy and water that it is given?

"Land that has enough grass upon it to carry a fire is in reasonable condition…" IP & PN 2000
So I was told!
Going by this definition the land was in "reasonable condition" every year when I first came to this area in 1985…
It seems that now much of this upper-river rainfall-catchment country is only "in reasonable condition" every three to five years…
Mature trees blow over, they lie there, they dehydrate and they die there…. they burn when the next fire comes without being replaced…
Shrubs and saplings dehydrate during fire events, remain standing as stalks and then fall over as their bases rot during the wetter months…
Slopes formerly covered with Spinifex now have the water capture & retention capability of a tiled roof…
It may perhaps be too early to talk of "extinction", but in Australia's Kimberley Region and in other arid parts of the planet species are being displaced by vacant space over vast areas…

Fifteen years of local knowledge, eight years of local research and training gave us the confidence to act on "new information"

The idea of the Kachana Millennium Project evolved in an attempt to bring additional facts to the ongoing academic debate about the roles of "animals" versus "fire" in our landscapes. We hear the debate, but we firmly believe that at the end of the day, what actually happens in our landscapes is more important than academic consensus on how to view a single action in a complex dynamic situation.

This project is therefore also designed to offer practical insights to participants of Environmental Literacy Workshops and other visitors to Kachana.

The Kachana Millennium Project has a focus on visible Results:
On three adjacent areas with similar physical foundations, we demonstrate the effects over time of favouring specific land-management "tools":

Some may argue that mechanical, chemical and monoculture inputs are the major human influences in our landscapes and when we fly over a populated area this indeed is often what is readily visible. However we beg to differ…

We claim that what we see out there in our landscapes today is largely a human artefact: a landscape being re-shaped in recent times by human inaction and by our inability to recognise how we actively and passively influence other living things around us. Landscapes we inherit are shaped according to the "law of the harvest" and we reap what we sow. Sure, what we look at is "natural", but only in as much as natural laws apply to the shaping…
In each situation nature responds to human influences in its own unique way… so yes, of course: what we see and observe is "natural", but it is also human-made…

Uniqueness of the Kachana Millennium Project:
This is the only such project already in progress in this region. The site is one that has never been subjected to over-grazing by introduced herbivores. There is no history of agriculture or of chemical use; in fact the site has never contributed to any form of modern industry or enterprise.

The chosen area is an easterly facing rocky hillside slope below a cliff line; it is typical for many areas in this vicinity. Cattle seldom venture into such areas and wild donkeys only occasionally go there towards the end of a poor season. Populations of larger native herbivores appear to be sparse. Since the termination of "Aboriginal Management" many decades ago, fuel loads gradually accumulate until they are ignited by lightening, areal burning programs or arson (in recent times the latter is the most common cause). I estimate that fire exposes most Kimberley hillsides every 3 to 7 years. Satellite data is now available on the frequency of burns. Areas closer to roads and to human communities burn more frequently. Over the years I have noticed a change in the patterns of the fires themselves: the country does not seem to be able to support the same frequency and intensity of burns; resulting burns are not as "clean" and the land seems to show little resilience after a fire.