Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

What Next for the Stock Route Network?

By Pia Lentini

Eastern Australia could lose one of its greatest environmental and heritage assets, and many of us are not even aware of it.

Pia Lentini is a PhD student working on the conservation value of travelling stock routes. She is based at the Australian National University and is part of the Environmental Decisions Group.

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Stock routes and reserves have been a feature of the Australian landscape since the mid-1800s, and are now most prominent throughout NSW and Queensland. They form a large-scale network of linear-connected roadside remnant vegetation.

Stock routes are often wider than your usual roadside reserve. They were established to provide corridors for livestock as they were walked “on the hoof” between properties – complete with watering points, forage, shade and shelter. As agriculture expanded, the vegetation within the stock routes was allowed to remain standing while vast tracts around were cleared.

Although the network is often referred to as “The Long Paddock”, there are important differences between them and the average paddock. Besides possessing a greater cover of native vegetation, stock routes have never been subjected to fertilisers and pesticides. These inputs negatively impact on native fauna and the regeneration of eucalypts.

The stock routes have also traditionally only been “crash-grazed” for short periods of time. This is a more conservation-sympathetic form of pasture management.

The emergent conservation, recreational and heritage values of the stock routes have, in some cases, superseded their pastoral role. And given that livestock are now usually transported in large trucks rather than on the hoof, authorities responsible for...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.