Blackbutt Forest Reserve is an island of 100 ha in a sea of suburbia. It is the largest parcel of natural reserve held by any council on the south coast. The Reserve has 70 ha of forest, which is home to five ecological communities:
- Illawarra Lowlands Grassy Woodland (endangered)
- Illawarra Subtropical Rainforest (endangered)
- Wet Sclerophyll Forest
- Riparian forest
Threats to the Reserve come from foxes, cats, dogs, weeds, rabbits, erosion, fires and low species counts, which hinder the development of viable ecological communities.
The group aims to conserve and rebuild Blackbutt Forest as a viable remnant of the coastal plains vegetation community that can be appreciated and enjoyed by all. The Reserve has the last stand of Blackbutt in the Illawarra and one of the last stands of Redgum. The group also hopes to develop Blackbutt Forest as an educational site for understanding ecosystems, and for Aboriginal bush tucker and bush usage plants.
Volunteers, supported by Council staff, work at primary and secondary weeding to clear areas either for regeneration by pioneer species or for planting.
To date in 2009 the group has contributed up to 1880 volunteer hours valued at $44 400 to rehabilitating the site, and in 2008 Council workers and volunteers contributed a total of 2095.5 hours of bushcare work, valued at $63 135.
In three major planting events – National Tree Days 2007, 2008 and 2009 – volunteers working with a Green Corps team, Shellharbour Council staff and local school students and teachers have planted just over 4,000 natives. In 2007 and 2008 Blackbutt volunteers received the national Endangered Ecological Communities award, given by the Threatened Species Network.
Schools involved in National Tree Days usually receive:
- A pre-visit, where the ecosystem of the forest is illustrated
- An interpretative walk through the forest on their planting day, and
- A post-visit Art Workshop
During National Tree Day, 2008, Blackbutt Bushcare worked with a number of schools in the Shellharbour LGA. Six schools – Lake Illawarra High, Petersham Special, and four primary schools – Albion Park, Shellharbour, Warilla North and Flinders.
Most of the schools received a pre-planting visit from one of the Blackbutt volunteers, for a talk about the ecosystem of the forest. Classes of students were then bussed to Blackbutt for planting, an interpretative walk through the forest and a BBQ lunch provided by Shellharbour Council. Other Council staff were on hand over the week to assist in the planting of the mix of over 1000 natives.
Shellharbour, Warilla North and Flinders then opted to receive a post- planting visit, where Blackbutt volunteers worked with students on four panels, artistically interpreting the ecosystems of the forest. The art by Flinders Primary students is now hanging in their school hall for all to see.
Working bees usually take place on the 3rd Sunday morning of each month, though this can vary from time to time. Please contact Tony Hepworth – (02) 4297 6490 or the Shellharbour Council – 0406 383 047 for further information.
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