Weeds, weeds ……. and no more weeds? Connecting Country Workshop – 25 October 2015

Connecting Country has sent us the following article about their final workshop for the year.

Spring is a beautiful time of year for native plants with yam daisies, chocolate lilies and Silver Wattles in full flower.  But alongside the natives, most landholders will also be all too aware of the competing weeds that have sprung up as well, from persistent ground covers like Soursob through to the thornier weeds like blackberry and gorse.

While the battle to manage weed spread can seem endless, in Connecting Country’s final workshop of the year ‘Back from the Brink’ on Sunday 25 October 2015 from 10am to 3pm, we will be taking participants to different sites in the Newstead area to have a look at where long-term weed control strategies have been effective, and identifying the key ingredients to successful weed management.

Accompanied by local Landcarers, Maurie Dynon and Francis Cincotta (who really know their weeds and the secret to community weed management), Matt McEachran from Bushtech will talk us through the most appropriate methods and the calendar for treating weeds, and David Cameron, senior botanist from the Arthur Rylah Institute, will lead us through some weed identification. Participants can’t fail to leave the workshop with a better knowledge of weeds and different methods for weed control.

This event is fully catered and transport is provided. Costs are $20 for Connecting Country members or concessions (membership is free) or $30 for non-members.

Register now for this event – places are limited. Contact Jules on Jules@connectingcountry.org.au or 5472 1594. Alternatively, Click here for more information on the workshop series, and CLICK HERE to download a registration form.

This program is supported by Connecting Country through funding from the Australian government.

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Scalping: here’s part of an answer

We’ve received a response from DELWP to our questions about the scalping of Fryers Ridge Road. You can read it by clicking here: Fryers Ridge Rd DELWP response

The key paragraph runs as follows:

‘Roadside scalping is sometimes used where the verge needs heavy vegetation and debris removed and the ground profile flattened to allow future maintenance to be carried out by slashing; to widen the mineral earth part of the road as part of planned burning preparation…; and if resource limitations have prevented an annual slashing program to be maintained causing an accumulation of heavy growth on the roadside.’

There are three reasons here, the first two of which do not apply to the Ridge Road. The third, however–the reference to ‘resource limitations’– confirms our suspicions: that scalping is used as a cheap method of achieving your ends when you’re short of cash. So, although it’s generally considered a bad way of going about things, managers are forced to use it anyway.

It’s clear also, from this letter, that roadside clearing often happens in ignorance of what might be getting scraped into oblivion: there’s no effective monitoring of its biodiversity effects. And although managers generally need to comply with clearing regulations, these only come into play if something ‘important’ is known to be in the relevant area. In the absence of detailed monitoring, this often comes down to the judgement of the manager in question.

We have serious disagreements about the decisions made to scalp the Ridge Road, and other tracks in the Fryers Ranges, and believe that in most areas there was no ‘heavy growth’ on the roadsides.

In another communication to us from the Environment Minister, we’ve been invited to discuss values of roadsides with the responsible Terrestrial Biodiversity Manager. We’ll take up this invitation.

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Big Tree goes to the doctor

The Mount Alexander Shire will be undertaking works on the Guildford Big Tree, which, as we’ve previously reported, was badly damaged in February. From a Council briefing:

‘The severe storm in February 2015 caused considerable damage to the
canopy of this significant tree causing the loss of several large
sections of the canopy.  This loss has exposed a number of branches
within the remaining canopy which have the potential to shed during
relatively mild weather conditions.

The Big Tree: works will be undertaken to try to forestall further damage to the old feller.

The Big Tree: works will be undertaken to try to forestall further damage to the old feller.

‘To protect the tree, reduce potential branch loss and improve overall
tree health, the following works are scheduled to occur within the
next few weeks:

‘1. The tree will be pruned to reduce over-extended and exposed
branches.  The pruning will reduce the potential hazard associated
with these branches and leave a well-balanced tree with an
aesthetically pleasing appearance.  All pruning will be undertaken in
accordance with Australian Standards, AS4373-2007 Pruning of amenity

‘2. Several large branches that remain below the tree will be relocated
from beneath the trees canopy and remain on-site as informal seating
for visitors.  Some of the other branches will be taken to Guildford
Primary School.  Any other remaining branches will be removed.

‘3. The existing grassed area beneath the tree will be mulched.
Mulching of the existing grassed area will reduce root competition for
soil moisture and nutrients, prevent soil compaction by mowing
equipment and improve tree health.’

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Tarran Valley: how necessary is it?

FOBIF has made a submission to the Tarran Valley rezoning advisory committee. This committee has been appointed by the planning minister, Richard Wynne, to consider a proposal to develop land in the Sandy Creek area near Maldon. We have objected to the development. Our submission can be found here.

This matter dates back to 2006, and our background posts on it can be found by tapping Tarran Valley into the search box at top right of this page.

Our objections relate to fire risk and development in catchment areas. We also point out that population trends used by Council in its original decision to approve the development were significantly exaggerated: ‘[The Mount Alexander Urban Living Strategy 2005] has a population projection for 2021 of 21,930, compared with the more realistic population projection of 19,291 from the Victoria in Future [VIF] 2015 study.  The urban living strategy thus over estimates the population, in comparison to VIF, by 2,639 which translates to an over estimation in housing lots needed at this date of over 1,000 lots.’

The committee will report to the minister in due course–possibly not till next year.

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Fryers Ridge walk

Noel Young sent us this report on the September FOBIF walk:

True to its name the Wattle track was rich with flowering wattles. In pleasantly mild conditions, walkers covered nine and a half kilometers through a variety of bush with many plants awakening to flower a little late after a cool dry winter. The flowers I managed to list were Downy Grevillea, Early Nancy, Hovea, Billy Buttons, Purple Coral-pea, Guinea flower, Handsome Flat-pea, Grey Parrot-pea, Common Heath, Common Beard-heath, Pink Bells, Gorse Bitter-pea, and the only orchid found – a patch of Nodding Greenhoods.

Birds were abundant along the way, their presence mainly indicated by calls. I listed those I could recognise as: Spotted Pardalote, White-throated Treecreeper, Crimson Rosella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Grey Shrike-thrush, Fuscous Honeyeater, Superb Blue Wren, Long-billed Corella, and Grey Fantail. Others added Galah, Oriole, and Yellow-faced Honeyeater.

Liz Martin sent us this photo collage.


And here are some photos from Dominique Lavie (first photo) and Noel (last 3 photos). Click to enlarge.

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Think it’s been dry? You’re right.

The map below tells a pretty sobering story: most of northern and western Victoria is in serious rainfall deficit over the last three years. It’s taken from the Catchment Management Authority’s Climate change mitigation and adaptation strategy. This document was the subject of community consultations in our region through August.

We’ve already noted the climate projections for our region, which forecast lower mean annual rainfall, with declines especially in autumn and winter. The question is, how should we ready ourselves for this decline?

The practical responses suggested in the CMA strategy are as follows:

‘– Implement a property planning and education program (with a sustainability focus) for landowners

‘– Enable an ecological thinning program on both public and private land

‘– Implement a scientifically rigorous, biodiversity monitoring program using woodland birds as a key indicator of ecosystem health

‘– Implement an on-ground restoration program that achieves connectivity and increases the extent of native vegetation

‘– Include some drier climate species and wider genetic material of existing species in revegetation programs

‘– Put stricter controls on development in bushland areas or adjacent to public land

‘– Support the risk based approach to prescribed burns to protect the community and natural assets

‘– Manage grazing pressure along rivers to protect the riparian zone

‘– Support the development of mechanisms in local government planning schemes and the Victorian Planning Provisions that identify and enable strategic biolinks

‘– Implement large-scale carbon sequestration across the landscape.’

Most of these are not new ideas. Some have already been vigorously debated and effectively rejected by Government– the control of grazing along river frontages being one that comes to mind; and the State is still dithering about whether to adopt a risk based approach to prescribed burns. It remains to be seen how many of these ideas will be put into practice.


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September youth walk

Nioka Mellick-Cooper has supplied us with the following account of FOBIF’s September youth walk:

‘What did you do on Fathers Day? Did you stay at home, did you go out for lunch? On Fathers Day, I ran a bush walk for youths and their fathers. It was a perfect day, and we got a total of 18 walkers. With sons, daughters, fathers and even mothers participating.

'A good way to end the year': some of the group at the end of the September youth walk.

‘A great way to finish the year': some of the group at the end of the September youth walk.

‘The walk took place at the Garfield Waterwheel, but we met and signed in at the Continuing Ed building. On the walk, we were lucky enough to have Marie Jones with us, to guide us along and give us extra information regarding the surrounding area. The walk took us roughly two hours with only one short snack and water break. We saw many things, including mine shafts, all sorts of birds, and of course, the esteemed wheel. As we returned to the starting spot, we could smell the cooked lunch waiting for us that was very filling and was the perfect thing to finish of a day of walking. We took the walkers back to the Continuing Ed where everyone received a gift bag to take home with them. The gift bag included a flora guide, bird guide, torch, chocolate bar (great for bushwalking!), and camping spoon/fork. Overall, the walk was a success and it was a great way to finish the year.’

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Blackwood: a link to a great Australian tradition

Blackwoods are flowering around the place at the moment, though more prolifically in the country to our south. Is there a better example of an Aussie battler than this attractive tree? ‘It tolerates drought, poor drainage, any soil, salt air, gusty, steady or cold winds if grown in open, fog, smog, temperature extremes, sun, or shade. Occurs in agricultural areas, coastland, disturbed areas, estuaries, natural forest, planted forests, range/grasslands, riparian zones, scrub/shrublands, urban areas, wetlands.’ [Wikipedia]

Acacia melanoxylon, named by Robert Brown, naturalist on Flinders' voyage in    :the great tradition of scientific engagement with Australian nature has been neglected in favour of 'heroic' accounts of conquest

Acacia melanoxylon, named by Robert Brown, naturalist on Flinders’ 1801-3 voyage around Australia: the great tradition of scientific engagement with Australian nature has been neglected in favour of ‘heroic’ accounts of conquest.

Acacia melanoxylon was given its scientific name by Robert Brown, botanist on Matthew Flinders’ voyage in the Investigator around the continent in 1801. When Flinders returned to England Brown and botanical artist Ferdinand Bauer stayed in New South Wales: they returned to Europe in 1805 with specimens of more than 3,000 species and 1,500 plant drawings. Brown never lost his fascination with Australian flora. We’re accustomed to the idea that early European visitors here were completely insensitive to the value of the Australian natural world. The story of Brown and others like him is a nice reminder that there’s another great Australian tradition: of scientific excitement at a world of enormous wonder, valuable not just for exploitation, but for its intrinsic beauty.

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Trail bikes [1]: so, what’s the problem?

The second successful FOBIF youth walk for 2015 took a circuit from Garfield Wheel to Forest Creek on Sunday September 6. [see our post above].

You can find a good account of the walk by John Ellis on the Chewton.net Facebook page. One interesting feature of this report is that it draws attention to the fact that the quiet bush atmosphere  was a bit degraded by the presence of a couple of trail bike riders circulating close to the wheel and kicking up dust in the nearby cyanide pits. The report provoked angry–well, abusive, actually– responses from Facebook readers keen to defend the riders’ rights to do their thing in the area.

Trail bike riding on registered bikes on formed roads is a perfectly legal activity. So, what’s the problem?

There are two, actually.

The first is noise. This concerns not only bushwalkers, but residents on town margins who find their quiet weekends poisoned by riders circulating, quite legally, on nearby private land. One rider can intrude on the lives of dozens of people.

The second is illegal riding off track on public land. This can cause serious erosion and destruction of important vegetation.

The responses to John Ellis’s Facebook post seem to show that there are some riders who don’t see either of these as anything to worry about–and that, it seems, is the real problem

Land managers and municipalities have wrestled with this stuff for some time. Solutions have been put up, but things appear, on anecdotal evidence, to be getting worse. We look at the solutions below, and ask why they haven’t worked.

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Trail bikes [2]: the sad reality of good ideas never to be implemented

The intrusion of trail bikes into a peaceful bushwalk [see above] is nothing new: so, shouldn’t we just get used to it? Isn’t it just part of sharing public land with different types of users?

That depends on what you mean by sharing. No one should be forced to share someone else’s noise, any more than they should be forced to share a smoker’s cigarette smoke. And the tearing up of illegal tracks has nothing to do with sharing.

Anyone familiar with our bushlands over the last decade or two will have noticed the relentless illegal intrusion of motor bikes into the remotest areas: the Columbine and Tarilta Creek valleys, for example,  two areas previously free of the machines, are now scarred by churned up illegal tracks.

Moto  and 4WD curse attacks the Mount: Ballantinia Track at the Goldfields Track junction.  There's no lack of good ideas about dealing with this menace. What's lacking, as usual, are the resources. Photo: Andy Bos
Moto and 4WD curse attacks  Mount Alexander: Ballantinia Track at the Goldfields Track junction. There’s no lack of good ideas about preventing this kind of damage. What’s lacking, as usual, are the resources. Photo: Andy Bos


The latest area to suffer invasion is Mount Alexander Regional Park, where new tracks have appeared in the last six months, accessed through cutting through fences. In particular, the Ballantinia track seems victim to both motorbike and 4WD incursions.

What can managers do about this kind of activity?

Over the years we’ve seen a few initiatives taken by local councils, Park and Forest authorities to deal with trail bikes in particular. Here are some recommendations from the 2005 DSE Trailbike Options Paper: close off illegal tracks as soon as they’re made; invest in education; engage with riders; work with manufacturers and the retail industry to encourage appropriate marketing; provide alternative, properly managed venues…There have been calls for increased patrols, and even impoundment of bikes.

Great ideas, some of them. But the problem keeps getting worse.

New track gouges through previously untouched section of the Columbine Creek Valley. The solutions to the problem aren't cheap, but maybe attacking the manufacturers and retailers wouldn't be a bad start.

New track gouged through previously untouched section of the Columbine Creek Valley. The solutions to the problem aren’t cheap, but maybe tackling the manufacturers and retailers wouldn’t be a bad start.

Why? Well, for a start, all of the options cost money, and that’s the one thing Governments aren’t prepared to put into the process. What we seem to have ended up with is a series of policy documents, and A4 leaflets weakly urging riders to stay on roads and ride quietly. The writers of these documents don’t seem to realise that trail bikes aren’t made for people to cruise sedately through the woods checking out the wildflowers. A quick check of any dirt bike magazine will show you what they’re really for: adventure experience which is very hard on the earth. Although these magazines are mainly concerned with legal motocross competitions the style is essentially the same as that engaged in by bush trail riders. Only the intensity is different.

A 2009 Queensland investigation found that 70% of surveyed riders admitted to riding illegally [the figure rose to 80% with younger riders]. Their reasons included: it’s convenient, there are fewer people, and it’s a more natural environment. Asked if they had concerns about this illegality, they highlighted the danger of irresponsible riders…Among 12 such concerns, however, ‘negative environmental impacts’ was listed 12th.

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