Fire: more might be less

FOBIF has made submission to Forest Fire Management’s burning proposals for 2022-5. The submission is printed below.

Our approach over the years has been to insist that all ‘fuel reduction’ exercises be carefully monitored, and that the results be used to improve future practice. This is in fact DELWP policy, but we’re not convinced that the policy is properly followed.

We have been encouraged by the observation by local fire management last year that ‘ lower intensity burns seem to not generate as much fuel and accumulate fuels slower than burns that are generally burnt hotter. In addition, lower intensity burns generally maintain the Overall Fuel Hazard (OFH) levels under triggers for more years than higher intensity burns.’

Let’s see how that observation translates into practice.

Tarilta valley, south end: we believe that the dense regrowth was caused by DSE’s 2012 ‘reduction burn’. The department believes mild fire is better for fuel reduction. We believe it’s better ecologically…but, of course, only detailed monitoring could confirm these ideas.

The submission runs as follows:

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to this plan.

We are encouraged by the following observation made by Adrian Parker in correspondence with us last year: ‘[DELWP] have … observed that lower intensity burns seem to not generate as much fuel and accumulate fuels slower than burns that are generally burnt hotter. In addition, lower intensity burns generally maintain the Overall Fuel Hazard (OFH) levels under triggers for more years than higher intensity burns.’

Unfortunately we have observed over the years that many Department burns feature substantial areas of severe fire, including widespread canopy scorch and destruction of large habitat trees. We are hopeful that future exercises will avoid these excesses. We have a large photo file showing that in fact severe Department fire has generated massive fuel regrowth. The fuel reduction objective of the exercise is completely defeated in these cases. We are aware of the difficulties managers face in these exercises: in our opinion a major part of the problem lies in the size of the blocks to be burned. We have expressed our view on this in past letters to the Department.

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Fire proposals: have a say!

The Department of Environment has released its draft fuel management plan for 2022-4 for comment. The plan includes ‘DELWP led fuel reduction and ecological burns, and does not include Traditional Owner burns, CFA led burns and mechanical works.’

The plan can be seen at this link:

The interactive map at the link is pretty mediocre, but it does give an idea of proposed management burns for the next couple of years.

A screenshot from this map shows some of the burns proposed for this region:


–Glenluce-Hunters track, centred at the junction of Irishtown and Hunters track, in the Diggings Park

–Irishtown track: a large area bounded by Irishtown tk, Vaughan-Chewton road, Drummond road, Smutta’s track and Hunters track

–Wewak Track: a very large area between Wewak and Sebastopol tracks

–Tarilta: an area west of Porcupine ridge road, at the north end of the valley.

–Taradale: an area on the Old Drummond road, along Humboldt track.

–Taradale: a substantial area along Salt Water track, adjacent to the recent Bones Gully burn.

— A substantial burn along the Maldon Railway line, one of the region’s prime wildflower areas.

–Two burns in the Walmer State forest.

FOBIF has the usual concerns about these exercises (see, for example, our posts here), here, and here )

And there’s an additional one: we’re curious about the fact that three of them seem to be double zone burns. That is, in one go, the Department is going to burn an area that is half zone two (‘Bushfire moderation’) and half zone three (‘Landscape management’). These zones are in theory supposed to be treated quite differently: Zone 2 is largely fuel reduction; Zone 3 is meant to have significant ecological outcomes.

That theory is going to be severely tested.

We’ll be repeating our concerns in a submission to the Department.  Submissions close on July 11. Address your input to

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Fabulous fungi walk

Last Sunday a good sized group was led on a lovely circuit walk around the Fryers Ridge bush by local Christine Henderson. There was a mix of tracks, trackless and even some private property (with permission ).

The bush looked great in its Winter guise but the highlight was the incredible abundance of fungi. Noted fungi expert and author Joy Clusker said it was the best display she had seen on Fryers Ridge. Many thanks to Christine for a superb day out and to Joy Clusker, Kevin Kato and Liz Martin for sending in their photos.

Next month is the dual long and short walks, further details will be posted in due course.

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FOBIF walk, 19 June 2022

Sunday’s walk starts on the Taradale-Fryerstown Road, at a parking spot near the crossing of Kangaroo Creek. We’ll make our way off track through private land up a rising ridge, leading to the Fryers Ridge Road. A couple of kilometres of easy walking south along the road will bring us to another off-track stretch, passing through beard heath gardens in bud, admiring tall hakea stands, correa reflexa bushes and early woolly wattles (Acacia lanigera) in blossom. Our return leg will take us through a forest clearing on private land, then a last gentle uphill stretch on an old vehicle track before meeting a DELWP forest track that will lead us back to the cars. Meet at Templeton Street, Castlemaine at 9.30am or in Taradale main street opposite the Metro service station at 9.45am. We will carpool to the start of the walk from there. Ring Christine Henderson for more information 0417 529 392.

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Impressive update of Bendigo fungi guide

Joy Clusker and Ray Wallace have just published the second edition of Fungi of the Bendigo region: a guide to identification. As well as a stunning new cover this 146 page book contains 65 new species and updated names. All the brief species descriptions are accompanied by terrific identification photos (see examples below). The book also includes an introductory section about fungi and a useful index. 

Castlemaine and surrounding residents will find this is an excellent guide to local fungi especially as Mount Alexander is included in the observation habitats. 


Authors: Ray Wallace and Joy Clusker. Photo Liz Martin

The book is available from Stonemans in Castlemaine, Bookish Bendigo and Aesops Attic in Kyneton. You can also buy if directly from Joy

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The Wetland Plant Identification and Ecology Course 2022 – IS BACK!!

Commencing December 2022, this course is for anyone interested in Wetland Plant Identification and Wetland Ecology.

The course is run on 3 separate days from December 2022 to April 2023 to allow participants to observe the changing seasons and water depths of the stunning Reedy Lagoon, Gunbower Island over a 5-month period. Each of the 3 days will focus on a different wetland habitat (wetting and drying) and associated plant community. 

To find our more or register click here

The course is now being run through our new not for profit charitable trust, the Wetland Revival Trust.  All profits from the course will feed into to wetland purchase, wetland projects and management.  See to find out more.

You can check out the course flyer here.

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A new life for Forest Creek?

What do you think of the walled section of Forest Creek from the old footbridge at the bottom of Andrews street (Ten Foot bridge) downstream to the Pyrenees highway at Barker street?

Castlemaine Landcare have embarked on a collaborative project to revitalise this section of the creek. The intention is to ‘to create a more natural form for the creek as it flows between the historic walls and to provide opportunities for people to enjoy a rich natural environment by improving water quality, habitat, amenity and access.’

Forest Creek in flood downstream of the Wheeler Street bridge, February 2011: the project aims to improve public amenity and natural values without damaging the channel’s flood carrying capacity.

You can have a say in this project: click here to access the online consultation. The process is open till June 17

Previous investigations into the creek have recommended the following outcomes for any project:

  • the historic stone walls are maintained
  • flood carrying capacity is maintained and there is no increased flood risk
  • there is no increased fire risk
  • community amenity is enhanced.

These recommendations are supported by Mount Alexander Shire Council’s Castlemaine Urban Waterways Management Plan (2018).

Partners in the current project are Mount Alexander Shire Council, North Central Catchment Management Authority, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Dja Dja Wurrung Enterprises trading as Djandak, and Friends of Campbells Creek.

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Fuel break for Muckleford forest

Representatives of local enviro groups met with the DELWP Strategic Fuel Breaks team in the Muckleford forest last week to look at the break proposed along Bells Lane track. This will run from from Muckleford School Rd (east) to Roberts Rd (west)–see the map below. It will be 8 metres wide, on the north side of the road only. It roughly duplicates a wider fuel management corridor in past fire operations plans.

Vegetation in the break will be mulched to between 10 and 30 centimetres; it’s proposed to mulch again in 5 years.

The purpose of the meeting was to identify areas of ecological or cultural significance for exclusion. Vegetation along the track varies from extremely sparse to very healthy. Patches of this healthy vegetation were noted by the team, and we are assured they will be excluded from the mulching exercise.

As we’ve reported before, FOBIF has no problem in principle with fuel breaks around settlements. Breaks through forest areas are more problematic, and the potential for damage to high quality vegetation is more serious. These exercises illustrate the difficulty of achieving fire safety ends without damaging the environment.

So far, the fuel breaks team has shown an impressive attention to detail in the planning of these breaks. One of the key factors in this process is the skill and commitment of the works crews. We are assured that in this project the contractors are fully briefed. Bell’s Lane will be an interesting test, and will be a bit of a rehearsal for the proposed work through the Fryers Forest, where the potential for a horrific scar through high quality biodiversity is very real.

Works on the break are due to start in June.

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All threats averted

A small group of heroes tackled FOBIF’s May walk, in spite of unfriendly weather forecasts and a slightly forbidding walk description, which piled threat on threat: climbs, creek crossings, fallen logs and loads of gorse.

All participants survived this grim prognosis, however, and the excursion into the less travelled end of the Tarilta gorge delivered rewards definitely worth the effort, including impressive valley walls and good displays of fungi. The valley floor features magnificent Candlebarks, and there’s an unusually wild atmosphere in this corner of bushland.  The weather was mild throughout. The gorse, though predictably annoying, proved to be a paper tiger, albeit a prickly one. OK, that’s a mixed metaphor, probably. In any case, it’s worth pointing out that the infestation of Tarilta Creek by gorse, from Mount Franklin down, is quite scandalous. Though at its worst at the south end, the weed is gradually getting worse through the valley, and it would be good to think that DELWP had some kind of strategy to deal with it.

The walk route traversed areas in which dense regrowth of Messmates and Wattles, almost certainly outcomes of the 2012 management burn, blocked out entire gullies.

Our thanks to walk leader Bernard Slattery, although he made several predictions of disaster which failed to eventuate.

The June walk will be led by Christine Henderson in the Fryers Forest. Check the program for details.

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Tarilta, south end

FOBIF’s May walk will tackle the Tarilta creek valley from the Sawpit Track end, the starting point being  about a 30 minute drive from Castlemaine.

This is the less travelled end of the valley: there’ll be steep ascents and descents, uneven ground, possible wet creek crossings, fallen logs to traverse, and some annoying gorse to negotiate–but, of course, it’ll all be worth it. About 7kms. See the walks page for more general details.  More info: Bernard Slattery 0499 624 160

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