FOBIF’s October walk

As mentioned in a previous post there will be a FOBIF walk on Sunday 18th October in the Chewton Bushlands led by Antoinette Birkenbeil and Karen Baker. (We briefly had the wrong date for the walk but now corrected.) On the walk we will be divided into 2 groups of 10 or under, social distancing and wearing masks.

Contact FOBIF by email (info@fobif.org.au) or by phone (Bronwyn Silver: 0448 751 111) by 16th October if you would like to register for the walk. 

Also check this website closer to the date in case the lockdown regulations have changed by then.

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More lockdown reading!

The September issue of Wombat Forestcare newsletter is now out, and can be found here

As usual, it’s a great read, containing articles about owls, the continuing uncertain status of the Wombat Forest, bird calls, fungi, and a very sobering article on the legacy of mining in the Wombat.

In the light of extensive advertising in the local press of mining exploration in central Victoria, readers may be interested in an online petition run by  Blackwood group No Wombat Gold against mining the Wombat. It can be found here. Recent community action led by comedian Tom Gleeson stopped mining exploration activity in the Macedon Ranges, so these exploration proposals should not be seen as foregone conclusions.

It seems that the lure of gold never weakens. It’s very hard to assess the value of ventures which are periodically launched in this part of the world: all we can say is that many have launched, and many have sunk without trace. That is no cause for complacency.

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Add your view on Kalimna Park

Community members are being invited to participate in a Zoom workshop session, facilitated by Djandak (Dja Dja Wurrung Enterprises), to discuss values, threats, priorities, and opportunities associated with Kalimna Park- as part of the Walking Together- Balak Kalik Manya Project. The workshop will take place this coming Tuesday, September 29, from 7pm to 9pm.

For more information on the project please see this short video- https://vimeo.com/441201115

Here’s the invitation to the online workshop, from Harley Douglas, Project manager at Djandak:

‘We need the community’s intimate knowledge of Kalimna Park to begin prioritising management recommendations that will be listed within our site-specific management plan. It is unfortunate that we are unable to meet face-to-face given the current restrictions surrounding COVID-19, but we are pressing forward in the form of an online workshop. Through this session, community members will have the opportunity to discuss all things Kalimna Park; including the things they like and dislike, along with any other relevant comments.

‘We will be running our workshop on the 29th of September with the assistance of Conservation Management. The workshop will commence at 7:00pm- 9:00pm. To be involved you will need to have access to a computer, with an internet connection, in your own home.

‘Here is the link to our online workshop- https://zoom.us/j/93302389412

‘I hope to hear from you and see you at our online workshop!’

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Spectacular spring this year

It has been a unusual spring both in terms of the abundance of wildflowers and the number of people out there walking and enjoying the bush.

Greenhoods have been particularly impressive. This was one of many patches in the bush to the east of Dingo Park Road.

Nodding Greenhoods Pterostylis nutans near Dingo Park Road. Photo by Bronwyn Silver, September 2020

Special finds due to their comparative rarity in our region have been the Slaty Helmet Orchid Corybas incurvus and Rosy Baeckea Euryomyrtus ramosissima.

Slaty Helmet Orchid near Dingo Park Road. Photo by Sarah Newsam, 2020

Rosy Baeckea, Loop Track. Photo by Bronwyn Silver, August 2020

We are happy to include any local nature photos on our FOBIF Flickr page or this website that you think might be of interest to readers. Please include identification, location and date and send to info@fobif.org.au

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Short video on fungi by Alison Pouliot

Alison Pouliot has given us the link to her terrific new video on fungi. Check it out if you’d like a neat summary of fungi in under 5 minutes from an expert.

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Walks on again!

It looks like we will be able to have our Sunday 18th October walk in the Chewton Bushlands led by Antoinette Birkenbeil and Karen Baker due to changes in lockdown regulations. Check out the walks page for more details about the walk.

The number of walkers on the day will be limited to 20 in two groups of 10. People will have to wear masks and observe social distancing rules.

Contact FOBIF by email (info@fobif.org.au) or by phone (Bronwyn Silver: 0448 751 111) by 16th October if you would like to register for the walk.

Also check this website closer to the date in case the lockdown regulations have changed by then.

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Cancellation of walks

The next two FOBIF walks (16 August and 20 September) are cancelled due to reintroduction of government restrictions on the number of people allowed to walk together. Hopefully we will be able to resume our walks on 18 October which will be the last walk for the year. Check out this website for updates. Details of the October walk are on our walks page.

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How to do it: Golf!?

FOBIF’s recommended lockdown reading for this week is a short article on a Golf Course!

The article by Megan Backhouse can be found here.

It’s to do with management of native vegetation on the Royal Melbourne course: ‘The club’s Black Rock golf courses ­… contain some of Melbourne’s best remaining patches of the sand-heathland habitat that once existed on low, coastal plains everywhere from St Kilda to Frankston.’ This vegetation is carefully managed to coexist with the sport of golf.

The club’s horticulture manager Jim Moodie has to work to get golfers to see what he’s doing: not all players appreciate native vegetation. Some, in fact, don’t even see it. One player told journalist Megan Backhouse, without rancour, that ‘there aren’t any plants’ in one carefully signposted area. Clearly, the management program needs an educational component.

Among other methods used by Jim Moodie , is ‘a tight schedule of ecological burns. The fires are conducted in March and April, with each area burned no more than once every eight years to give time for plants to re-establish and to return a good seed bank to the soil.’ Each burn ‘lasts for about 20 minutes.’

‘After the fire, shrubs such as Leptospermum myrsinoides, which had become old and woody, re-shoot from the base or from seeds in the soil and take on a more wispy habit. With the height knocked back, more light is allowed in, which gives small grasses, sundews and other low-lying wildflowers a chance to thrive. The burning also stimulates the germination of seeds in the soil and helps to regenerate orchids, with some starting to flower more prolifically and, sometimes, previously unseen ones reappearing.’

A twenty minute fire! Now, that’s serious micro management, accompanied by impressive attention to detail…and over areas that are tiny compared to DELWP’s smallest burn area.

We shouldn’t forget that Royal Melbourne has lots of money, and can afford to be enlightened.

DELWP and Parks Victoria, by contrast, manage vast areas, and are cash strapped. They can plead that it’s impossible to manage public land like that . True—up to a point. Yet we should expect some level of attention to detail from them, and some level of careful organisation and informed management.

All of the above seem to have been lacking in last month’s catastrophic Maldon land grooming exercise.

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How not to do it 1: the Maldon catastrophe

Late last month Forest Fire Management crews groomed a significant area of Parks Victoria managed land on the south eastern edge of Maldon township.

Grooming (that is, slashing to ground level) is common fuel reduction technique close to urban areas, in preference to reduction burns.

One of the workers conducting the exercise told Maldon Landcare that the area was ‘weeds and dead stuff’. The problem is that in fact it contained one of the most successful and biodiverse areas of land restoration in the region.

Phoenix Street revegetation plot: two trees and a couple of shrubs left to show for 16 years of restoration work.

The land in question contained a plot of 7000 square metres of impressive biodiversity, the product of 16 years of restoration work. Work in the area was started in 1990 by Maldon Land Protection Group, and extensive plantings were put into this 7000 square metre block by Maldon Urban Landcare in 2004. Maintenance work has continued since then.  An account of the project can be found here.

The destruction of sixteen years work in a few days is a demoralising blow to Landcarers: not the best way to encourage volunteers to work on restoring public land. Here are a number of questions arising from this exercise:

  1. The land in question is not listed for action in the current Fire Operations Plan. So how does it fit into DELWP’s fire protection strategy?
  2. Given that the works are not listed in the Fire Operations plan, community members could not have been aware of them in advance. So why was there no effort to notify interested groups of the impending works?
  3. Further: does no one in DELWP check on the biodiversity value of land before starting work on it?
  4. And: were the workers briefed about the nature of the land they were clearing? Well, obviously not: so, why not?

FOBIF has tried contacting DELWP fire management with these questions. We’ll let you know if we get an answer.

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How not to do it 2: the problem is…

Maybe as important as all of the above is this: workers should be fully briefed.

The golfer’s artless comment that ‘there aren’t any plants’ in a recently burned patch exactly replicates the comment made by one of the workers to Maldon Landcare: ‘they were grooming weeds and dead stuff.’

Those ‘weeds and dead stuff’ were healthy native plants, many of them obviously in flower.

It comes down to two things:

First: all the land management policy documents and protocols in the world are useless if the workers on the ground are not well informed about the job, and fully on side with the conservation side of it;

And second: fire protection should never be seen as completely separate from (or even in opposition to) biodiversity and ecological health. As long as these two are separate we’ll  continue to get disasters like this one.

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