Below the Molonglo River Reserve and to the West of Denman Prospect Development, is a remarkable natural area known as “Bluetts Block”. 

Two ecological communities are found at Bluetts Block 1) Dry Forest with a shrubby-healthy-grassy ground layer located on higher hilly areas of the site and 2) Box-Gum Woodland located on slopes and in gullies at the site. The latter is of particular importance as it is critically endangered under the EPBC Act and ACT legislation, meaning that it is not only locally significant, but nationally. 

The value of Bluett’s Block has been analogised to Black Mountain as it is incredibly ecologically diverse and includes high quality habitat. It is likely to support many threatened and rare species, most notably, rare marsupial populations of Dunnart and Antechinus.

Specifically, Bluett’s Block is arguably of a high quality as indicated by a relatively low presence of weeds on much of the area. This suggests that there has been low disturbance at the site. The presence of  extensive cryptogam cover (including mosses, lichens and algal crusts) further supports this observation as intact cryptogam crusts indicate a lack of recent domestic stock grazing, and as such a heightened conservation value as the land is relatively un-degraded and thus of high quality.  

Old growth trees at the site suggest the presence of hollow-nesting fauna, including pardalotes (Pardalotus spp), microbats (sub-order Microchiroptera) and a range of birds. The diverse shrubby habitat is also likely to support various bird guilds, including uncommon, declining and vulnerable species. Rocky habitat observed at the site has been found to be suitable for reptiles. A considerable diversity of fungal fruiting structures also suggest that Bluetts Block is significant for many plant species, notably native orchids. 

The site also plays a critical role in connecting The Murrumbidgee Corridor, Kama Nature Reserve, Pinnacle Nature Reserve, Stoney Creek Reserves, and beyond. 

Bluett’s Block, and the similarly valuable areas around it may be under threat of continuing urban sprawl. The recently announced ACT budget committed $2.3 million to investigate land to the west of Canberra for future development. This is known as the ‘Western Edge Investigation’, and includes consideration of Bluett’s Block. The 2018 ACT Planning Strategy indicates that the Western Edge is in the ACT Government sights as a potential area for future urban development. 

The Conservation Council is calling on the ACT Government to move quickly to put Bluett’s Block into the reserve system to ensure it is protected in perpetuity.

References:

  1. Rehwinkel, Vegetation Survey of Bluetts Block, 2019.
  2.  Nature Conservation (Yellow Box – Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland) Conservation Advice 2020;Natural Temperate Grassland of the South Eastern Highlands; White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland National Recovery Plan