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
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.