Concerns Increase over the Too Frequent Burning of our Bush

By Neil R Marriott

In an interesting feature article in the June ‘Parkwatch’, Phil Ingamells states that “evidence against Victoria’s fuel reduction program is clear, yet burns are increasing. Calls for a pause and re-assessment of fire management are growing louder”. The most alarming result of “fuel reduction” burning is often fuel production burning!

The next most alarming thing is that the state government department that plans and performs those burns does no monitoring of what actually happens afterwards. Anyone marketing a car, a vaccine, or building cladding would be expected to know how it performs over time, whether it’s safe, and, of course, if it actually works. However, Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) doesn’t return to the site of its fuel reduction burns and record what has eventuated – not after one year, not two or, most importantly, not a decade or so into the future. That’s not just alarming, it’s downright puzzling, because DELWP boasts of the efficacy of its ‘Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting’ framework; the department claims it monitors performance and learns from what it does, allowing it to improve performance.

It might seem odd to say that a fuel reduction burn increases fuel, but there is now clear evidence that this is in fact the case. The first clear statement of this situation came from Judge Stretton’s Royal Commission into the 1939 Black Friday bushfire that roared through some two million hectares of forests and scrub.  Referring to the common practice at the time of burning open forests and woodlands to produce green pick for cattle and sheep, Stretton said:

“The fire stimulated grass growth, but it encouraged scrub growth far more. Thus was begun the cycle of destruction which cannot be arrested in our day. The scrub grew and flourished, fire was used to clear it, the scrub grew faster and thicker, bush fires, caused by the careless or designing hand of man, ravaged the forests; the canopy was impaired, more scrub grew and prospered, and again the cleansing agent, fire, was used. And so today … the wombat and wallaby are hard put to it to find passage through the bush.”

Thus, way back in 1939, there was clear evidence of the threats of excessive burning. That was pretty controversial at the time, but in 1946 Stretton reinforced his claim in a second Royal Commission, this time into forest grazing.

On his recommendation, the right to burn was taken away from those holding a grazing licence. Burning became the sole responsibility of the government’s Forest Commission. But since those days, a land management body, that primarily practised the burning of ridge-tops to protect a timber supply, has transformed itself into a large, heavily-equipped, paramilitary organisation seemingly intent on frying the state.  And this organisation, charged with protecting our lives and nurturing our natural heritage, has largely been left to report on its own performance.

Last year, however, following the third time in 20 years that a one-million-hectare wildfire tore through Victoria’s bushland, two independent inquiries have brought DELWP’s management into question. Among issues raised in the Inspector General for Emergency Management’s report was the observation that: “Even with an extensive fuel management program, bushfire risk remains as the vegetation regrows.” That statement is quite scathing of DELWP’s burn operations, and can be strongly backed up by recent independent research.

In a submission to last year’s Federal Royal Commission into Natural Disaster Arrangements, Associate Professor Philip Zylstra, Professor David Lindenmayer and colleagues illustrated their argument with a diagram showing how fuel flammability can actually increase for 30 years or more after a fuel “reduction” burn. The bush responds in complex ways to fire, as changes in species and forest structure depend on many factors, but empirical evidence now supports long-standing observations that burns can increase understorey flammability for decades.

I have recently been advised that DELWP have just carried out “controlled burns” in a number of the few remaining unburnt areas of forest in East Gippsland. These small patches were full of the surviving birds and animals that managed to escape from the Black Summer inferno. One wonders how many now survive, and what sort of logic justifies burning of some of the last surviving bushland areas in the whole region?

Here in Grampians Gariwerd a “controlled burn” north of Plantation picnic ground this autumn has fiercely burnt out one of the few remaining strongholds of the endemic Grevillea gariwerdensis Gariwerd Grevillea. I am fearful for the future for this species as two of the three known populations have already died out in recent years due to burning combined with climate change, and now the last population has been burnt. And as the above evidence shows, DELWP will not even monitor this, or any other species recovery or lack thereof. It clearly is time for a serious change in our public land management. It must be taken away from government and put in the hands of scientific experts, in collaboration with our First Nations people who had managed this land so successfully for over 60,000 years before colonisation destroyed their culture.

Citizen Science Opportunity in the Grampians

Just in is another message from Nature Glenelg Trust.

An exciting citizen science opportunity in the Grampians awaits You!

NGT is in the early stages of developing a volunteer-based wetland monitoring program to learn more about the ecological responses of two restored wetland systems in the southern Grampians.

The Walker, Gooseneck, and Brady Swamp wetland complex, and Green Swamp, have undergone significant hydrological changes over the past few years, with support and involvement from the community playing a key role. These works, which straddle Parks Victoria reserves and NGT’s wetland restoration reserves, have supported the recovery and conservation of a range of wetland dependent species such as fish, frog and birds, many of which are threatened. Equally, the transformation of these systems has provided new opportunities for the community to enjoy the local flora and fauna.

This citizen science monitoring program will allow community members to connect to these wetlands in a new way, and collectively learn more about their rich ecology. The data collected will complement and build on existing knowledge gained through conventional monitoring methods of fish, frogs and birds.

Remote technologies will be used to record data on key fauna groups: acoustic loggers called AudioMoths will be aimed at recording frogs and birds, while field cameras will focus on recording wading birds. Equipment will be deployed in early May, with data retrieval and downloads occurring each month. This monitoring program will provide new opportunities for people to volunteer, as many activities can be completed from home on a desktop (e.g. sorting through images, identifying birds and frogs). There will however, still be opportunities for people to get out in the field, and assist with the monthly data downloads.

Interested volunteers will be invited to join us in a tour of the wetland sites in mid-May. This will be a chance to see the equipment deployed, learn more about the history of the sites and the monitoring program. For more information and to register, please see flyer below.

We look forward to working with the volunteers and seeing these incredible wetland systems from another lens (literally)!

To register your interest contact  .

Email |  Postal | PO Box 354, Warrnambool, VIC 3280

conservation program in the Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park and Black Range State Park between March and October 2021


This is to inform you of a conservation program in the Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park and Black Range State Park between March and October 2021.

Heritage listed for its biodiversity and cultural values, the Grampians landscape is home to more than 800 indigenous plant species, a wide range of wildlife and the majority of Aboriginal rock art sites in south-east Australia.

To help protect this unique landscape, Parks Victoria regularly undertakes conservation programs to control invasive animals, including feral goats.

On a few days each month from 29 March until late October, a crew of qualified and experienced volunteer shooters will target these pest animals in remote sections of the parks.

During the operation, access to some sections of the parks will be temporarily restricted and people may be able to hear gunshots. Key visitor areas will not be affected

WIN PIETSCH: An Inspiring Naturalist

A few years ago, when I was talking with Win Pietsch about the rich frog life in part of the Mt William Ck wetlands by our place, she replied: “Oh yes, Thelma and I were there the other night, we’ve been surveying it for years” … This really impressed me! Win’s keen interest in nature, and dedication to scientific research, resonated deeply; I also realised that, although she is still an active member, many current  FOGGies probably don’t  know much about the work of Win and her fellow enthusiasts – ‘citizen scientists’ – who over the years have added so much to our knowledge and understanding of the  nature around us.

This started the germ of an idea: to write this article! What follows is an abbreviated “CV” of an amazing naturalist.

One of the most rewarding aspects about going to FOGG outings is the wealth of shared expertise in the group, and the sharing of knowledge. Whether orchids, shrimps, skinks or bats, it is a voyage of discovery and understanding.

Win is one of those who generously shares their vast knowledge and experience in many types of natural life. She has been involved in extensive studies all her adult life; a lot with formal organisations, but frequently with her friend and fellow enthusiast Thelma Argyll (another very knowledgeable local).

Like many of her generation, Win started collecting the Tynee Tips bird cards, which inspired her to join the Bird Observers’ Club. Encouraged by the enthusiasm of a local Dairy Inspector and a Priest in Yea in the ‘70s she joined Field Nats; a group she continued to follow as she moved around.

With the Stawell Field Nats and Cliff Beauglehole, Win took part in collecting, mounting and labelling a huge number of local indigenous plants and grasses, that were then donated to Parks in Halls Gap. Digitising these would be a valuable project in which FOGGs may well be involved.


Win and fellow Nats also worked with:

  • Mammal surveys with Ian McCann; setting traps for squirrel gliders, reptiles, frogs and spiders – counting and naming species.
  • Fungimap, founded by the Royal Botanic Gardens; following Ian McCann’s death in 2003, Win became responsible for collating and sending in the local group’s data.
  • Birds on Farms surveys: in six areas in and around the Grampians.
  • The Wimmera Community Waterwatch Programme, contributing physical and chemical data sheets post-2006 fires – taking records of temperature, phosphate levels, hardness, ph, EC (electrical conductivity) and turbidity;
  • Grampfire – a monitoring programme for Fire Impacted River Ecology – Win only ceased this in her 95th year!
  • Wimmera Catchment Water Authority.

These all involved recording water life, including those frogs at the Lake Lonsdale causeway. There she noticed a decrease in damselfly larvae following dry years, but then, after the 2011 flood, the Lake Lonsdale studies became less interesting with the introduced mosquito fish taking over from native species.


She has worked with Noushka in Horsham on the successful reintroduction of the Brilliant Sun-orchid Thelymitra mackibbinii.

Win knows the locations of many species of orchid in and around the Grampians – too many to list here. On one group outing, she stopped the cars from pulling up randomly at a roadside, “Don’t park there! 5 species of orchids grow there!” Sure enough, they found all five … including Elbow and Duck orchids. I think she’s also found the occasional plot of Marihuana!

As part of a study for ensuring the survival of the critically endangered Pimelea spinescens, Win has been responsible for recording plant numbers in a plot which she and Thelma discovered at Deep Lead. She also recognised the Fireweed Senecio macrocarpa, classed as vulnerable in Illawarra, when she headed towards a log to sit down and have a rest ….

Add to Win’s collection of flora studies the Pink flowering Yellow Box, extremely rare and isolated; the Purple Diuris, Diuris punctata var punctata, now protected by fencing at Lake Fyans; and many other species. She continues to work on plant lists in the Three Jacks Reserve.

In other parts of Australia, Win reported the 1st sighting the Painted Firetail Finch at Cameron’s Corner since 1896; she participated in surveys of the Mallee Fowl, the rare and endangered Golden Shouldered Parrot in Queensland, and the critically endangered Orange Bellied Parrot In the Coorong (migrating from Tasmania in the non-breeding winter months, this parrot is one of only 3 species of migrating parrots in Australia).

Thanks to Win’s knowledge of bugs, she was able to tell Denis Crawford she recognized a male Bird of Paradise Fly when it landed beside her; many of us would have thought it was a dandelion head. Look out for it, it is the most delicate and exotic of (male) bugs.

Snails! ….  Win received a delighted letter of thanks from Fred W. Ashton of Mt Gambier, after sending him a bag  of leaf  litter from the Grampians;  she couldn’t see any snail shells, but he found shells from 69 species, size range 0.05-2.0 mm. Snails prefer certain types of eucalypts and other plants, depending on depth of leaf litter, bark type, and shelter – lots to learn about snails!


Win’s always been quick to put her hand up and take on many voluntary hours of meticulous work, studies way beyond ‘cut-off’ dates, and documenting her observations in all areas of nature to a high level of expertise. It is her enthusiasm and continued delight in discovering more about nature which are inspirational.


Leigh Douglas

Thanks to Judy McPhee for help with all our ‘interviews’ but all mistakes are mine.


Grampians Rock Art In The News


The AGE had a long and chatty article on a fascinating newly discovered art site. It is far too long to copy here, but I do recommend that you read it on line – The Age

Or you can contact me (Margo) and I can send it to you.  It is the need to protect valuable sites like this one that makes it so important to educate rock climbers, and where necessary ban some sites.

‘Now the legendary bunyip has been found – or ancient rock drawings of it at least – in a shallow cave atop a cliff in the Mt Difficult Range. Four bunyips, to be precise, lurking in a sandstone shelter on an outcrop that commands sweeping views of the plains of north-western Victoria.

It was a find that would shine new light on an age-old story – that of a cosmic struggle between creator spirit and his monstrous enemy – purport to explain why mother- and son-in-laws should never mix and forever change the way you see a double rainbow.

The rock art was found in the Mt Difficult Range and tells a story which links the cave to two other sites which can be seen from the clifftop.

It was in May 27, 2016 that park ranger Kyle Hewitt – marking a new track that will form part of the Grampians Peaks Trail – entered the sandstone shelter and brought its bunyips back from oblivion.

Since then the rediscovery has been kept secret. Only a handful of traditional owners, park rangers and archaeologists have been allowed to enter the cave.

Even now, its exact location cannot be revealed.

The cave was the latest and most significant of about 40 rock-art sites to be rediscovered in the last seven years in the Grampians – or Gariwerd as they are called by the people whose ancestors drew those bunyip.

That has taken the tally of rock-art sites in Gariwerd to about 140 – or 90 per cent of all the known such sites in Victoria.

Jake Goodes began his life as a park ranger in Gariwerd hunting goats. Now, 15 years later, he hunts rock art. As Parks Victoria’s Aboriginal Heritage co-ordinator for western Victoria and, at 36, an archaeologist in training, Mr Goodes was among the group that first recorded the bunyip cave.

Goats are one of the primary threats to these ochre bunyips, as they are to all Gariwerd’s rock art. Like people, goats are drawn to these shelters, and like to scratch their coarse and oily hides against the sandstone.

On the hike to the bunyip cave, Mr Goodes points out signs that indicate the bunyips survived another close encounter. It’s there in the blackened stringybark trunks, the thick regrowth of leaves, the fields of white everlasting daisies.

Fire has the potential to destroy the whole site,” he says.

It heats the air within the rock and then it pops the rock like popcorn.”

But people are the ones who do the most damage to any site,” Mr Goodes says. “Which is unfortunate. The rock art of the Grampians is rich in symbols, some of which are found nowhere else and much of which has meanings yet to be relearned.”

The article goes on to tell a story about Bunjil, who is depicted in Bunjil’s cave not far from Stawell. Mr Goodes calls this tale a lore story. Its survival too, is a small miracle. It came to him by way of research done by historian Ian Clarke, who dug up a newspaper article published in 1925 by a reverend, who was told the story by an Aboriginal source he refers to only as “a woman from the Wimmera”.

(Remember that Ian Clarke told us about this in a talk last year.)

Nature Glenelg Trust News

The Upper Wannon River floodplain is adjacent to the Grampians National Park in western Victoria. A large proportion of this floodplain was drained from the 1950s for agriculture and later converted to a Tasmanian Blue Gum plantation forest. Nature Glenelg Trust (NGT) has been progressively working to restore the wetlands of the floodplain across public and private land, with successful permanent works now completed at Brady Swamp and Gooseneck Swamp in the Grampians National Park.

A recently awarded Victorian Government Climate Change Innovation Grant (via DELWP) is funding major on-ground works over the next two years that will see Walker Swamp transformed into a community demonstration site for sustainable floodplain restoration and management; by removing the plantations and reversing artificial drainage across the more than 440 hectares of land now owned by Nature Glenelg Trust.

These activities will restore natural river floodplain function, recreating wetland habitats for threatened and iconic species, like the Growling Grass Frog and Brolga. The works will also buffer the site against climate change, by retaining significantly more water in the landscape in the future.

A minor restoration trial on the deepest part of Walker Swamp has been in place since 2014, giving a taste of what is to come, but the major on-ground works as a result of NGT securing the site – including the backfilling of over 20 kilometres of artificial drains on the floodplain – are due to commence in autumn 2019. So we have an exciting year ahead!

The project is being delivered by NGT in partnership with the Glenelg Hopkins CMA and the Hamilton Field Naturalists Club, with grant funding support from the Victorian Government, and support from the wider community (including FOGGS).

FOGGS will be visiting the site on Saturday 14th September.

Deer Strategy

The Draft Victorian Deer Management Strategy (the draft strategy) has been developed by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources

The development of a deer management strategy is a key action under the Victorian Government’s Sustainable Hunting Action Plan 2016 – 2020 and recognised under the Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2037 Implementation Framework.

The objectives of the draft strategy are to maintain hunting opportunities while managing the impacts of deer on environmental, social, cultural, economic and agricultural assets.

Effective deer management requires a partnership approach between all levels of Government, Traditional Owners, conservation and community groups, Landcare, water authorities, Catchment Management Authorities, hunting organisations, hunters, the deer farming industry, commercial deer harvest industry and the community.

The draft strategy proposes a new way of thinking to guide how deer are managed in our landscape.

Opportunity was given to comment on the strategy, but unfortunately the deadline was 27 October, so it is too late but you can read the strategy on line and I expect still make your submissions.

PDF (6.64 MB)  

Draft Deer Management Strategy

Feral Cat Questionnaire

University of Adelaide Feral Cat Management Project

Our team is looking to recruit residents who live in, manage or own property on Kangaroo Island or in the Grampians region to participate in an online questionnaire about feral cats and feral cat management.

The aim of this project will be to determine how the public feels about feral cat management, and also to inform about the different techniques that may be used in your region, or on your land. This information can then later be used to inform management authorities about what techniques are deemed acceptable by the public.

If you live in, manage or own property on Kangaroo Island or in the Grampians region, and would like further information on this study, or if you would like to participate in the questionnaire please go to Qk7mP60DaYJ and enter the code T8RM63L when prompted. If you have any questions, please contact Brooke Deak at


A New Environmental Plan

DELWP released Victorians Volunteering for Nature: Environmental Volunteering Plan on 24 October.

Many Victorians give their time freely to a wide variety of environmental causes and organisations, including Landcare, Friends, and Coastcare groups. We recognise and value their contributions and collective efforts and want to help volunteers do more for nature when, where, and how it suits them.

The Environmental Volunteering Plan (EVP) provides a welcome focus on the valuable work that Friends groups and other environmental volunteers do. The EVP proposes, among other things: to investigate a longer-term environmental volunteering government grants program and to create a small ‘set-up’ grants fund to offset administration and incorporation costs for new groups.  This Environmental Volunteering Plan will expand and reinvigorate environmental volunteering for all Victorians to get involved.

DELWP say they are setting a new direction based on sustaining, expanding, valuing and understanding volunteering in Victoria. Each area has practical and contemporary ideas to support the environmental volunteering sector, such as improving administration, training volunteers, increasing collaboration and using digital communication tools to engage and share information.

We also want to celebrate the important environmental, social and economic contributions of our environmental volunteers. It is essential that our volunteers feel valued and others see and value their contribution.

To download a copy of Victorians Volunteering for Nature -Environmental Volunteering Plan click here:
For further information on environmental volunteering please email the Environmental Volunteering team at .

Feral Cats

I expect you all have heard the good news that feral cats have been declared a pest species in Victoria, which means that shortly our Park staff will be allowed to work to reduce their number. But how to do it most efficiently and reasonably humanely? I came across a most interesting article in the Bush Heritage edition 12 Jun 2018

That Tricksy Felixy

I recently visited Currawinya National Park to learn more about Felixer cat traps from their inventor, cat management expert Dr John Read

It’s well known that cats have a huge and often catastrophic impact on native species and are notoriously difficult to control. We urgently need an effective solution that that can be deployed in diverse landscapes, not just to bring endangered species back from the brink of extinction, but also to prevent other species declining to that point. Felixer traps are a promising candidate.

Feral cats are so hard to control because they are reluctant to take baits or enter traps, particularly when prey such as small native mammals are abundant. John created the Felixer trap after thinking for many years about the problem. His answer was to take advantage of cats’ Achilles’ heel – their fastidiousness in cleaning. The Felixer takes advantage of this behavioural trait, spraying them with a toxin that they then lick off to their detriment. The trap uses a series of inbuilt laser sensors that distinguish cats from all other non-target species, ensuring that only feral cats are sprayed. You can find out more at