Winter 2007

What a busy quarter it was! We had the launch of our book
“Beyond the Smoke”:http://www.foggs-online.org/articles/activity-report-1 and the associated events; there were a number of TSG(Threatened Species Group) activities, plus our own activities, and we had quite a lot of correspondence on fire related issues. The FOGG committee has seen a need to make a number of “submissions”:http://www.foggs-online.org/articles/?c=Submission-Letters relating to fire in the Grampians National Park.

As stated in Stan’s “Red-gum Walk Inspection”:http://www.foggs-online.org/articles/Red-gum+Walk+Inspection we decided to apply for a PV Community Grant to restore the Red Gum (McInnes) Walks.

We also combined with the Halls Gap Historical Society to apply to the Federal Department of the Environment and Heritage for money for archival storage and administrative assistance. We have just heard that we received some money, but we do not yet have the details.

We have received a flyer for a Box Ironbark Ecology Course at Nagambie in October. Cost $1200.

We are still planning activities quarter by quarter, as the impact of the fires still needs to be taken into account, particularly in monitoring and recovery activities.

_Please note that all Threatened Species Group (TSG) activities require RSVP to Sylvia on 5361 4001. Other activities do not require an RSVP but it is helpful for planning. Unless otherwise indicated, activities are cancelled on days of total fire ban._

_Planning to come to an event from Melbourne?_ Ring the contact person re potential for a car pool.

*ADVISORY GROUP REPORT*

The AG met on May 25. We were given updates on the fire recovery works and re – affirmed our desire for an emphasis on environmental monitoring. We expressed our admiration for the new Pinnacle track, the stone work and particularly the new loop track, and heard of preliminary investigations into a long North to South walk. This is only a suggestion at this stage, there are no funds committed to it. We also discussed whether there are better ways for the AG to increase the flow of information both ways between park management and the public. The next meeting will be on the Fire Operations Plan in early August, but I will be an apology.

*NEW WEB PAGE*
www.foggs-online.org

After too long in limbo, we finally have a web presence, or will have within days. Frank van der Peet has very kindly offered to set it up for us. On his advice we have started afresh completely, with pages that will be much more easy to update. The old one could only be updated by someone who had the special software installed. This time only knowledge of the password is needed, so any of the committee will be able to edit material. Which means that it can become a way of communicating information between newsletters, or even in place of snail mail newsletters.

*NEW BROCHURE*

Another overdue project comes to fruition. FOGGS members David Fletcher and Miriam Gunn have put their talents to work to produce a “new brochure”:http://www.foggs-online.org/articles/foggs-brochure and membership application form. One copy is included, and more are available from our secretary. Please help us extend our membership.

There are many people who love our Park and want to see it protected, who have not joined us yet.

The Spring newsletter will still go out in the mail to everyone, but thereafter you should be able to choose how you receive it.
Please check if your membership expires this month. Some of you may have paid already until June 08, some of you are behind, but most of you are due to renew your membership.

TSG Activities March – June 2007

MARCH 15 Daviesia Laevis count/establishment of monitoring transect.
This quarter’s only successful search for a threatened species. During a pre- Mt lubra fire excursion, one sole, quite old, specimen of this endemic Bitter pea had been found on a site on the slopes of Mt William. Then it was burnt. But to our delight we found a large number of healthy looking seedlings scattered in an area probably 10 m x 20 m. A transect was established for future monitoring by DSE.

MARCH Sat 24th & Sun 25th Threatened Species Group GRAMPIANS PINCUSHION-LILY SURVEY (Borya mirabilis)
A number of members assisted in this weekend activity searching for this Nationally Endangered plant in the Black Range State Park, but without success.

MAY 26. Noushka Reiter of RMIT spoke on her research into Borya mirabilis, particularly her attempts to propagate it and its refusal to co-operate.

JUNE 21st LONG CLUBMOSS (Huperzia varia). On a cold, foggy, wet day five of us assisted Sylvia in searching for this moss near Mt Thackeray, once more without success. However it was just beautiful to experience an old fashioned wintry day. Vivid mosses and lichens, flowering epacris, masses of Grampians Boronia in bud, tall greenhoods starting to emerge. Not to mention puddles, slippery rocks and rain spattered binoculars.

Red-gum Walk Inspection

h4. Report by Stan Parfett – MAY 12

*Purpose of the day:-* To survey the damage sustained in the January 2006 Grampians “Mt Lubra” wild fire and what action is required to re-commission the “Red-gum Walk” for disabled and other people.

Six members of FOGG attended along with Park Ranger Mike Stevens. We walked both circuits with Prue and Mike making notes as we proceeded.

There is no signage left indicating the location of the Red-gum Walk, the bollards and railings surrounding the 6 bay car park plus the interpretive shelter are no longer there. However “Bill Neve’s” red-gum picnic table and seats are untouched by the fire. The information and walk diagram is still in place at the start of the walk pathways and affected by the fire but is still partially readable.

The arborists employed by Parks Victoria have been through and marked the trees deemed to be dangerous, which must be removed before the Red-gum Walk can be reopened to the public. This task of removing these trees is beyond the ability of the FOGG members.

The red buck-shot gravel pathways are traceable. We found a few of the previous interpretive signs still in place with some still readable, but most of their subjects are not recognizable. The large hollow red-gum tree which the longer “blue” pathway passed through is down, but the path can still pass through the remaining butt. The “yellow” shorter wheelchair walk has some VERY large trees across it, but should have the pathway cut through them, rather than have very heavy equipment brought in to move them out of the way.

There is very little sign of the thistle that lined the paths previously. The native grasses and mosses are regenerating along with numerous varieties of tree seedlings. Several healthy Kennedia prostrata (Running Postman) were noted beside the tracks with colonies of fungi doing well and small birds returning to the area.

FOGG members along with Park staff will have to rethink the interpretive format for the walks, taking in the environment, indigenous and European history and fire recovery. It is an important project, as there are very few out and about walking activities in the Grampians National Park that cater for the disadvantaged and not so fit public.

All in attendance agreed that the “Red-gum Walk” is redeemable with the help of public grants for the tree removal, signage etc; and voluntary labour. It was decided to attempt to secure a grant for this from Parks Victoria’s Community Grants Scheme.

Burning Questions – TSG Presentation (April 21)

h3. Burning questions

h4. Report by David Thompson.

Marc Bellette researcher from University of Melbourne School of Social & Environmental Enquiry attracted a sizable audience to his presentation of Fire Ecology in the heathy woodlands, Grampians National Park”. Marc is a PhD student studying grasstrees (Xanthorrhoea) and has been associated with Professor Neal Enright’s longitudinal study of plant communities reaction to fires. The presentation summarized the results of 40 annual field trips to Mount Zero by university students and staff studying the ecological effects of fire interval on species diversity and composition.

The study shows an increase in biodiversity following fire. This increase in biodiversity can be attributed to factors of seed drop, germination enhancement, increased nutrition, opening of the canopy and individual species specific response to fire. However there was no comparison to climax or senescing communities to determine the long term impact of fire over the lifetime of their longest lived species. The full report is available by email request to Sylvia.

While there is unequivocal evidence that some species depend on fire to persist in the area, the biodiversity is not a simple relationship between fire frequency and environmental health. For instance Marc’s study of Xanthorrhoea suggests that their response to fire is a fortuitous alignment of their evolutionary history of propagation rather than an adapted response to fire. To paraphrase that intellectual giant Donald Rumsfeld “The more we know the more we know we don’t know.”

Given the social and political pressure to burn greater areas of our park more often, it is imperative that the consequences of the burning regime be placed under scrutiny and not couched in terms of ecological benefit. There can be no justification of burning as an ecological necessity without the comprehensive scientific surveys, before and after burning and long term monitoring. The current fuel reduction burning doesn’t satisfy scientific rigour, a deficiency I believe we will regret in the future.

I congratulate Melbourne University on their commitment to this long-term study. It adds to greater understanding of our environment and indicates the great complexity and dynamism of nature. Good science is indispensable to proper conservation strategies.

Report on Macropod Research

APRIL Tuesday 10th: Jeff Weir, our Canadian Exchange Ranger talked to us on his time here over the past two summers, particularly on his work on macropod research. Mike Stevens also spoke on the results of the mammal trapping surveys in the Park. Jeff has been looking at the changes in numbers of grey kangaroos, black wallabies and redneck wallabies. There were no real surprises in his findings. Their value is that they are a structured quantified report and hopefully will lead to more research and action. To summarise briefly: numbers of kangaroos well inside the Park appear to be fairly static, numbers on the interface of Park and private property have increased dramatically, except where farmers are controlling numbers. Numbers of red neck wallabies are also fairly static, but numbers of black wallabies have absolutely exploded. The question is; why? And at whose expense? Will they oust the redneck wallabies? How will they affect the re introduction of brush tailed rock wallabies?
Mike presented the results of the spring mammal trapping in both burnt and unburnt areas of the Park. Annual counts have been undertaken in several plots for some years now, so there are good pre-Mt Lubra figures for comparison. As to be expected there has been a dramatic drop in numbers in the burnt areas, and the drought too has had an impact. However in a new monitoring plot in a place burnt three years ago, there are signs of potoroo and other small mammals. The monitoring team have been pleasantly surprised at the high number of lizards found in the burnt areas.

Beyond the Smoke book & festival

MARCH Friday 30th saw the launch of Beyond the Smoke book at Willaura. A really memorable and inspiring night. Over 300 people attended from all sides of the Park, including some deeply suspicious of “greenies”. A few speeches, including by Bruce Esplin Emergency Services Commissioner and Danny Lannen who conducted the interviews. Music was provided by Rose Bygraves, Fay White and friends, Nick Shirrefs and the Jazz Traders with some pieces especially created for the occasion, and the Gariwerd choir under the leadership of Fay White with all original Grampians songs composed after the fires (their CD was also launched that night and is available from Janet 5356 4300).
This whole issue could be filled with reports from Beyond the Smoke – we had a travelling art exhibition, a science exhibition, drama and music events, workshops – but there is so much else to tell you about. We still have books for sale (in Halls Gap from Brambuk, in Melbourne from the VNPA and Unichurch Books). We are now in the black with all final costs in, and will be able to make some donations. 70% to SHARE appeal who so generously helped with the book and the festival for use in other bushfire-affected areas, and 30% to FOGGs for monitoring and recovery works. Anyone who wants a CD with the detailed final report can have one. Contact Sylvia.

Membership Entitlements

Membership of FOGG entitles you to:

  • Receive a newsletter 4 times a year keeping you up to date with FOGG activities and developments in the Park.
  • Join in a wide range of activities, including:
    • Field days to improve your knowledge of the park – its flora, fauna, geology, indigenous culture, history etc.
    • Guided Nature walks
    • Assist with research in the Park
    • Meetings with Park Management
    • Information evenings to improve your understanding of the park
    • Monitoring endangered species in the park
    • Social get-togethers
    • Monitoring of and removal of weeds in the park
    • Track maintenance and development.

The Grampians National Park

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The Grampians National Park is situated in Western Victoria, about 3½ hours drive from Melbourne. It is 100 km’s from North to South and 50 km’s from East to West. It contains three mountain ranges which rise majestically from broad plains: Mount Difficult Range, Sierra Range and Victoria Range.Within the Park can be found the largest collection of Aboriginal Art Sites in Victoria, an abundance of native animals and birds, and amazing wildflowers.

Halls Gap is the busiest tourist town with accommodation also available in Pomonal, Dunkeld and Wartook.

The major local towns are Stawell, Hamilton and Horsham.