Burning, thinning are options in carbon plan, conference told

Carbon farming models explored at Longreach rangelands conference

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Greencollar's Mike Berwick and Jamie Dennison had plenty of interest for their carbon farming model at the rangelands conference. Photo - Sally Gall.

Greencollar's Mike Berwick and Jamie Dennison had plenty of interest for their carbon farming model at the rangelands conference. Photo - Sally Gall.

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Carbon farming doesn't mean locking up your land and creating an unmanaged monoculture, at least under one model developed, the Australian Rangelands Society conference was told.

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Carbon farming doesn't mean locking up your land and creating an unmanaged monoculture, at least under one model developed, the Australian Rangelands Society conference was told.

Speaking from Longreach last week, representatives of carbon project developer Greencollar, Mike Berwick and Jamie Dennison were quick to dispel many of the common concepts landholders have about the process, based on past activity in the space.

They were backed up by central Queensland landholder James Henderson, joining from the cab of his truck at the Gracemere Saleyards, who said he had been using herbicide on his trees for years but regrowth kept occurring.

"People don't realise the value of timber on their property," Mr Henderson, also a Greencollar consultant, said.

He and his family have a slow-moving rotational grazing cattle breeding business on 5400ha and he said he was "pretty big on matching cattle to feed".

"The carbon market is predicted to be worth $48 billion by 2050 - we don't want to miss out on that sort of coin," he said.

Mr Henderson told the conference his property had been the first in Australia to plan for a cool burn, using a Greencollar model, and had managed a lightning strike since.

That's the first question I'm always asked - can you burn - James Henderson, CQ cattleman

Greencollar's Queensland business manager and project developer Jamie Dennison said their projects allowed landholders to put through a cool burn, to keep the timber from thickening and becoming a monoculture.

As far as bushfires went, Mr Dennison said the company took on that risk.

"As long as they haven't lit the fire themselves and that's come through, then that's the risk we take as a company, on any carbon farming project that we put through."

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Thinning of timber, via fire and grazing, was encouraged in anticipation of bushfires, and to encourage biodiversity in the form of pasture and shrubs to come through.

Advisor Mike Berwick said a thickened forest didn't necessarily hold more carbon.

"You go through the measurements, you'll find there's more carbon in a landscape that's got a few big trees than a lot of little tiny ones," he said.

As a conference presenting partner looking at whether ecosystem services such as theirs could create a new rangeland economy, Mr Berwick spoke about balancing the need for soil health, balancing runoff and rewilding nature against consumer demand for the cheapest product available.

"You've got to have trust for starters," he said. "We think we can make heroes out of producers, not villains."

Mr Dennison said they'd had a lot of inquiry at the conference, from landholders seeing what they were offering as an opportunity as part of their supplementary income on the property.

"They're not just seeing it as a greenie thing - the landholders we've spoken to this week have said that, by being here, they've been able to cement that a little bit more in their thinking, what they're looking at for their property."

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