Editor’s Piece

Our next activity is coming up very soon, Sunday October 16 – a wildflower walk near Lake Fyans to which we are inviting people who have come to the lake to celebrate its 100th birthday. Our AGM was to have been October 15 but due to a host of problems with getting this newsletter ready we have postponed it to November. Details for October 16 and November 19  are on the calendar page, but I do want to emphasise the importance of our AGM where we will be electing officebearers, hoping to continue with mixing newcomers and longer term members. It is vital that we ensure that we remain relevant to both our longterm members and newcomers.

Please note that if you have not renewed your membership your period of grace has expired and this will be your last newsletter. Our Park needs Friends in so many areas. We always have advocated on behalf of the Park, we have given feedback to management, we have sought to educate the public. But there are always new challenges and new opportunities and your membership is important in our advocacy role, even if you find it difficult to come to our activities.

What the Prez Sez

It’s been an action packed time in the Grampians lately.

Snow, Rain, floods, spring and everything that goes with it.

It’s always a great time of year, seeing young coming out of the pouch, flowers blooming, and plant growth you can see if you watch for a moment. I love it. It’s a great time to be out and about. In the natural world!

The FOGGs are facilitating a project to document the history and work of the founding members of the Stawell Field Naturalists Club. Names familiar to us like Ian McCann, Win Pietch, Dave Munro and others. The plan is to interview them, their families and their colleagues in arms, or to make use of previously recorded interviews. Filming these people in their homes, or in the environment they dedicated their time to studying and learning about. We have a group of 3 very enthusiastic people, who are finding more and more excitement for the project the more time they put in. I am proud that as a group we can support a project like this. There is great knowledge and some great projects have been completed by the Field Nats. We need to record that for posterity, and to help future environmentalists find common ground/enthusiasm for the future. To give them an example to aspire too! I will admit that there is a wistfulness in me that wishes the same could be done for some now deceased founders of our own group. But maybe that’s selfish on my part.

Those who attended our wildflower walkabout had a great time, and saw some great flowers. We had a couple of our dedicated  students come to interview Dave and film his interaction with the group, sharing his knowledge. They were impressed, not just by Dave, but the knowledge of everyone present. I think they now understand why the passion and dedication of interested amateurs should be recorded for future generations. It was gratifying to show someone a few sparse orchids and see the excitement. It was even better when the girls got their own “orchid eyes” on and started to point them out to us. “Don’t step there” “there’s one there too” “look a whole patch of them” it was like a switch, suddenly they got it, they became part of the enthusiastic group instead of just documenting it. That moment is why I love being a FOGG, help introduce someone to new wonders and fascination with the small things in the natural environment.

Our August activity meandering round the Victoria Valley Redgum country was small but enjoyed by all. There were not too many flowers out, but there were some great views of mirrored wetlands, huge old trees that have silently observed the passage of time, and waterfalls that left us spellbound in childlike appreciation. Native and feral animals crossing the roads, birds serenading from the trees, grasses nodding to us as we passed. Then there was a working bee too. A minor price to pay for an enchanting time in the valley.

Our upcoming AGM will be a chance to participate in the decision making of the group, nominate members to the committee and vote on office bearers. If you have a bit of spare time to help out we would love to have you. If you are interested make sure another member knows so they can nominate you. A couple of our long term office bearers would like to bow out and enjoy their retirement, and we need to bring in fresh enthusiasm to keep the group moving forward and attracting members. I hope I have served you well in my term as president. I have loved every moment and am even more proud of the achievements of the group now that I have seen the inner sanctum. If nominated again I will accept. If you want to nominate someone, it’s a wise idea to check with them before putting them up in the meeting.

Bill Gardiner and myself represented FOGG’s at a hastily organised meeting with Park management and interest groups with a stake in the Northern Grampians area. They were looking for input on matters like walking track usage, car park facilities, campsites and access issues. We were also given an update on the Grampians Peaks Trail, and asked for input to some of the planning. Representatives included the rock climbing fraternity, outdoor education, Wimmera 4wd club and some of the businesses adjacent to the park. Stapleton campground reopening is coming! But it has to match Parks Victoria’s standards before it can be opened. And that includes Redgum Bollards to keep tents separate from vehicles. And that is the big holdup. There is not much Redgum available at the moment, and until the bollards are in place for public safety, closed it shall be. I get the public safety thing, but it’s still frustrating.

The impact of heavy rain in the region has been felt within the park and many places around it. For those who attended the Wildflower day at our house, you will be glad it wasn’t a week later. Smiths Rd was destroyed by the flow of water, and impassable to anything but an amphibious tank! At one point the floodgates were opened on Lake Wartook, and the inflow was still greater than the floodgates can release, and the water was flowing over the spillway too. It would have been great to see McKenzie Falls with that flow, but I couldn’t get there, as the northern Grampians road was underwater, and closed for public safety. This leads me to my gripe! Roads are closed for public safety, and to limit damage while they are fragile due to saturation. The people who make these decisions don’t do it lightly. Your ability to use your normal route, or your need to make money is not relevant to that! Suppose the road has eroded under the water. You can’t see it from the surface, you don’t know the risks. Driving on it could cause a collapse. You certainly shouldn’t drive through floodwaters, no mater how well you know the road. Someone leaving the road in flood waters at Zumsteins could suddenly find them self in 10 feet of water trapped in a car! Then rescuers risk their life for someone else. For that reason the experts close the road for everyone’s safety. Is a few drownings worth it so a business can make money, or a tough guy in a 4wd can prove themself? If a sign says road closed its closed for a reason. Stay out, and stop whining about how it impacts you!

It is a difficult balance for management with private businesses wanting to use the park, school groups and volunteers. Tourists, campers and 4wheel drivers all having slightly different needs. And all thinking their own impact is minimal. That is the most difficult part of the balance. If we enter the park we impact on it. Managing or confining that impact for the sake of the environment the park exists to protect is all important. But if people can’t visit and use the park, how do they know it should be protected? How do future generations develop an appreciation of the natural world? What is the minimum required for public safety? There is so much to balance when making decisions, and allotting funds, especially when some of those funds are only available for one part of a project and not its continuation. I don’t envy park management. It’s a tough gig!

I would like to finish off with a little tale from the Wimmera biodiversity seminar. A standard feature of the seminar is a short bus trip. As we were hosted in Dimboola this year that trip took us to the shores of the famous Pink Lake. And it was incredibly pink at the time. After walking and talking along the edge, looking at plants and wildlife and the ways the indigenous people used the lake we came to the waters edge. Uncle Ron Marks encouraged us to strip off our shoes and socks and walk into the lake. No one took the offer. But I did! Trousers rolled up I waded in. The salt crust massages your feet, the water was sun warmed and caressing my legs. The smell of salt cleared my airways, while the reflections of a dead flat surface were a balm to the soul. 150 metres from shore it was still only about calf deep. I stopped and looked back at the shore and the people standing there and missing out. I relearned a valuable lesson right there. Nature is real. Remove your shoes and socks and walk around in it. Feel it between your toes, splash it on your body and enjoy it, listen to it, taste it. Never forget that experience, because that is being truly alive!

Cheers

Rod

From Our Rangers

The last few weeks have been so frantic for our ranger staff. The very welcome rain has also brought with it many road closures and delays to planned works due to open for the school holidays. So I haven’t been game to ask Dave Roberts to write something this time, but I do have reports from Tammy and Ryan.

From Tammy Schoo: 

Well its certainly been a wet Spring! Parks Staff have been busy throughout the past few weeks assessing impacts from heavy rainfall, ensuring closures are in place for public safety, repairing immediate safety issues and working to pull together timely information updates for communities and businesses. At this stage the rain is set to continue so we would ask all locals and visitors to be aware of the following:

The parks unsealed road network is very soft. In some areas heavy rain and fast flowing water has caused washouts, impacted drains and culverts and removed surface gravel. While we wait for the land to begin to dry out, there are some road closures are in place. These are there to protect your safety—please do not drive around them. Culverts, floodways and creek crossings may be damaged and roadsides are so soft that attempting to turn around could mean you get bogged. Also, sodden soils have increased the risk of tree fall, especially during excessive winds. Be mindful of this when setting up camp or while out visiting the park. Ongoing rainfall may see temporary closures of roads and walking tracks, however most popular sites are currently open. For the latest list of what’s open and closed in the park please visit :
http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/grampians-nationalpark

In Other News…

This week we welcome a new member to the team. Rick Shiner will commence as a member of the roading crew (couldn’t start at a better time really!!) Rick has a great deal of experience working with plant and machinery and if you see him out on the roads in the tractor or grader please give him a wave.

All this rainfall has helped with the movement of aquatic animals. Mark Backman from Nature Glenelg Trust has reported a new Platypus sighting just inside the National Park at Gooseneck swamp. Rainfall events can assist animals to discover new territories.

We are currently surveying for threatened species in the Ararat Hills. If you are interested in assisting please contact Caity OReilly on 0428 553 040 or email

Parks Victoria, with the help of the Friends of Grampians Gariwerd recently participated in the Spring Park BioBlitz. This state-wide activity saw junior ranger members, local community and holiday makers sign up with the Inaturalist App on their smartphones then record and upload sightings of native species at particular locations throughout their local parks. The Grampians designated walk was Venus Baths and there were a number of interesting species found. You can still utilise the app at any time when out and about. All you do is upload a photo and specialists will help I.D. what you have found. Search for the inaturalist app in your app store.

FIRE RECOVERY
In exciting news, Stapylton campground reopened for the school holidays! Always popular with
schools and families, the new campground has sites that cater for groups of up to 16 (or more) at a time, vehicle based camper trailer and campervan sites, standard tent sites and also provides three wheelchair accessible sites.

Works continue to stabilise the walls of the Zumsteins cottages while the protective roof structure is being built off-site. Mackenzie Falls redevelopment plans will be available for community feedback in the coming weeks.

Walking track crews are about to start on the Briggs Bluff walking track.

Reeds Lookout carpark will be closed for resurfacing works during the last week of October.

The Balconies Walking track will be closed for three weeks from October 11th.

Goat control activities (using firearms) will continue throughout the Park.

Grampians Peak Trail

Planning continues to forge ahead particularly around trailhead locations. The next phase of
works will be along existing track footprints. Earmarked for temporary closures in the coming
months whilst upgrades are completed are the Major Mitchell Plateau and Stapylton Loop walks. Further information will be available closer to the date.

 

Closed walking tracks/visitor sites
? Western half of the Mt Stapylton Loop walking track
? Ngamadjidj Shelter
? Gulgurn Manja Art Shelter
? Mt Difcult overnight walks
? Briggs Blu?
? Golton Gorge

Closed campgrounds
? Boreang Campground
? Kalymna Campground and Waterfall
? Troopers Creek Campground
? All bush camps in the Northern Grampians
fire a?ected area, including the Mt Difficult
Hiker Camps.

 

Closed rock climbing areas
Due to the fire closure in the Mt Difcult Range
there are a number of sites currently not accessible. Please see the Rock Climbing and Bouldering Update Sheet for details.
Further Information: Please note – this guide
will be updated regularly, ensure you have the
most recent version by visiting
www.parks.vic.gov.au or by calling into Brambuk
the Natonal Park and Cultural Centre in Halls
Gap, or a local Visitor Information Centre.

 

Consultation Seems To Be The New Fashion

Rodney has already talked about the local consultation he and Bill attended, but wait, there’s more:

Did you take part in  a web survey “Join the conversation about Strengthening Parks Victoria”? It has now closed – the time frame was extremely short and it was not well publicised. I tried to put in my 2c worth but I see from the website that my story is there but not my plea for better funding. (It seemed to be for individuals not groups, so no FOGG response). Here is a little about the survey:
Victoria has one of the most comprehensive parks systems in the world, spanning a total
of 18 per cent of the state, including land and sea, and supporting citizens and visitors.
Strengthening Parks Victoria is a project about celebrating the spectacular landscapes,
habitats and places we have managed for nearly 20 years, and understanding how we
must change to deliver the best outcomes for Victorians, visitors, our economies, and the
Country we care for. Help us set Parks Victoria up to be a world class parks management agency, and a great partner, for the next 20 years and beyond. Tell us your vision for parks, your experiences, expectations and aspirations…..”

I hope that it is still  on the website, www.lets-talk.parks.vic.gov.au/strengtheningparks where you can read what others wrote, and maybe can still vote for ideas you like.

Then there was a chance to make a submission to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the control of Invasive Animals on Crown land. I did manage to put in my thoughts on this and to talk to my MP Emma Kealey about deer and funding for our park.

FOGG are part of the Friends Network, which is a loose association of many”Friends of …” groups, not just national Parks.  They too are asking for feedback on how the network operates. This I am handing over to our committee. The latest Friends Network newsletter had more than a few interesting pieces. Here is just one of them, and if you would like to get the full document do email me as per the back page.

What is the value of our parks?
Parks Victoria recently published Valuing Victoria’s parks (2015) which provided some quantification of the benefits of parks. They came up with eight important benefits for which values were estimated.

The report by Parks Victoria includes a range of other benefits in addition to these eight. However, these eight alone provide total annual benefits to
the value of $1.8 billion. This means that for every dollar of taxpayer funding provided to Parks Victoria, the community is gaining a benefit of more than $11. This seems a more than reasonable return for the funding invested.

What do we pay for these benefits?
At the heart of any asset management program is creation, maintenance and renewal. The same applies to our parks. They need care, understanding, managed use, and restoration. Protection alone is not enough. Taxpayer funding for Parks Victoria (direct government grants plus funding from the Parks & Reserves Trust Fund ) averaged around $183 million a year for the four years to 2014-15. In 2015-16 this rose to an estimated $190m in 2015-16 and funding is budgeted to rise to almost $200m in 2016-17 .

The benefits to the community of funding our system of parks are substantial and ongoing. In order to maintain and grow these benefits for the future, substantial real increases in funding are needed.

What contribution does VEFN (Victorian Environmental Friends Network)  make?
Members of the VEFN (including us Foggies) make a substantial contribution to the operation of Parks Victoria through volunteer work such as weeding and planting. In 2014-15 volunteers contributed 213,347 hours of time to the maintenance and upkeep of the 200 parks managed by Parks Victoria. These volunteer hours were estimated by Parks Victoria to be equivalent to 29,000 volunteer days or 127 people working full time for a year. The volunteer effort in 2014-15 was equivalent to more than 13% of Parks Victoria’s FTE staff of 958 people. Parks Victoria values this volunteer time as being worth at least $6 million per year. This contribution of volunteer time adds significant value to the parks and to the community. Both Parks Victoria and the government recognise the value of this volunteer contribution and expect it to continue or increase. The government’s draft biodiversity strategy Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2036 recognises the contribution and potential of volunteer efforts.

However, increasing volunteer time also poses management and organisational challenges. Experienced, long time volunteers get older. Demands and distractions of life compete with time for volunteering. Increasing logistical and statutory requirements for all manner of things ranging from safety, insurances and reporting tend to detract from hands ‘on-ground’. Yet some of the greatest rewards and productivity come from the shared learning, trust, and inspiration generated by community volunteers and staff working together to care for the land. We need the backing of a coherent government program to reinstate and underpin funding and field staffing for Parks Victoria together with a coherent and planned effort to sustain and grow volunteer efforts. This should be done in the context of a strategic plan that provides certainty to both Parks Victoria and the community.

Fire And Climatic Extremes Shape Mammal Distributions In A Fire-Prone Landscape

Ryan Duffy has sent me a paper recently published in Diversity and Distributions.  It is too long and detailed to include here but most thought provoking. The authors include Susannah Hale who spoke to us earlier in the year. If you would like to read the whole document I can email it to you, but I am giving you the abstract and then a few more details.
Fire and climatic extremes shape mammal distributions in a fire-prone landscape

The Grampians Fire and Biodiversity Project is a collaboration between Deakin University, Charles Sturt University and Parks Victoria. The team is interested in the ability of land management to enhance the capacity of the Grampians ecosystem to cope with and recover from changes in climate
and disturbance regimes.

ABSTRACT
Aim: Extreme climatic events and large wildfires are predicted to increase as the world’s climate warms. Understanding how they shape species’ distributions will be critical for conserving biodiversity. We used a 7-year dataset of mammals collected during and after south-east Australia’s Millennium Drought to assess the roles of fire history, climatic extremes and their interactions in shaping mammal distributions.

Location: Grampians National Park, south-eastern Australia.

Methods: We surveyed mammals at 36 sites along a ~50-year post-fire chronosequence in each of the 7 years. We modelled ten mammal species in relation to fire history, productivity and recent rainfall. Next, we examined the consistency of species’ fire response curves across each of three climatic phases relating to the Millennium Drought. Finally, we identified the optimal distribution of fire ages for small and medium-sized mammal conservation in each of the three climatic phases.

Results: The majority of species were influenced by fire history, and all native species were negatively associated with recently burned vegetation. Seven of ten species responded positively to the end of the Millennium Drought, but six of these declined quickly thereafter. Species’ responses to fire history differed depending on the climatic conditions. However, the optimal distribution of fire-age classes consistently emphasised the importance of older age classes, regardless of climatic phase. This distribution is in stark contrast to the current distribution of fire ages across the study region.

Main conclusions: Mammals in the study region face an uncertain future. The negative impact of drought, the short-lived nature of post-drought recovery and, now, the possibility of a new drought beginning forewarn of further declines. The stark contrast between the optimal and current fire-age distributions means that reducing the incidence of further fires is critical to enhance the capacity of native mammal communities to weather an increasingly turbulent climate.

Some of the details: We used a large dataset on native mammal communities spanning seven consecutive years (2008–2014). Our study region, the Grampians National Park, has recently experienced strong interactions between fire and climatic extremes, including three large fires (ranging from 35,000 to 85,000 ha) since 2005, and severe drought followed by record-breaking rains. The consecutive multiyear nature of our dataset allows us to investigate the effects of fire and rainfall simultaneously. The region has a diverse range of small-and-medium-sized mammals, including two monotremes, 14 marsupial species and six rodent species (two of which are introduced). Using this dataset, we address four questions of fundamental importance to both ecological theory and applied ecology in fire-prone regions:

  1. Does fire history drive mammal abundance and occurrence within this region, and if so, over what time frames?
  2. Do climatic extremes affect mammal occurrence, and is there evidence for boom and bust phases within this temperate ecosystem?
  3. Do fire history and climatic extremes interact to shape species distributions?
  4. What is the optimal distribution of fire-age classes for mammal conservation and does this differ under different climatic phases.

Site selection and description: Thirty-six study sites were selected within the Grampians
National Park . Sites were initially selected to examine the consequences of a large wildfire on the mammal community. The large wildfire occurred in 2006 and burned ~85,000 ha (~50% of the park). Sites were chosen to encompass areas that were burned (n = 19) and unburned (n = 17) . Sites not burned in 2006 represented a post-fire age gradient of ~50 years. Sites were spread across the park and were predominately in heathy woodland and sand heathland and were constrained by a further four factors: (1) all sites were located at the same elevation to account for the influence of elevation on rainfall; (2) all were established within an intensive fox baiting area, maintaining consistent management practices; (3) all sites were accessible via the road network for time efficiency; and (4) all sites were established with a distance of at least 2 km between them, increasing site independence.

Implications and conclusions: The strong association between mammals and rainfall means that a future with increasingly intense and longer-term droughts could imperil many species. In addition, large-scale wildfires have established the majority of the ecosystem in an early successional period. This trend of larger, more frequent and intense fires is predicted to continue under scenarios of climate change (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2013). Fires occurring during protracted droughts will be particularly damaging and have the potential to drive species towards local extinction. Fire management must aim to burn strategically to minimise the size of these fires and retain as larger areas as possible in older successional states, particularly during drought.

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FOGGS have a policy of financially supporting students doing research in the Park, and of inviting them to share their knowledge with us and the public. As Ryan observed to me as he gave me this paper, it will be fascinating to see what results the next trapping programme will reveal, after such a lovely wet winter. It is so good that this kind of longitudinal study is happening, and that such a good partnership is in place between our rangers and the Universities.

Victoria Valley Excursion – August 13

Not that many of us but a successful day nonetheless.

Our first stop was at the lovely Burrong Falls off Rose Creek Road, which was new to some of us. It was a bit muddy and slippery to go right down to the creek, but we enjoyed the view, and the winter flowers. We then headed down towards the valley, stopping to admire fungi and orchids, to Round Swamp, which was more a lagoon than a swamp. Then off to Red Gum walk where we were met by ranger Kyle. We did the walk, clearing it of fallen branches, and noting how slow and patchy the recovery from the 2006 fires has been. No young banksias, no cherry ballart.

Wild Flower Walkabout in the Northern Grampians – September 10th

Rodney

On a bright but chilly morning 25 questing souls gathered in Wartook to look at wildflowers. We were joined by several first time attendees who saw facebook and website promotion, or heard the radio add. (They enjoyed themselves so much I ran out of membership forms!). After last season’s dry September we were worried about finding much to look at but nature was very obliging this year. I guess a wetter season is a big help to the plant life. Our biggest concern leading up to the day was the grazing macropods that see flowers as candy. But they left us some to admire. Those who attended had a great time, and saw some great flowers. With many eyes many things can be spotted and people danced from one treasure to another with great delight.

I was very pleased to convince Dave and Lyn Munro to come along for this activity. They have great passion for orchids and fungi, along with many other plants too. Having the knowledge to match that enthusiasm is very helpful in a large group. Lots of calls of “Dave can you help us with this one?” were heard echoing through the trees. And I know they enjoyed their time in the bush with other likeminded people as much as we enjoyed having them.

Dave was also to be interviewed for the Stawell Field Nats documentary project, so we had a small film crew following us everywhere. Dave commented that he didnt think he had much to share with the camera, but the minute it was rolling Dave’s educator mode kicked in. Scientific name, common name, background or definition to the nomenclature, and then a bit of general knowledge on the use of a plant, or a little anecdote about when someone first saw it. The girls were delighted with this. We figured that as they were running around with a notepad we would dob them in to keep a plantlist too. That opened their eyes. They were even delighted to film a group with their heads together and books open haggling over an identification. It showed just how much time and research goes into accruing the knowledge some of or members share. That is important to document too. Knowledge is hard won.

We identified more than 30 different species, five of them orchids. (There were three different varieties of Greenhood orchids). Some specimens were very impressive. We also found at least 5 different fungi too.

The Spiral Sun Orchids (Thelymitra matthewsii) didn’t grace us with an open bloom but that’s the nature of viewing a plant whose flower may only open for an hour or two. But Kaye’s eagle eyes did spot something special nearby. A Kennedia prostrata, or running postman in a white form. It is probably a mutation rather than a new species, but it was something no one had seen before. We christened it Running Milkman!

After a convivial lunch together some headed for home and a smaller group wandered along another stretch of road to see what else we could find. The Grampians Trigger Plants were located but none were in flower this early in the season and we were all a bit overawed so the day ended there.

I include a plant list that only covers those in flower or fruit (fungi).

Running Postman  & running Milman Kennedia prostrata,Common beard-heath Leucopogon virgatus,  Erect Guinea-flower/Bundled Guinea-flower/Silky Guinea-flower  Hibbertia riparia/prostrata/sericea, Pink bells Tetratheca ciliata, Leafless Bitter-pea Daviesia brevifolia, Bent Goodenia Goodenia geniculata, Horny Cone-bush Isopogon ceratophyllus, Cat’s Claws Grevillea alpina, Purple Coral-pea Hardenbergia violacea, Golden Wattle Acacia pycnantha, Myrtle Wattle Acacia myrtifolia, Sallow Wattle Acacia longafolia, Thyme Spurge Phyllanthus hirtellus, Yellow Star Hyooxis vaginata, Early Nancy Wurmbea dioica, Blue Stars Chamaescilla corymbosa, Round-leafed Mint-bush Prostanthera rotundifolia.

Orchids Spiral Sun Orchids Thelymitra matthewsii, Plain-lipped Spider-orchid Caladenia clavigera, Waxlips Glossodia major, Trim/Nodding/Emerald lipped Greenhoods Pterostylis concinna/nutans/smaragdyna

Fungi. Yellow Belly Buttons Omphalina chromacea, Horse dung Fungus Pisolithus tinctorius, Splitgill Schizophyllum commune, Stereum sp., Laccaria sp.

Parks Victoria Bioblitz Sept 24 & 25

In the last newsletter we reproduced an article from Parkwatch about how two new portable technologies – the digital camera and the smart phone – have changed the way in which volunteers can collect data in the field. This was very evident when FOGG helped with a Junior Ranger activity during the school holidays. Youngsters were encouraged to take photos of interesting things they had seen when out in the park and to upload them to a website inaturalist.org. We didn’t have a huge uptake, but we hope that we demonstrated that we are interested in inspiring the next generation.

Round Table Report

Nothing to report this time. Wendy was away for the last roundtable meeting and we did not have a representative. If there is any member who would be interested in attending these meetings as the FOGGs rep could they please let Rodney or Wendy know as we feel it would be good to keep our presence at these meetings, there are only 2 to 3 a year as well as the annual fire conference.

This years ‘Fire conference’ is being held at the Pomonal Hall on Thursday 20th October, the themes are ‘Ten years on from the Mt Lubra Bushfire’, ‘Safer together – A new approach’ and ‘Cross tenure Fuel management’. The day usually runs from around 9.30 am to 3 pm with a catered lunch. For further information and to RSVP contact Danielle Leehane at   Any FOGG member interested in attending this day should contact Danielle direct.

Advisory Group

The group met on 29th August with once again a full agenda.

Fire Operations Plan – 2016 – 2019 and Safer Together introduction

 Glenn Rudolph of DELWP explained to us the philosophy of Risk Landscapes: using the best science and knowledge to think about fire risks in a changing environment due to climate change and other factors. The need to balance so many variables eg the minimum fire intervals different species need. The vital need to have and keep some really old unburnt areas, but to protect them you need to prevent fire occurring there or spreading in from elsewhere. Glenn demonstrated the way the computer modelling works by showing us various different ways a burn at Cassidy’s Gap would behave in conditions similar to Black Saturday if there were no preparatory control burns, and then with the recent burn having taken place. Then a similar exercise for a fire in the Ararat Hills, so much closer to homes.

We were given a pamphlet on Safer Together: A new approach to reducing the risk of bushfire in Victoria, which sets a whole-of-sector policy for bushfire management. It combines stronger community partnerships with the latest science and information to more effectively target our actions to reduce bushfire risk. It  is available from the internet: www.delwp.vic.gov.au/safertogether

I asked Glenn about the contentious issue of spring burns. His response was that, although they do affect the new growth of species such as orchids, and newly born birds and animals, with our weather conditions and the need to protect the Park from huge fires they are necessary. He added that burns at any time of the year have some damaging effects, and that a variety of timings could be beneficial. This echoed something I remember Kevin Tollhurst saying at a seminar some years ago.

Fire Recovery – Grazer Management

  • Deer Mgmt
  • Goat Mgmt

Next Mike Stevens spoke to us about the damage being caused by excessive grazing, particularly in the area burnt so severely in 2014. Damage to the floristic diversity, to the fauna diversity, the whole structural complexity, plus the damage being done by goats to some cultural sites. The culprits are both introduced and native animals, but until the numbers of goat, deer and rabbits are substantially reduced there will not be resources available for the problem of too many macropods. For rabbits the only affordable solution will be some sort of biological control. But how to deal with the deer and the goats?

Mike has spent a heap of time working on this, following up references, talking to researchers etc.

Just a couple of examples: studies showing that in what should be an open herb-rich woodland, it is now dominated by wattle and tea-tree. In another area prostrate heath species are dominating what should be a floristically diverse herb rich ground layer.

Next he showed a slide showing the alarming growth in the number of goats in the park. The population is now estimated to be 460+, that is 1.67 goats per sq km.

So what do we need to do?

  • Control red deer in high priority herb-rich woodland areas.
  • Feral goat control using live GPS tracking in remote arduous terrain to protect rocky knoll ecosystems and rock art sites.
  • Zero tolerance, opportunistic control of Fallow and samba deer to prevent population establishment.
  • Large scale biocontrol of rabbits in priority herb rich woodlands.

What can be done and how?

Goats are reasonably simple: Judas GPS and partnerships. Six three-week shooting sessions over the next two years, with a review in June 2018.

But what can be done about deer? At Wilson’s Promontory they recently did a successful trial of closing the park to visitors and then used a small group of well trained, tested and approved volunteer shooters to kill the deer under stringent conditions: no photos, no social media, no trophies. Is that possible to do here? Much more difficult, but what else could work?

After these two quite lengthy presentations and discussions we moved fairly briefly on to other topics.

Native Title Claim   Three traditional owner groups are working together for a combined claim over Gariwerd. This has any number of possibilities including a management partnership with Parks Victoria across the National Park. More information next time.

Grampians Peaks Trail   The team are busy with doing the environmental and cultural heritage assessment of the trail, including looking at the best route near the Wannon because of the presence of potoroos and Bandicoots.  They are evaluating the design of the Bugiga campsite, to learn lessons for creating further campsites. Talks have started on who pays for maintenance of the track once it’s built.

Cultural Heritage:     There will be two weeks of work removing graffiti and moss from art sites during October. Four new art sites have been found, one of them very special.

Zumsteins Update:    Work is proceeding on protecting the central cottage from the weather and restoring the less damaged ones.

McKenzie Falls precinct:     A sub committee was formed to look into plans for this area.

As you can see a very full meeting. Our next one is November 8. Don’t forget if you have something you would like me to bring to the attention of the group, do let me know.