CREATING a new Wildlife CATHEDRAL In the CENTRAL HIGHLANDs of Victoria

About Yilam Cathedral

Pioneering plan for a wildlife corridor

The Archeron Valley in Victoria’s north east offers picture-postcard views of rolling hills and pastures.

Bordered by the Black Range to the west and Blue Range to the east, the craggy peaks and sandstone cliffs of the Cathedral Range dominate the landscape as they rise steeply to the south.

Behind the Cathedral and nestling beneath the Blue Range lies the pristine Little River Valley where, in 2022, associates of the Rendere Trust secured for conservation a 100-acre property with bio-links to the 8,840-acre Cathedral Range State Park.

Owned by a family who found refuge here as survivors of the Holocaust, the Gilbruk Cathedral property (Gilbruk meaning respect in Taungurung language) was at risk of being sold for agriculture. Instead, a group of committed environmentalists secured its ownership via Cathedral Wildlife Ltd.

The purchase not only supports the in-perpetuity protection of the property, but also a broader vision – of establishing an expansive wildlife corridor that the whole community, and future generations, can enjoy. A living environmental legacy.

historical context

The Taungurung are the first people of the rivers, valleys and mountains of the Acheron Valley and beyond. Historically, they moved through Country on a seasonal basis, enjoying plentiful food around the region’s waterways.

European settlement began to disrupt this pattern in the late 1830s, when land was selected for the Acheron and Taggerty cattle runs. The steep hills and rocky terrain deterred settlers from building. Instead, the land was used for grazing for over 100 years before the government and settlers turned their attention to logging and milling. For the next 50 years, significant amounts of timber came out of the area.

All activities ceased when, in 1979, Cathedral Range was declared a state park. Image source: State Library Victoria.

Current context

While the Cathedral State Park is protected, the ecological integrity of the iconic Little River Valley remains under pressure from logging operations and land-clearing for agriculture.

If the Gilbruk Cathedral property was not saved for conservation, it was likely to be purchased as agricultural farmland, which would have contributed to further degradation of this strategically important location.

Cathedral Wildlife Ltd., stepped in to ensure the property is not only saved, but becomes a part of a growing network of privately-protected areas within the Valley.

The Little River Valley is home to diverse range of ecological communities, including important riparian vegetation along the banks of the Little River, wallaby and kangaroo grasslands, rare wildflowers, orchids and fungi.

The valley also provides critical habitat for threatened fauna including Platypus, Golden sun moth, Greater glider, Sooty owl, Powerful owl, Brush-tailed phascogale and critically-endangered Leadbeater’s possum.

Little River photo with thanks to Michael via Flickr.
Leadbeather Possum: John Englart.

ENACTING THE VISION

Now that the 100-acre property has been secured, the founding members have set in motion a process to do the same with five adjoining properties spanning 756 acres (see maps below). Two properties equalling 526 acres have already been covenanted through Trust for Nature and there is strong community interest in seeing the corridor established.

The long-term aim is to bring adjoining and neighbouring properties into the scheme and return the land to community ownership.

Social and economic contribution

Beyond the spatial footprint of the initial 100-acre property, Cathedral Wildlife Ltd., aims to empower individuals and community to learn about and participate in private land conservation.

The management team, who have expertise in sustainable land management and community engagement, will establish a Social Enterprise to provide opportunities for local and extended communities to help the environment.

In respectful dialogue with the Traditional Owners, they will also explore other natural capital opportunities, including the establishment of a native seed bank.

The team will update investors and members as the project progresses.

Cathedral Wildlife Ltd., respectfully acknowledges the Taungurung as the Traditional Custodians of the valley and their continuing connection to it. We and pay our respect to their Elders past, present and emerging.

 

If you have found this page or a colleague/friend has shared it with you and you’d like to know more about contributing to this exciting conservation project, please contact us through THIS FORM and we be in touch.