Someone like Steve

Published on:
Wednesday, 8 November, 2023

“It’s not just a road verge…”

If you are in the Shire of Jerramungup and see a road crew truck drive around a termite mound it is the work of Mr Steve Elson.

Steve Elson, Senior Environmental Officer, and Gordon Capelli, Manager of Works, from the Shire of Jerramungup, recently presented a case study about road reserve management techniques, when WALGA recently hosted a Roadside Vegetation Management workshop in Manjimup.  Fifty people across 10 Local and 4 State Government departments attended.  

“We needed to get everybody on board about reducing the clearing of habitats,” Mr Elson says.
Mr Elson has been the Shire of Jerramungup’s ecologist for 14 years, and during this time has had a tangible impact on the culture of roadside vegetation management.

“It’s not just a road verge, it has echoed out,” Mr Elson explains.

“The crew refrain from any clearing and opt for low impact. The crew create habitat through measures such as placing materials such as hollow logs in places where species like eagles will use them.”

Jerramungup manages over 2600 kms of road reserves, comprising some of the most significant ecosystems in the Great Southern.

Mr Elson has a strong focus on education. In 2018, the works crew completed their training in Certificate II Conservation and Land Management, leading to an understanding on working in environmentally sensitive areas, on how critical road reserves are in maintaining biodiversity.

Prior to starting his new role as Manager of Works, Gordon Capelli was on the trucks for 16 years. Mr Capelli has seen a massive culture shift in the works crew which he credits to Mr Elson.

“Where we were 17 years ago to where we are now is unbelievable. Steve’s passion for the environment; all the shires should have someone like Steve,” he says.

Thanks to Mr Elson the guys in the grader trucks are citizen scientists. They drive around termite mounds because they know they are important habitat for birds and lizards. They take photographs of Mallee Fowls, Boobook Owls, and text Mr Elson when they see an echidna. One of the works crew, Jaime Turner, recently identified a new population of Queen of Sheba orchids, one of the rarest plants on earth!

The Shire of Jerramungup plans on making their ecologically skilled works crew business as usual; all new works crew will be trained in Certificate II Conservation and Land Management, with Mr Elson believing that “Other Shires can do the same thing.”

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