Along the ridges

A small group of walkers embarked on FOBIF’s May expedition to the south end of the Diggings Park.  The group followed one of the little known ridges between Helge Track and Sebastopol Creek before angling up Stones Gully to return. There are impressively large trees in this part of the park, and those on the higher ridges had suffered epic damage in recent storms: some had snapped off mid-trunk, others had virtually disintegrated as they fell.

Wildflowers are still rare in this part of the bush, though there’s impressive moss cover after recent rains, and the large mats of Matted Bush Pea along Wewak track promise good displays in the coming Spring.  Walkers survived a zig zag route around numerous fallen trees without mishap, and a, er, small miscalculation of the route length by leader Bernard Slattery has so far led to no litigation. Yes, it was 9 kilometres, not 7.

Fungi expert, Joy Clusker, sent us these photos. 

More photos from the walk.

Next month’s walk will be led by Jeremy Holland in a great part of Mount Alexander. See the program for details.

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Mining in the Muckleford Forest?

FOBIF has supported an objection by the Muckleford Forest Friends group to a mining exploration application for the forest by Kalamazoo resources.

Our objection is based on extreme caution about such exploration, mixed with bad experience with exploration and sampling exercises in the past. If you want an example, have a look at Dunn’s Reef in the adjoining Maldon Historic Reserve: the surrounding bush still hasn’t recovered from reckless bulldozing dating back 15 years.

The relevant parts of the Friends’ objection are set out below:

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An indigenous management plan for Kalimna Park?

Dja Dja Wurrung project officer Harley Douglas met with representatives from the Friends of Kalimna Park last weekend to discuss a projected management plan for the park. FOBIF was represented at the meeting.

The state government has allocated $200,000 for the development of the plan in the park and at Wildflower Drive in Bendigo. Further finance is available for implementation of the plan.

As we’ve previously reported, the Dja Dja Wurrung co-management plan Dhelkunya Ja (Healing Country) offers numerous creative possibilities for improved management of public land in our region (see our posts here here and here). We’ll report on further developments in this area in due course.

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Call for an effective deer strategy

It’s becoming increasingly obvious even to those not interested in conservation that deer are now a serious problem in large areas of Victoria. Reports of serious damage to wineries, and safety concerns over illegal shooting and potential road accidents appear to have increase political pressure for control that the trashing of our bushland hasn’t been able to do.

FOBIF has joined its name to an open letter calling for a strong and effective feral deer management strategy for Victoria. The letter was coordinated by the Victorian National Parks Association, and has been signed by over 90 Landcare organisations, leading ecologists, agricultural groups and a range of other affected organisations and groups from across the state. The substance of the letter is as follows:

We are concerned that Victoria’s Draft Deer Management Strategy (2018) fell far short of addressing the considerable problems feral deer bring to peri-urban and regional communities, and to wetlands, catchments and the natural environment. We offer here some recommendations for the final strategy; it is a critical opportunity to control deer populations and to reverse the increasing impacts they are having.We agree with the rough estimate for the state’s deer population, as documented in the draft strategy, at ‘between several hundred thousand up to one million or more’. The population is growing rapidly at an exponential rate, and far exceeds the capacity for control by recreational hunters. Research into the native habitats of the four main species of deer in Victoria indicates that they can continue to extend their range, potentially occupying almost every habitat in the nation. Victoria’s biodiversity is at risk. Deer are seriously impacting Victoria’s finest natural areas, from the coast to the Grampians, from rainforest gullies to the high country. Almost every type of native plant is browsed by Sambar Deer, and trampling, breaking and ringbarking plants by antler rubbing all add to those impacts. Decades of volunteer and government-funded revegetation programs across Victoria have already been damaged or are now threatened by deer. The two largest species of deer, Sambar and Red, are both adapted to wet climates and make extensive use of bogs and wetlands where their wallowing, trampling and browsing has a major impact on water quality and quantity in our catchments.The livelihoods of farmers, especially in orchards, vineyards and market gardens, are being threatened; even backyards and gardens are invaded. The growth of illegal hunting due to the easy availability of deer has become a safety concern in many rural and semi-rural areas. Deer are an increasing hazard on our roads.

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What a difference lack of water can make

A good group rocked up for FOBIF’s April walk into the Salter’s Creek-Smutta’s Track area on Sunday. As expected, the bush is showing numerous signs of drought stress, including a significant number of dying Golden Wattles. Nevertheless, this corner of the Diggings Park has plenty of charm even in its present desolate state, and the walk was completed in good spirits, although it must be said that no one sprinted up the almost vertical track out of the Bradfield flumes.

The following photos will give an idea of the different faces of this little valley. First, after a week of heavy rain, in 2013:

Salters Creek, August 2013: after good rain, the creek filled nicely – but we were aware that this was an unusual event.

And here’s the same spot, as walkers passed it yesterday–almost unrecognisable:

The same spot, Easter 2019. The forked tree in the top photo has collapsed into the dry creek bed. Even the deepest pools in the creek are now dry.

Our thanks to Rex Odgers and Julie Hurley for taking the group into this great corner of the Park, and for the informed commentary on the history of the water race.

Noel Young sent us these photos of the walk.

Next month’s walk is in the area of Stone’s Gully, south of Vaughan Springs. Check the program for details.

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Change of route for FOBIF’s April walk

The route for FOBIF’s April walk, next Sunday the 21st, has been changed. It will now start at the Hunters track dam, on the corner of Irishtown Track, and cover about 5 km, partly on tracks, some through bush along the Salters creek bed; there’ll be a couple of rough steep climbs. We suggest if people usually use walking poles they’d find them helpful. As it’s Easter Sunday and a short walk we plan to be back in town by 1 pm. For more information contact Julie Hurley or Rex Odgers 0427 002 913.

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Driving 1: ‘For fun’s sake’

Viewers of sporting coverage on television last Friday might have noticed, if they weren’t asleep, a commercial for Suzuki, which featured a car tearing through a muddy road, then reversing, bouncing over some obstacle [possibly a dead body?]. The clip also featured a car being driven with brio round and round a suburban roundabout, accompanied by the slogan, ‘for fun’s sake’. You can look at the ad here   If you concentrate very hard, you’ll see at the bottom of the screen at the start the words ‘filmed under safe and controlled conditions’.

Image from a Suzuki TV commercial. The commercial’s main message is that sedate driving is for boring conformists.

Do such ads, which proudly feature environmental vandalism and unsafe driving, influence driver behaviour?

It’s an interesting question. The voluntary code of practice for motor vehicle advertising of the Federal Chamber of Automotive industries seems to suggest that they’re at least undesirable. The code features, among other things, the following:

… ‘use of disclaimers indicating that a particular scene or advertisement was produced under controlled conditions; using expert drivers….should be avoided.’[Our emphasis]

… ‘Advertisers should ensure that advertisements for motor vehicles do not portray…deliberate and significant environmental damage, particularly in advertising for off-road vehicles.’

Car advertisements regularly violate the second of these conditions and often promote unsafe driving. For some reason showing cars skidding through dust and gravel is a favourite theme of most of them. Skidding out donuts is another regular. Our favourite is a Toyota clip which shows a poor oppressed suburban bloke who sees a massive Toyota truck pull up alongside him in traffic. He instantly fantasises about skidding around sand dunes in that truck…then subsides into repressed good behaviour. But will he stay that way? Will the next episode show him in a cowboy hat, ripping up the country in a car which, as the ad proudly declares, ‘eats utes for breakfast.’ Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, we can see the effects of such propaganda on our roads and in our bushland. And we can pretty safely conclude that voluntary codes of conduct are a bit of a joke.

If you want to complain about a particular ad, you can do it at the Advertising Standards Bureau. Click here.

Signs of ‘fun’ on public highway, Taradale, June 2016: sights like these are common on our roads, and they are actively encouraged by TV advertising.

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Driving 2: Do gladiators have sensitive thighs?

A regular offender in the matter of promoting tough guy destructive driving is The Age Drive section. Its edition of last Saturday [April 13] featured an extensive review of the Suzuki Gladiator, complete with pics of mud being spattered, and a car conquering an impossible slope.

A strange feature of SUV ads is that in an increasingly urbanised society, they try to flatter the viewer as an intrepid adventurer raring to go out and tear up the world. A chink in the armour of this adventurer was inadvertently  revealed in the Age’s account of the Gladiator.

Generally favourable, the review noted that ‘the front seats… are a bit flat and the cushion lacks under thigh support…’

Our readers will not have failed to note the heroic names attached to most off road vehicles: Wrangler, Gladiator, Ranger, X Trail, etc…We did not previously know, however, that the heroes who thrash these vehicles over our long suffering soil were so sensitive in their  under thighs. Toughen up, Fellas!

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Remember the thinnings trial?

The ecological thinnings trial was conducted about 15 years ago in four locations in the box ironbark region. Locally the thinnings plot is in the Diggings Park along Morgans Track, between the Chewton-Fryerstown Road and the White Gum Track.

The principle behind the trial is as follows: devastation of the forests following the gold rush led to the destruction of most large trees, and regeneration of dense stands of saplings. The original woodland structure of reasonably widely spaced large trees was thus replaced by what we mostly have now: forests dominated by relatively spindly trees. These forests are naturally thinning themselves, with the gradual death of weaker trees, but the process is taking a long time. The thinnings trial is designed to hasten the process, by taking out relatively weak trees, thus allowing the better trees to grow more robustly, and thus creating a healthier woodland structure.

Section of the thinning trial near Morgan’s Track…

The project had a biodiversity aim: that is, it was intended to produce a better environmental outcome, not just straighter trees.

FOBIF did not oppose the trials, though we thought it was just as well to let nature do the thinning over time, and we were sceptical of the capacity of managers to maintain a credible monitoring program over a long enough period of time to show how effective the program was going to be.

Well, so far, so good, as far as the monitoring is concerned. A recent paper by researchers from Parks Victoria, DELWP and the Arthur Rylah Institute has given an account of the story so far in the thinnings plots. The conclusion of the paper is that tree growth in the plots is significantly higher than in adjacent control areas:

‘Three thinning treatments, differing in their density and pattern of retained trees, were compared with controls to determine the most effective approach for restoring these systems and increasing the rate of recovery for biodiversity benefits. The thinning treatments applied different retention levels of stems, one which reflected conventional silvicultural practice and two designed to reflect a patchy forest structure. The response of tree diameter growth to thinning treatments, for multiple tree species, was examined approximately a decade after thinning. All three thinning treatments increased tree growth-rates similarly (0.32–0.57 cm/yr), compared with the controls (0.2–0.27 cm/yr). These data suggest that the choice of thinning treatment may not be critical for accelerating tree growth, and land managers can focus more strongly on the treatment that provides the best overall outcomes for biodiversity.’

…nearby section of unthinned bushland. The principle behind the project is that thinning produces a more natural and biodiversity rich woodland structure.

There’s a long time to go, of course: in a drying climate, and with poor soils, growth rates are slow.

The paper is jointly written by Geoff Brown, Andrew Murphy, Ben Fanson and Arn Tolsma. Unfortunately it’s not available online.

 

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An invasive South American weed: Espartillo

Margaret Panter has produced another weed identification  pamphlet, this time about an invasive South American weed, Espartillo. If the text below is hard to read you could try this link for a clearer copy.

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