AN investment of almost $1.5 million has been locked in for the habitat protection and captive breeding of the threatened Bellinger River Snapping Turtle.
The project is among several in the Cowper electorate to benefit from a roll-out of bushfire recovery projects by the federal government.
Those projects include establishing bee hotels, native community nurseries, cultural burning programs, the planting of 6,000 trees along the river tributaries at Nambucca and the installation of wildlife nest boxes in the Macleay and Port Macquarie-Hastings .
The Bellinger River Snapping Turtle, named after the only stretch of river in which it is found, suffered a mass mortality event in 2015 when a mysterious illness went through the population reducing the species' number from approximately 4,000 to 300 in just under two months.
The tiny turtle, which is also known as the George's Snapping Turtle, then suffered another terrible blow from drought and then the Black Summer bushfires ripped through its habitat.
Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley announced Cowper's slice of the Bushfire Recovery for Wildlife Habitat funding with Pat Conaghan MP this week.
North Coast Local Land Services has received $750,000 to support the restoration efforts for the Bellinger River. More than $800,000 will go towards two captive breeding programs, one with Symbio Wildlife Park and expanding another at Taronga Zoo, that will see more of the Bellinger River Turtles released back into their native environment.
"Turtles play a vital role in maintaining healthy aquatic ecosystems in rivers by consuming dead and decaying matter and helping to recycle nutrients," Ms Ley said.
"Importantly the weed and erosion control in fire-affected rivers and waterways is crucial not only for the turtle but will help a range of species including local platypus populations."
Member for Cowper Pat Conaghan MP said funding will help the North Coast Local Land Services deliver a co-ordinated approach in the upper reaches of the river that protects and restores habitat for the turtle, while also benefiting the local platypus population and other native species across Bellingen and Dorrigo.
In the Hastings and Macleay, Landcare received $149,975 to deliver a habitat recovery program including the installation of nest boxes and constructed wildlife hollows across the region in partnership with FAWNA's ongoing work across the mid-north coast.
"The Black Summer bushfires of 2019-2020 had a devastating impact across southern and eastern Australia and that was really felt here across northern New South Wales," Dr Sally Box, threatened species commissioner said at the nest box launch in Port Macquarie on March 9.
"There has been some fantastic work happening through habitat regeneration, feral pest control, through weed control and specialised programs such as putting out nesting boxes and creating captive breeding programs for some of our most threatened species.
"There's real hope for the recovery of some of the really special species that live in this region like the eastern bristlebird and the spotted tail quoll, the Bellinger River snapping turtle and the Hastings river mouse.
"One of the great things to come out of these really devastating fires is seeing how governments, community groups and landholders are coming together to see the recovery of our threatened species."
Andy Vinter of Macleay Valley Landcare said the collaboration with FAWNA on the nest box program has been a great way for people to participate in the bushfire recovery effort.
The funding will enable Landcare to install 400 more wildlife homes on top of the 200 that have already been put in place across the Macleay Valley since the bushfires.
Meredith Ryan of FAWNA said as a volunteer wildlife and rescue group regional partnerships ensure the wildlife and habitat recovery effort benefits everyone.
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