Strenuous effort, rich rewards

A strong contingent took on brisk weather and a couple of strenuous climbs on FOBIF’s October walk yesterday. The route took the group from the Railway Dam up to the Fryers fire tower, down to Fryers Creek and up again to ‘Hill 488’, the highest point between White Gum Track and the Railway Dam. The effort was significant, and the rewards were rich: terrific displays of Billy Buttons, Sticky Everlasting, Bendigo Wax and sundry peas, among many other things—not to mention impressive patches of Spider Orchids. The final stretch took the group through dense fields of Chocolate Lilies on the cusp of blooming…another week and ‘Hill 488’ will be even more spectacular.

Our thanks to Jeremy Holland for yet another imaginative and rewarding route. This was the last Sunday  walk for the year—but see here for details of the Matted Bush-pea excursion this coming Wednesday (the 23rd).

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NEW: FOBIF greeting cards

FOBIF has produced eight greeting cards featuring photographs of our local bushlands.  All the photos have been part of FOBIF photo exhibitions. Photographers are Joy Clusker, Patrick Kavanagh, Damian Kelly, Geoff Park, Bronwyn Silver, Bernard Slattery and Noel Young.

Click on the thumbnail images below to see compete photo. Each folded card is 10×14.5cm with details of the photograph on the back.

They are now available for sale as a set of 8 with envelopes. Cost for the 8 cards including postage is $20. Click here for purchase details. 

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TOGS exhibition extended

The TOGS photo show has been extended for a week and will now run until 31 October. So still plenty of time to drop in and have a look at the wonderful range of local bush photos. 

Janet Barker’s contribution to the TOGS FOBIF exhibition:

Vicroads massacre planned – goodbye to the trees. Photo: Janet Barker, Pyrenees Highway
January 2019

These are three of 140 trees removed by Vicroads in early 2019 as part of their road widening and barrier installation project through the Muckleford Forest between Muckleford South and Newstead. This stretch of road traverses important bird habitat, including the Swift Parrot, and is a wildlife corridor for many more species. It was also much loved for its aesthetic values.

 After a lengthy engagement with Vicroads, community members managed to save six trees from destruction and some wire rope barriers were replaced with metal guardrail. Speed limit reduction through the forest is still being pursued.

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Extensive consultation brings amazing discovery

The latest instalment of DELWP’s Future of our forests newsletter is now online. The newsletter is part of the government’s procedure in updating the Regional Forest Agreement [RFA]. This is a long and complicated story, but FOBIF is a little cynical about the process, for two reasons: first, because the RFA’s have failed to deliver the goods on forest health (you can see a detailed argument on the subject here);

Trail bike damage, Fryers Forest: in our darker moments, we’re tempted to think DELWP considers this use as equal in value to any other.

 

and second, such processes have a tendency to put a whole lot of points of view into a bag, shake them up, and come up with a ‘community consensus’. It might be a bit unfair to say so, but it’s tempting to believe that if such a process elicited these views from the community:

‘I’m a scientist and I’m concerned about ecological health’

‘I’m a career criminal, and I like to bury bodies in the forest, so I need some quiet private areas’

‘I’m a field naturalist, and I like to look for native flora’

‘I’m a developer, and I want to build a gigantic ecologically sensitive casino in the middle of the forest’

‘I’m a trail bike rider, and I like to gouge a bit of dirt, and make some noise’

…then DELWP would be inclined to try to give equal weight to all these points of view, including giving the crim some private space for his preferred activity.

Unfair, of course. But there’s a very slight suggestion of this in the September newsletter, where we read:

‘Throughout the engagement process Victorians have made it clear they enjoy accessing and using forests for many reasons including for recreation, health and wellbeing and want to continue to access forests.’

We had to have extensive consultation to find this out? As we’ve said before, being sensitive to community needs is great, but having a clear idea of your responsibilities and getting on with them is part of that.

In spite of our tendency to be negative, however, we recommend you keep in touch by reading the newsletter in the link above.

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Matted Bush-pea mid-week excursion

Several FOBIF members have organised an excursion to the Wewak Track on Wednesday 23 October to have a look at the Matted Bush-pea Pultenaea pedunculata in flower as well as other spring wildflowers. See this previous post for more detail on this area. We are meeting at 9.30 outside the Guildford Post Office and then driving in convoy to the start of the excursion. The walk will be fairly short and we will be back by midday. Bring morning tea. All welcome. Contact Bronwyn Silver on 0448751111 for more information. 

Our regular monthly walk is on this Sunday (20 October). See walks page for details.

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Great spring reading

The September issue of the Wombat Forestcare newsletter is now available online. As usual it’s a great read. You can find it here.

The issue includes a terrific article on Currawongs, a sobering item on the effect of rodent poison on bird populations, and a terrifically informative environmental history of the Wombat Forest–especially relevant given the VEAC recommendations currently before the State Government…and much else. Strongly recommended.

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Mount Alexander 1: What price safey?

As we mentioned some weeks ago, visitors to Mount Alexander have been shocked by the tree clearance operation conducted there in the last two months.

Mount Alexander: as always, the question is, could safety be achieved without environmental damage?

Enquiries as to the rationale for the works have been a bit of an adventure.

Parks Victoria assured us it was a Council matter.

Council assured us it wasn’t them and referred us back to Parks, or DELWP.

A second Parks source told us they’d agreed to the need for tree management, but it was DELWP fire managers who were responsible.

The first fire manager we spoke to told us he just arranged the contractors, but he hadn’t managed the project.

Finally, a second DELWP manager was able to give us some details. He informed us that the reason for the operation was not fire protection, but road safety. The two objectives were to remove trees leaning over the road and likely to fall; and to remove trees which reduced the parking area at the side of the road and therefore increased collision risk if maintenance workers had to stop for any reason. We’re told that a motorcyclist had crashed into one such truck forced to park in a place intruding on the roadway.

It seems that there had also been complaints by the CFA about lack of room at roadsides to manoeuvre trucks.

The overarching reason, in short, was road safety. We are assured that every tree removed was individually assessed. Any tree within 3 metres of the road, or outside that limit and ‘likely’ to fall, was targeted.

On the subject of trees leaning across the road, FOBIF understands the rationale of removal, though in the last 20 years we’ve seen nothing more than small wattles blocking half the road; and it’s quite clear that to achieve absolute safety you’d have to clear every tree within ten metres of the roadside, reducing the roadway, and the Park, to a desert. It seems to us that in many cases pruning rather than destruction would have achieved the required end…but of course that would be more expensive. The job was done by contractors, who are cheaper than a DELWP crew would have been. Would a DELWP crew have done a better job? We’ll never know.

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Mount Alexander 2: How wide should Joseph Young Drive be?

As to providing enough space on the roadside for parking vehicles we’re  sceptical. If DELWP workers are forced to intrude on the road, they could possibly do what workers do on highways: put witches hats out, and warning signs.

Roadside works, Mount Alexander. Correct us if we’re wrong, but it looks like the works have actually reduced the amount of space on the roadside. Would judicious pruning have done the job better?

Of course, if you really wanted roadside parking space all along the road you’d have to bulldoze plenty of embankments and do all sorts of major engineering works.

And on the subject of there being enough room for vehicles to pass each other abreast: the day after the snowfall on the Mount a few weeks ago, there were hundreds of sightseers up there enjoying the snow. Cars manoeuvred around each other without any trouble. It’s a mountain road, you see, and has to be handled like one.

Lastly, on the question of safety for general traffic: if there’s concern about this [and we haven’t seen statistics for accidents on this road] one answer is perfectly clear. Reduce the speed limit. Joseph Young Drive is not a highway or a major transport link. It’s very popular with road cyclists. No one should be driving on it in a hurry–on the contrary, it’s very definitely a road from which to enjoy the environment–or was, until the recent massacre.

But reducing the speed limit would offend one of our society’s most sacred principles. Or that should possibly be sacred cows. As we’ve seen repeatedly in recent times, the environment is being made to pay for our obsession with speed and mobility.

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And while we’re on the subject, here’s a little reason to slow down

That little blob below is an echidna. We think the pictures speak for themselves.

Pyrenees Highway, October 3. The echidna is heading across to the right, then changes its mind…

…which turned out to be a very good idea. Both drivers were travelling slowly enough to avoid the animal.

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Track maintenance: DELWP 1,000, FOBIF 0

In the last 20 years the problem most regularly confronted by FOBIF is that of track ‘improvements.’ We have complained with boring frequency to DELWP and Parks Victoria that almost every time a track is ‘improved’, the ‘improvement’ includes a widening of about a foot each side.

And we’re prepared to admit that our boring persistence has been completely useless. Usually we get the bland response, ‘Yes, the contractor was supervised; yes, our brief is to keep all works inside the track footprint. Really? Your photo shows the track has been gouged dramatically, taking out all that vegetation? That can’t be true!’ Oh, yes it can.

We believe that under new native title regulations any such widening now requires special authorisation—maybe that will bring a bit more attentiveness to the job?

In the mean time here are some recent works, courtesy of the taxpayer– you. Does it make any difference that a bit of vegetation has been scalped here and there? You decide: in our opinion the incremental effects over time make a very big difference.

Phillips Track, Maldon. This track has been significantly widened, with the occasional plant gouged out…evidently for safety reasons?

Gough’s Range State Forest: this benign track has had a good half metre added to it, for good measure.

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