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Indigenous rangers and Traditional Owners lead the fight against invasive gamba grass

Giovanni Torre -

Indigenous rangers and Traditional Owners are leading a frontline team in the fight to stop invasive gamba grass spreading into west Arnhem Land and Kakadu National Park.

The Jawoyn Rangers and Traditional Owners have been working with Territory NRM to control the weed across the 18,000 hectare Barnjarn Aboriginal Land Trust, which includes culturally significant sites that are a priority for the Traditional Owners to protect.

The Barnjarn land trust sits adjacent to Nitmiluk National Park and along the Stuart Highway north of Katherine, and gamba grass in the area poses a high spread risk. With the monsoon on the way, the area will soon be difficult to access, and reinforcements have been called in to assist local Indigenous Rangers and Traditional Owners to fight the weed while the area is still accessible.

Territory NRM West Arnhem and Kakadu project officer Diego Alvarez said the size of the area, location of sites and complexity of the watercourses, makes it difficult to control gamba grass.

"Gamba grass is present around the Bat Dreaming site on Barnjarn ALT, where the Jawoyn Rangers have been controlling its spread during recent years," he said.

"While gamba grass density has decreased, its distribution is still widespread."

Mr Alvarez said gamba grass had the potential to significantly impact the environment by out competing native trees and grasses and creating monocultures which generate large destructive fires.

"Additional impacts of gamba grass include increased costs associated with weed management, asset protection and firefighting in affected areas," he said.

"This collaborative effort has brought together expertise and resources to help stop the weed from spreading and to protect culturally significant sites."

In addition to Territory NRM, Jaowyn Rangers and Traditional Owners, the group included staff from the Northern Territory Government Weed Branch, Wardaman Rangers, Wagiman Rangers and the Edith Farm Fire Brigade, who all contributed their skills and equipment to ensure a successful week.

The team from Territory NRM have been working with Indigenous ranger groups in West Arnhem Land and Kakadu National Park over the past four years to stop the spread of gamba grass.

The project is supported by Territory Natural Resource Management through funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.

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