Mt Pinnibar (1,772 metres asl) is a lovely mountain in the far north east of Victoria, up above the Tom Groggin station in the Upper Murray Valley. On a clear day it has spectacular views of the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains.
Sadly it has also been devastated by bushfire. Most recently it was hit by fire during the horror summer of 2019/20.
The following images were taken in mid September 2021 by Trevor Staats and were originally published in the Australian Backcountry facebook group.
“Hadn’t been to Mt. Pinnibar for a few years, so we trekked up there yesterday. No snow on the northern aspects, but the bowls off the summit were great although somewhat limited terrain. The views over the Main Range were spectacular! I wasn’t prepared for how devastated the area was from the bushfires 18 months ago”.
I haven’t been into Mt Pinnibar for a couple of years, so haven’t checked the burn damage.
To paraphrase Buffalo Springfield:
There’s something happening here
This is indicative of a wider problem affecting the mountains and Snow Gum woodlands in particular. As climate change makes fire seasons longer and more intense, Snow Gums are being burnt more frequently than they are adapted to. This is causing localised loss of this vegetation community where the parent trees are exhausted and no long producing epicormic shoots and there are no seedlings.
In recent decades, wildfire has been devastating huge areas of the Snow Gum forests, with significant fires in the Victorian High Country in 1998, 2002/3, 2006/7, 2013 and 2019/20. More than 90% of Snow Gum habitat has been burnt at least once in the last 20 years.
No one really knows the scale of this dieback.
We’re trying to find out
There is a citizen science project that asks people to report localised loss so this can be compiled and provided to land managers.
A new report, An Icon at Risk, Current and Emerging threats to the Victorian High Country, produced by Friends of the Earth highlights the many risks faced by the Alps, including the potential loss of the Snow Gum forests. An additional threat to Snow Gum communities stems from the increase in dieback, which is caused by a native beetle but which appears to be supercharged by global heating. Climate change is driving more intense fire seasons and drying out the alpine and valley environments.
The report can be read here.
The report makes a series of recommendations about Snow Gums.
Key recommendations include:
- increase the number of career remote area fire fighters to protect national parks and other public lands
- create a volunteer remote area firefighting force within the CFA, as Tasmania, NSW and the ACT have done
- lobby the federal government to establish a publicly owned air fleet of Large Air Tankers.
- assess whether Snow Gum woodlands require the same level of direct intervention that Alpine Ash currently receives through reseeding and other recovery programs
- rapidly develop a plan to assess and manage the scale of dieback of Snow Gum woodlands due to damage caused by beetles
- ensure fire sensitive communities such as peatlands, Snow Gums and Alpine Ash can be protected from future fires through adequate resourcing of ground and air fire fighting capacity
Find out more and take action
To learn more about fire impacts on Snow Gums please check here.
You can support the call for better aerial firefighting capacity here (Planes are especially important for fighting fires in remote areas like Mt Pinnibar).
You can send a letter to the Victorian environment minister to adopt the recommendations of the report here.