The Desert Uplands Region covers 75,000 square kilometers of Outback Queensland. Straddling the Great Dividing Range and between coastal and inland catchments, this elevated landscape has created unique internally draining lakes and is the headwaters of two major catchments (the Burdekin and Lake Eyre Basin) that almost split the region in half, north-south.
The region extends to the north of the Flinders Highway near Torrens Creek whilst the southern boundary is approximately 50 km north west of Tambo. The area is bounded by a line from Blackall to Hughenden through Barcaldine in the west and the Belyando River in the east. Towns within the Desert Uplands are Barcaldine, Jericho, Alpha, Hughenden, Prairie, Torrens Creek, Pentland, Aramac, and Muttaburra.
The area of interest to the committee is broadly based on the Desert Uplands Biogeography Region as identified in the Interim Biogeography Regionalisation of Australia (Thackeray and Creswell, 1995). This report identifies the area as covering some 68,000 km2. The identified area was increased to 75,000 km2 to allow for properties which are not entirely covered within the biogeography region. In 1994 the region produced approximately $366.5 million of agricultural product.
The term ‘desert' is used to describe the bioregion because of the abundance of spinifex, a hardy, spiny-leaved tussock forming grass common to the drier inland areas of Australia and the predominant red coloured soils, along with the semi-arid climate. Although the soils are sandy, the area is well covered with native trees, shrubs and grasses, unlike the traditional view of a desert comprising loose, slow moving sand dunes. The red earths of the Desert Uplands are morphologically and chemically similar to the soils of the Mulga lands.
The Desert Uplands Bioregion is characterised by hard, red sandy soils with relatively low fertility. Sandstone ridges and sand plains dominate the landscape, supporting predominantly native pastures, including; spinifex (Triodia pungens spp.), wire grasses (Aristida spp.), and small patches of Mitchell grass (Astrebla spp.). Buffel (Cenchrus ciliaris) grass, an introduced pasture species can be found throughout the region. The majority of the area is heavily timbered with species such as Desert oak (Acacia coriacea), Gidyea (Acacia cambagei), Box (Eucalyptus populnea), Ironbark (Eucalyptus melanophloia), Yellow Jacket (Eucalyptus similis), and a number of Wattles (Acacia spp.).
Sandstone ranges and sand and clay plains dominate, with Mitchell grasslands in the west and narrow patches of Brigalow in the east. To the north the region abuts granite ranges and basalt tablelands. To the south the sandstone continues into the Carnavon Ranges.
Approximately 6000 people reside within the Desert Uplands, living and working on pastoral properties and towns within the region. The predominant primary industry is cattle grazing, with smaller areas of mining, and conservation.
Approximately 1,200 individual land parcels have been identified in the Desert Uplands region; these are amalgamated into about approximately 320 properties. Properties in the Desert Uplands have an average size of between 20,000 and 25,000 ha. The median property size is 13,300 to 18,900 ha.