EARTH FIRST: Our iconic mountain was millennia in the making

THEN AND NOW: Mount Canobolas has changed and evolved over millions of years and remains a unique ecosystem, according to Jenny Medd. Photo: JUDE KEOGH
THEN AND NOW: Mount Canobolas has changed and evolved over millions of years and remains a unique ecosystem, according to Jenny Medd. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

MOUNT Canobolas has often been described as unique, iconic, a last remaining gem, the region’s most significant remnant of native vegetation in our local landscape.

Its summit, the peak of Old Man Canobolas, at just under 1400 metres above sea level, is renowned as the highest point between the Blue Mountains and the coast of Western Australia.

Starting life as an active volcano in an otherwise vast undulating plain, it dramatically changed the surrounding landscape through waves of eruptions which occurred over a period of roughly 500,000 years, some 12 million years ago.

Evolutionary sequences through the ensuing millennia have left us with a landscape on which humans have had an almost equally devastating impact.

For Indigenous people Mount Canobolas was a ceremonial site, and the Wiradjuri still regard the mountain as a highly significant place. With European settlement, Mount Canobolas Park became a water reserve for travelling stock and was subject to grazing from around 1876 through to 1958.

In 1944 the area had been reserved from sale for public recreation and the first trustees were appointed. In 1946 the area was proclaimed a bird and animal sanctuary, gaining Public Recreation Reserve status in 1959.

The park was Crown Land then, managed by a trust comprising seven ex-officio trustees from government departments, local government and seven citizen trustees. In December 1997 the original park was gazetted as Mount Canobolas State Recreation Area, comprising 1,672 hectares of unique sub-alpine landscape.

At the end of 2002, amendments to the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 changed all state recreation areas to State Conservation Areas (SCA).

The Mount Canobolas SCA represents a landscape community that is uncommon and poorly conserved and could not be replicated elsewhere in our region. It is surrounded by plantation forests, horticultural, grazing and farming lands and thus is one of the very few remnants remaining in a highly modified landscape.

Ecosystems, geological features, plant communities and even some plant and animal species are specific to the SCA. It houses a number of plant species and communities gazetted as threatened or vulnerable under either or both NSW and Commonwealth legislation.

In excess of a further 50 plant species are considered as being regionally significant since they are at their natural range limits on or near Mount Canobolas. All this and more makes this reserve a vital conservation area to protect and conserve biodiversity.

A document produced by the Orange Regional Museum provides an overview of Mount Canobolas.

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