From social, economic, biodiversity and connectivity conservation perspectives the Hunter Valley is one of the most complex areas of the Great Eastern Ranges.
The area contains a diverse range of unique and rich ecosystems. But, this very special landscape is under significant risk. Since non-Indigenous settlement the area has become increasingly degraded and fragmented, and is at increasing risk due to rapidly expanding agricultural, industrial and urban development. The landscape may be placed under additional strain as a substantial proportion of the valley floor is earmarked for coal exploration and possible mining over the next 30–50 years.
Due to a natural gap in the Great Eastern Ranges at the head of the Hunter Valley it's one of only three areas on the eastern seaboard of Australia where inland ecosystems stretch down to the coast.
The Hunter Valley represents a significant east-west linkage of natural vegetation in the Great Eastern Ranges, with the potential for north-south 'stepping stones' of vegetation to allow species movement.
An elevated plateau around the town of Merriwa. The Stepping Stones project will target 213 km of riparian links on properties along the Munmurra, Krui, Bow and Merriwa Rivers with the aim of linking the Liverpool Ranges, Coolah Tops and Towarri National Parks to Goulburn River and Wollemi National Parks in the south.
Muswellbrook Local Government Area. Covering 1,461 hectares in the Muswellbrook Shire the Stepping Stones project is targeting connections between large patches of extant vegetation and the key public reserves of Wollemi National Park, Manobalai Nature Reserve and Barrington Tops National Park. Contact Kirsten McKimmie.
Donaldson Conservation Trust Area. The Lower Hunter Donaldson Conservation Trust Area (DCTA) covers 10,000 hectares. The project will focus on creating stepping stones and links on the private land component of the area and aims to create key links between Watagans National Park, Pambalong Nature Reserve and Hexham Swamp Nature Reserve. Contact Jaci Tebb.