Welcome to FOGGS

The Friends Of Grampians Gariwerd has around 80 members. Of these members, there are about 20 locals with the remaining members coming from other parts of Victoria and some from interstate.

We work in close co-operation with the local staff of Parks Victoria. FOGGs came into existence in 1984, the same year as the Grampians was declared a National Park. Over the years we have created many joint projects we can look back on with pride.

Please feel free to explore our site to see the types of activities we undertake.

Our “Flood Recovery Works page”:http://www.foggs-online.org/articles/grampians-flood-recovery-update will provide information on the works being undertaken in the Grampians National Park to recover from the floods.

Cynthia has sent us another image – let’s let Cynthia explain:

bq. Here’s an autumnal bee for the newsletter. When looking up what the local bee species are I was utterly charmed to discover blue-banded bees and their habit of sleeping in groups, clinging with their mouths to little plant stems; and also found a scientific paper saying that using blue-banded bees as tomato pollinators results in 11-21% larger tomatoes. So this is Amegilla chlorocyanea with a tomato flower. This is the first time I’ve drawn a bee, so hopefully it’s up to snuff and doesn’t horrify any entomologists. 🙂

!http://www.foggs-online.org/images/38.png (Amegilla chlorocyanea with a tomato flower)!

This image of a Long Nosed Potoroo was donated by Cynthia Clark. You can see her motivation for this donation in our “news section”:http://www.foggs-online.org/articles/web-page-news


For some ideas on what to do while visiting the Grampians please have a look at the ==Visit Grampians You Tube Channel==.

Management Committee

h3. President: Proo Pyke

h4. Vice President:

h4. Secretary: Wendy Bedggood

h4. Treasurer: Mabel Brouwer

h4. Editor : Margo Sietsma

President’s Report June 2007

The April/May rains have been wonderful for the Grampians. It is a delight to walk through the bush particularly the burnt areas and see a host of young plants springing to life. The wildflower display should be wonderful this year.

From the newsletter you will see that we have had a very busy first six months. The Beyond The Smoke Festival was a huge success and great fun for anyone who attended any of the events. Congratulations to Margo, David and Sylvia in particular for seeing this large and very time consuming project through from beginning to end. Anyone who hasn’t yet bought the book should do so, they will be delighted with it.

While it was disappointing to see how burnt the Red Gum walk was, it was wonderful to see that Bill and Hennie’s table had survived unscathed. Those of us present felt inspired to pursue funding to rehabilitate the walk with a particular emphasise on change to the landscape over time, including the affect of fire.

From letters printed in this newsletter you will see that we have had some concerns about the implementation of the Fire Operations Plan this year. We are concerned that considerable political pressure is being exerted to increase control burning in the Park to protect private property interests and that this pressure may well override ecological considerations. I therefore encourage members to attend the discussions on the Fire Operations Plan for 2008 on Aug 3 at 3 pm. It is important
that a more reasoned voice with a genuine interest in the environmental values of the Park can be heard.

On the 31st July we are lucky to have the opportunity to be part of a simultaneous world Premier of ‘The Thin Green Line’. The Halls Gap Film Society has kindly offered their support and equipment to make this happen. Please bring family and friends; it should be a fun night and an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the work of Park Rangers across the world. All money raised will go towards supporting families of rangers killed in the line of duty.

I look forward to seeing members at future activities whether it be as trained weed spotters or just out to learn more about fungi and orchids, enjoy a cup of Ewan’s ham hock soup, sharing lunch and helping to plan for the rehabilitation of the Red Gum walk or helping Sylvia to track down the elusive threatened species in the Park.

From the Parkes Desk June 2007

*Rain brings new challenges*

Much needed and welcome rain in May has resulted in significant damage to roads in the Grampians, particularly in the fire affected area. Increased runoff has put enormous pressure on drains and culverts, causing a number of washouts. The most serious damage has been experienced along Mitchell Road and Asses Ears Road. Following temporary works, Mitchell Road is now open, but restoration work is still required on Asses Ears Road.

*Fire Recovery Works*

Early opening saw the long awaited re-opening of the Pinnacle walking track. Feedback from visitors and locals alike has been very positive. The new track provides a safer more sustainable walking experience and is a tribute to the efforts of the fire recovery crew.

Contracts have been let for the replacemement of the residence and toilets at Mackenzie Falls, which were both destroyed in last year’s fire. An energy efficient single storey structure will replace the historic residence built by the Cranage family. Works are planned to commence in July and be completed by Christmas.

Works are almost complete on the construction of toilets at Kalymna Picnic Area, Mafeking and Jimmy Creek. Other restoration works have commenced at Jimmy Creek, including replacement of fencing and signage, and repairs to the walking bridge. Other site works at Kalymna and Mafeking are planned to commence soon with the aim of opening the three sites for the spring holiday period.

*Fire Operations Plan*

Parks Victoria, in conjunction with DSE, has commenced the development of the 2007-2010 Fire Operations Plan for the Grampians National Park and Black Range State Park. A draft plan will be released for public comment in August to assist the finalisation of the plan in September.
The public comment period is the opportunity for any individuals and groups to contribute to the planning process. For any information about the Fire Operations Planning process, please contact Dave Handscombe or Mike Stevens.

*Community Partnerships*

A number of working bees have been carried out over the last three months. These include a joint effort by PV and the Victorian Climbing Club to strengthen the track and instal a boardwalk at Bundaleer, and a Walking Track Support Group weekend on the Boronia Peak Track. The Grampians is fortunate in attracting great interest from volunteer groups and individuals and good coordination of these efforts creates better results. Recently a volunteer, Emily Barnes, has joined our team to help coordinate volunteers over the winter months. During the summer Emily is one of our Project Fire Fighters based at Halls Gap. Emily can be contacted on Mon, Thurs and Friday on 53614029.

Letter to the Parliamentary Enquiry into the management of public land

I first submitted this as a personal submission, but it was subsequently endorsed by the committee as representing the view of the FOGG committee. We have been invited to speak to the inquiry on July 3. The same submission was also sent to the “People’s Review”. Judging from the tenor of that review it seems unlikely that it was popular and I have not received any response from them.

bq.. I wish to make several observations about the Mt Lubra fire, particularly the policies and practices of Parks Vic and DSE prior to the fires.

* While there are always things that may have been done better, I do not agree that any blame for the Mt Lubra fire should be levelled at the local park management, or DSE or indeed the CFA. It was a tragedy both for the Park and the surrounding countryside that the fire was so fast and so fierce. We all grieve for the loss of human and animal life, the homes, the businesses, the rare habitats. I wish that it could have been prevented. But because of the prolonged drought, the weather before and during the fire, and the terrain, I do not believe that once the fire started that any different plan of attack would have made much difference. It must be remembered planned burns in the previous years had had to be cancelled because of the prolonged dry weather; access tracks were not an issue; and this fire spotted so far ahead that wider fire breaks would have been of no use.

* It is important to note that the Stawell Deep Lead fire of December 31, just 2 weeks earlier and also probably started by a lightning strike, travelled at a similar fast rate first through privately owned grazing country, then through forest which had little ground fuel because it was regularly available for firewood collection. This fire also crossed the western highway and both the Stawell- Halls Gap and the Stawell- Pomonal roads, destroying homes and pastures.

* While I welcome community consultation and input into fire operations planning, it is most important that the informed views of those people within government departments with specialist knowledge are given appropriate weight. It is very understandable that local groups, both pro and anti current burning regimes, want their voices heard – they do indeed have years of valuable local knowledge, but decision making must balance folk knowledge with current research and information from further afield.

* Fire clearly has an important role in the cycle of the Australian bush. There is still a lot be learned about optimal fire regimes. Quality monitoring pre and post burns is vitally important and the government must budget sufficient funds for this work.

* Unfortunately there is a community perception that Park staff and “greenies” are against controlled burns. While this may have had some validity a few years ago, it is not true now. But what is important is that the burning, particularly in zones 2 and 3, is done in a manner that minimises the damage to the environment, and where possible, enhances the environment. The guidelines on suitable conditions for ignition should be adhered to in order to ensure that the Park has a patchwork of vegetation of different ages.

I do not want this submission to be lengthy so will close with a couple of further points.

* I have huge admiration for the efforts of the fire fighters. The discipline and dedication of both the CFA and the DSE teams was great.

* The work done by the counsellors from agencies such as Grampians Community Health Centre, the Shires, and the churches, and the services provided by the Emergency Services Commissioner and his staff were very necessary and very well done.

* Fire recovery works carried out in the GNP to date have been excellent,but further funding is desperately needed in order to complete these works. The damage caused by a fire of this magnitude cannot be rectified in a single year, and while work remains undone areas of the Park stay closed. In fact recently 15 fire recovery crew members who were employed rebuilding damaged infrastructure were stood down with less than 50% of the asset replacement program completed. This is a great National Park, one that is now listed as a world heritage site. It is vital that funding be made available for restoration works to be completed as soon as possible so that the Park can be completely re-opened.

* Ongoing research into the effects of the fire on different ecological systems is an essential tool for better understanding of fire management. Adequate funding for this must be provided on a long term basis.

Letter to Ian Voigt, Regional director DSE

bq.. Dear Ian,

I wish to raise some concerns on behalf of FOGGS over the implementation of the FOP this year.

On Friday last week when we heard of the intention to burn the Lynch’s Crossing block on the following Sunday, I contacted a number of both DSE and PV staff. The more people I spoke to the more concerned I became with the process.

I was told that the Wannon River Crossing burn had been a hot burn, crowning at times and resulted in a 95% burn. While I understand that burns will sometimes burn hotter and more completely than was anticipated I was surprised to be told that this was in fact a very good outcome, and although The Fire Protection Plan (July 2006) states that the burn should be “up to 80%” this really means 80% is the minimum aimed for. When I enquired as to what was intended by a Zone 3 fire being “approximately 50%” I was told that it didn’t mean 50 ? 10 %, but once again, this was the minimum that would be aimed for.

We believe this is very misleading to the general public who see prescribed burns as cool burns undertaken to reduce fuel loads, and that the stated guidelines are used to determine the timing of a burn. While we understand that this is not an exact science and sometimes burns will be hotter than anticipated we believe these guidelines need to underpin the decisions to burn.

We are not unsympathetic to the dilemma faced by public land managers during these unprecedented dry conditions. We certainly see the need to carry out controlled burns to reduce the spread of catastrophic wild fires. At the same time we need to recognise that native populations are also under enormous stress. Bird monitoring in the Wimmera has shown a marked decline in the number of birds present, and there is every reason to believe this will be mirrored across most natural populations.

Lynch’s Crossing is almost 70% Zone 4, with the remainder Zone 3. It contains a third of the habitat for heath mouse and bandicoot in the area and has half the ‘long unburnt’ forest of the area, therefore it would seem essential to ensure that this be a cool patchy burn.

We are concerned that the intention to bring the burning of Lynch’s Crossing ahead by a year and plan to burn it last Sunday because other areas were too dry did not give either proper consideration to the guidelines for Zone 3 burns, or the ecological values of the area.

We therefore request that all future burns be carried out according to the Fire Operation Plan and that the zones to be burnt are treated according to the Fire Protection Plan.

Yours sincerely

Prue Pyke

p. We received an answer to this letter from Ian, noting the challenges the DSE face in conducting burns in very dry years, and an intention to clarify the percentage statement.

To our relief, the weather co-operated and the burn did not go ahead as planned. As you can see in the diary, we plan a meeting with DSE Horsham in late July to look at the new Fire Operations Plan.

Letter to John Thwaites (cc Mark Stone, Graham Parkes)

Dear Mr Thwaites,

Friends of the Grampians Gariwerd would like to thank your Government for the support given to the Beyond Smoke Festival which is proving to be very successful and engaging many members of the communities affected by the fire very positively.

We would also like to raise our concerns over the funding for the Grampians National Park. We agree with the recent findings of the bipartisan Senate Report which has recommended a significant boost in federal and state funding for National Parks.

Our first concern is the lack of funding to support the biodiversity interests within the Park. There is a severe lack of funding to support ongoing monitoring and management of ecosystems within the Park. This is of particular concern with the increased pressure to carry out prescribed burns on public land while we don’t yet know the affect on the biodiversity of the most recent fire in the Park. There is insufficient funding to carry out the necessary research to determine the effects of fire.

Our second concern is that we believe a decision has been taken to discontinue funding casual fire recovery positions. This seems to us to be a very short sighted decision when there is still so much fire recovery work to be done to even approach the level of infrastructure existing prior to the fire.

The walking track crew has developed into a skilled work team that has done excellent work on tracks such as the Pinnacle track. It seems a crime to loose this talent when there are still so many tracks which need to be rehabilitated.
This decision is not only going to be bad for tourism in the area but is going to result in greater costs as more people start to use the damaged tracks. Multiple tracks are inevitably created, causing greater erosion, biodiversity damage and safety hazards.

Permanent staff who are already overworked and suffering from the strain that the fire has placed on everyone connected to the Park will have increased workload due to the loss of other fire recovery casual staff who have become skilled and knowledgeable in volunteer support and coordination, interpretation and admin duties.

What is the future for National Parks when their management cannot be properly funded, even in such good economic times?

We request that you urgently reconsider the decision to cease funding the casual fire recovery staff at this time and undertake a review of the staffing of the Park particularly in light of the Senates recent recommendations.

Yours sincerely
Prue Pyke
President FOGGs

We received an answer to this letter from Rocky Barca, the acting Regional manager, agreeing that the work achieved had been first rate, expecting that there would be money for the completion of a Fire Ecology strategy for the park, and stating that they were clarifying the allocation of resources for the new financial year. However, this clarification was not in time to save the casual fire recovery positions. Some very valuable staff have had to go.