What The Prez Sez

Hello FOGGies, another quarter has flown by. We have had a mixture of science and volunteer work. Passive and active. Our promotion of activities is bringing guests and new members to each activity, and credit for this must go to Janbert Brewer for his efforts. We know how great our group and its activities are, now others are hearing it too. We have even made it onto  ABC Mornings! Our dedicated little group is really kicking goals at the moment.

Our first activity this quarter was Susannah Hale’s PhD research presentation “Longterm Responses to Fire and Climatic Variability in the Grampians National Park”. It is great to see the enthusiasm of someone working on a longterm project within the park. Susannah has been involved in the smoky mouse study from early on as an honours student, and has a real love for these cute little marsupials.

Cleanup Australia Day has become an institution. We are proud to do our bit within the park, and bring some attention to the rubbish problems. This year was no exception. Thanks to Caity O’Reilly (Parks Vic./CVA), and her volunteer coordinating skills, we were joined by other groups this year. It was not all icky rubbish and hard work. We also got to indulge in a little destruction, taking down hundreds of rock cairns. The builders think they are showing their inner Zen, not realizing that their impact on the environment is far from Zen! More on this later! We enjoyed a barbecue together afterwards. Thanks Caity.

Our last activity this quarter was Archeology with our own resident expert Ben Gunn. His walk and talk from the side of the Goat track was enjoyed by everyone. And the numbers were up for this activity! This shows how well Janbert’s promotion is working, aided in no small part by Ben being interviewed about the FOGG group and this activity the day before on ABC Local Radio. Ben was a founding member of the group, and it was great to have him share his expertise and local knowledge.

Our future activities for the year should prove to be no less exciting, with local experts aiding us in activities like birdwatching or insects and pests. Our next gathering on the calendar is a geology session with renowned local expert Ross Cayley. I am excited about this one, Ross is a great presenter with incredible knowledge due to passion and his position at Victorian Geological Survey. He takes great photos and explains in layman’s terms. We will even be looking at fossils on Mt. William!

I want to come back to the rock cairns on the walk to the Balconies. The purpose of national parks is conservation, education and preservation. The idea is to maintain natural areas for the population to enjoy the real world and get back to nature. Making your mark on the landscape in a national park doesn’t really fit with these aims. Especially when it involves vandalising the landscape, and destroying the homes of the native wildlife that has limited space to maintain population numbers. Exposing small mammals, reptiles and invertebrates to predation just so you can build a memorial to your own selfishness really gets under my skin. Not to mention the impact on the mosses and slow growing vegetation on an exposed mountain top rock face. But you already guessed that.

The trouble is, most of the people building their zen(?) stone piles probably don’t realise how bad their actions are for the environment that they have come to visit, and enjoy. Maybe they don’t understand the concept of the web of life. That impacting on the smallest organism can affect things further up the chain so to speak. Many might say its only about insects and slimy reptiles. But there is another organism that depends on them to survive, and another that depends on that and so on. Until it happens we never know what the impacts on the rest of the web will be.

One construction probably isn’t too bad. But when there are hundreds being built in one location everyone else thinks its okay so they do it too. This can result in lasting damage.   Unfortunately I think there needs to be signage to tell people this. Both on the wall in the visitors centre, and in the carparks of locations where it takes place. With the over stressed budget that runs the park this is not a priority. I would like to make it our priority. I feel it would be a great use of some of our funds to sponsor some signage. The one design could be used in numerous locations, and could help protect sensitive environments from damage. If people know their actions are detrimental they may not be so keen to build. And I think this is a scourge that needs to be stopped before it becomes worse.

If you think I’m wrong I can accept that, and I welcome feedback. I just feel parks are about the environment more than people and their desire to prove something about themselves by leaving their mark, and this action is no better than vandalising trains, public buildings or homes. I know I come from a very Dark Green background and want to defend the environment, but I feel that with the threat of development in national parks, dwindling budgets and the pressure of climate change, anything that detracts from the few untouched environments we have left has to be combated before things are lost!