Silver Banksia revival

This Silver BanksiaBanksia marginata, was photographed recently on the Campbells Creek Trail. The species was virtually wiped out in this region in the nineteenth century. The many healthy trees along the creek are testament to the work of Friends Campbells Creek Landcare.

Banksia marginata. Photo by Bernard Slattery, 13 February 2019

There has also been successful plantings in the Sutton Grange region. The Banksia marginata cones below were gathered to collect seeds from remaining local species.  

Photo by Ann-Marie Monda

You can check out more local nature photos on the FOBIF Instagram site and the FOBIF Flickr site.  

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Launch of Climate Flags

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Know your grasses

Margaret Panter has produced a useful leaflet with photos and drawings to help people distinguish between Needle Grasses and Native Grasses. You can download a PDF version of the pamphlet here. Contact Margaret Panter on 5470 5072 between 7am and 7pm for more information. 

Margaret has provided us with these links to some other Needle Grass brochures:

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Get social with FOBIF

FOBIF now has an Instagram feed and we would like invite members and supporters to send their local nature photos to info@fobif.org.au so we can include them on the site. To have a look at the site select the new Instagram button on the FOBIF website or search in Instagram for ‘boxironbarkforests’.

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Why didn’t we notice this before?

People travelling on Harmony Way south of Harcourt in the last few months have been intrigued by what seems to be a new kind of mistletoe on roadside Red Gums.

Creeping Mistletoe on Red Gums, Harmony Way: it’s not new, just a bit more obvious now.

Although maybe more prolific than in previous years, the mistletoe isn’t new: it’s Muellerina eucalyptoides, or Creeping Mistletoe. Here’s the description from Ern Perkins’ Castlemaine Plant List online:

‘It is common in the Harcourt-Faraday area where it grows on Red Gums. It is abundant along the old Calder Highway in the vicinity of the vineyards.

‘Identification:

  • instead of a single point of attachment to the host, Creeping Mistletoe has roots which twine around the branches or trunk
  • unlike other mistletoes, it often is attached to the trunk.’

Ern adds: ‘Creeping Mistletoe has a wide range of hosts, including introduced trees, such as the Plane Trees in Collins Street and St Kilda Road. I have not seen it on anything but Red Gums locally.’

Creeping Mistletoe flower: the flowering season is just finishing for this intriguing plant.

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Highway safety: the talk goes on

Vicroads engineers met again with residents in Newstead last week to go over objections to tree removals along the Pyrenees Highway [see our previous posts]. Numerous objections to the basis of the project were raised. Some were accepted as legitimate—statistics regarding traffic flow and accident occurrence, for example, were found to be flawed. Nevertheless, none of these objections were enough to change the nature of the project. Engineers present made it plain that in their view it will go on as planned, sooner or later, further consultations notwithstanding.

The crux of the matter, it seems to us, is that Vicroads is focused on one side of the accident equation. As we reported last week, road authorities attribute the rate of serious injury to two factors: likelihood of a crash, and impact if the crash occurs. Residents’ proposals have centred on the first: avoiding crashes altogether, by reducing speed limits and installing new signage with various road surface improvements. Vicroads works from the assumption that crashes will happen anyway, and we should work to soften their effects. Of course if a car veers off the road a wire rope barrier will soften the impact of the accident. But what if, owing to its lower speed, the car was not to leave the road at all? The two sides of the argument bounce off each other with no result other than the inevitable: the project will proceed…

One revealing moment in last week’s discussion: engineers claimed that for every request they have for a speed limit reduction, there are ten objections to it. We’re pretty cautious about this claim, which sounds a little self serving. We remember that we were offered the same reasoning ten years ago when we asked for a reduction on the Castlemaine Elphinstone road…and a few years after that, the limit was reduced, with little or no community objection…

Residents have sought the assistance of the Minister and the Member for Bendigo West, Maree Edwards, who has been co operative, so far. Consultations are ongoing.

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Eltham Copper Butterfly awareness project

Connecting Country is preparing a grant application to Mount Alexander Shire Council for an Eltham Copper Butterfly project, working with local ecologists Elaine Bayes and Karl Just, seeking funding to monitor and protect this threatened species. FOBIF has agreed to be a partner in the project.

The aim of the project is to raise public awareness about the butterfly, and help develop a small team of citizen scientists trained in ECB monitoring. Castlemaine’s Kalimna Park is home to the largest remaining population of the threatened Eltham Copper Butterfly. However, little is known about this fascinating species, which continues to be threatened by proposed fuel reduction burning. The project uses engagement tools to raise local awareness about the butterfly’s ecology, and builds community skills and capacity to monitor and protect the species into the future.

As we’ve noted below, insect populations worldwide are under pressure, and the more we know about them, the better we will understand how to keep populations healthy. It goes without saying that the presence of the Eltham Copper in Kalimna park is invaluable asset to the community. An example: the annual gathering of the South East Australian Naturalists Association will bring many visitors to this region in October, and one of the attractions will be the chance to see the butterfly…

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Only read this if you’re feeling courageous

As we pointed out a few weeks ago, there’s increasing anecdotal evidence of a decline in local insect populations. The evidence is mounting that this is a world wide problem.

On Helge Track: Reports say that butterflies and moths are among the worst hit worldwide. ‘For example, the number of widespread butterfly species fell by 58% on farmed land in England between 2000 and 2009.’

According to the latest scientific review, ‘More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.’

The news is depressing. What’s just as important is, what we can do about it. The suggestions are unsurprising: ‘Ultimately the size of the human population and how much land it uses for the food, energy and other goods it consumes determine how much wildlife is lost. Protecting wild spaces is important, as is reducing the impact of industrial, chemical-based farming. Fighting climate change is also vital, particularly for the many insect species in the tropics. So demanding political action, eating fewer intensively farmed meat and dairy products, and flying less could all help.’

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Forest management survey

DELWP is currently running an online survey to gauge community attitudes to forest management. According to a Department press release,

‘The Forest Reform Program is the bringing together of land and fire managers, Traditional Owners and Victorian communities to plan and deliver integrated forest and fire management across the state.

‘The aim of the program is to deliver great community value from our forests to all Victorians.

‘This process includes a clear commitment to work in partnership with Traditional Owners to deliver the Forest Reform Program and manage Victoria’s forests into the future.”

‘The survey is giving people an opportunity to provide their views on what they value in our forests, how forest management can be improved and what they would like from forests in the future.’

You can find the survey here. It suffers from the very serious fault of all voluntary surveys: namely, by definition it is not a random survey of a cross section of the population. Instead, it records the views of those most interested in promoting their views. All the same, it’s at least a partial indicator of what people think, and we recommend you have a go.

The survey closes on March 31.

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Pyrenees highway update: community group welcomes works halt

FOBIF has just received the following communique from Newstead 2021:

Community group Newstead 2021 Inc today has been informed by Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards that VicRoads’ proposed Pyrenees Highway Safety Improvements project between Newstead and Muckleford South have been postponed.

N2021 Inc submitted a petition with 532 signatures to Ms Edwards today asking the work be deferred until community concerns are addressed.

The project proposes to install wire rope safety barriers and guard fences, seal some sections of road shoulders and parts of intersections and remove roadside vegetation including 146 mature trees from Swift Parrot habitat.

Members of the Newstead community acknowledge the importance of road safety, but have been questioning the modelling, data and evaluations – economic, social and environmental – behind the project since 2016.

Newstead 2021 Inc has written to the Roads Minister, Jaala Pulford, about the project.

The group is asking that work to remove roadside trees be halted and the project commencement is deferred until community concerns are fully addressed.

These include the accuracy and reliability of environmental evaluations, traffic counts (eg. VicRoads project quotes 6400 vehicles per day. Local community counts suggest the figure is closer to 3600 per day), road crashes (eg. The project selects 2009 – 2013 data only) and modelling.

N2021 is also asking that the cost:benefit analysis and workings be shared with the community and that speed limits on this section of road are assessed in line with other reductions put in place along the Pyrenees Highway locally.

Green Gully residents are particularly concerned about safety and speed along the stretch of road and especially at their Cemetery Rd intersection where the school bus stop is located.

“Community members believe signage, road edging improvement along the entire section, line marking and changing driver behaviour would be more cost-effective to improve safety and minimise risk without removing 146 native trees,” resident Janet Barker said.

Residents are concerned about this project in light of VicRoads extensive tree removal and overengineering along the Calder Highway at Ravenswood near the Maldon/Mildura exit.

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