The fact that we need 'nature reserves' is an indictment of colonial-capital in itself, but without them there'd be very little 'original' native vegetation remaining and consequently an even greater loss of species diversity, and animal-life in its own rights. I am troubled by the idea of 'reserves' as a statement of ceding what has not been ceded, and of corralling land into parcels that are only allowed to persist because so much of the land around them has been occupied. Further, such reserves are also a form of 'occupation' (if a 'better' version), and exclusion of full rights of traditional ownership. To my mind, these 'nature reserves' should be under local Aboriginal management.
We have just spent a few days in Geraldton (where I went to high school and where my brother and his partner live), and spent time skirting nature reserves to asses their 'condition' and how they are or aren't being respected. Most nature reserves in Western Australia that I have encountered suffer from degradation along their boundaries (especially when they abut rural holdings, mines, commercial, industrial and 'real estate' developments), but also from the dumping of rubbish and incursions by hunters and recreationalists.
The edges of reserves are as important as the interior, and yet because of their proximity to other modes of 'land usage', they are inevitably negatively impacted. On the periphery of one nature reserve we visited was an array of dumping/rubbish, ranging from building scrap to heaps of grass clippings, from a massive variety of plastic waste to assorted house objects. As one ventures further in, the rubbish becomes 'historic' in the sense that prior (to being a gazetted nature reserve) usage by 'settler' presencing leaves many damaging traces that are only partially absorbed into the restoring/recuperating ecology — rusting tin drums (oil, poison etc), bricks and mortar, garden residues, bottles and so on.
The rubbish situation wasn't severe by comparison to some instances I've come across, but it was still a marker of frustration (and ecological disdain, even abuse) over space 'set aside' that's not part of the acquisitive accrual of property — of 'ownership' that erases traditional cultural custodianship of country. Rubbishing is an act of resentment against the uncolonial.
Here are a few images of Howatharra, one of the Chapman Valley/Moresby Ranges reserves. Most of the ranges with their incredible flat-topped hills (reaching a height of 183m and around 50 million years old), has been cleared and occupied by farms, but a few nature reserves are scattered across their length and breadth.
|Nature Reserve, Chapman Valley|
|Following a Kangaroo Trail|
|Not Vanishing but Appearing!|
A clearly sacred place, these reserves would be better maintained and sustained in Yamaji custodianship, and would have a greater chance of 'reconnecting' into a larger, more diverse and complex habitat. For that, we will have to wait for the return of country, but I hope and believe it will happen in time.
The first image above is of the location/designation sign, the second two are of me 'vanishing' into the 'scrub'. It is an intense and diverse habitat, and I only walked along a kangaroo trail, sidestepping numerous echidna diggings around termite mounds. Honeyeaters could be heard constantly working the myriad plants. I am interested in the visual aspect of 'vanishing' because how we see ourselves in relation to bush is part of a colonial residue that compromises ways of seeing. Of course, I am not 'vanishing' but actually appearing... I am carefully following a trail with a light imprint and will follow it back to the periphery. In the bush, one is constantly appearing and never vanishing. [On the other hand, I am happy to be 'consumed' or 'swallowed' by the scrub — that is, to become as much one with it as I can... but again, I do not see this as vanishing, as 'loss', but as gain/increase/growth...]
This has led to my rethinking the dynamics of 'prospect' and 'refuge' in that through refuting 'landscape' as a measure of country, I now see open spaces as a 'refuge' of conquest and eco-destruction, and vegetated/rocky/ravined/hilled places as 'prospect '— that is, their apparent closedness is actually an opening out into knowledge if we should choose to look, listen, sense... to understand Aboriginal knowledges of place, to be more sensitised to country itself. For the non-Indigenous person, this can only be done with the intent of respect and a willingness to learn.
Edging the Howatharra Nature Reserve, Moresby Ranges, Western Australia [Argonautica}
The levelled range
Says those canyons of the sea
Aren't like this now, but will be.
No ‘Köppen climate type’
Can address the fragrance
And textures of leaves and bark
Afloat in heat. Further into the valley,
River redgums might suggest
An elsewhere but are more here
Than anywhere, though
Settler surveys diffuse
To serve their own purposes.
In the clefts where water runs
At downpour, there are other names
For erosion. A mistletoe bird's
Red is a different red
And the mistletoe differs
As well. From denomination
To denomination the stone
Is drawn from roughly
A similar source. The wind
Rips the high temps
But not all the way to the core
Of piles of grass clippings (dumped
Whether it be a wet year or drought year)
Which heat in and of themselves, interiorly
And dangerously, like more bad news
From the fourth estate, while, in addition,
Museum-loads of colonial rubbish
Trouble the roadside ecotones. Not-
withstanding, a view to the green-reefed ocean
Is a reflection (if at impossible angles)
Of all that might come again on land.