Mountain Journal has previously reported on the extensive dieback of eucalypts that has happened across much of the Monaro Plains in southern NSW. Previous reports have suggested that the dieback is related to climate change.
This article is from the ABC, and the reporter is Alice Matthews
Native to Europe, Hawkweeds have recently become naturalised on mainland Australia.
Hawkweeds are highly invasive and spread quickly via runners and roots, forming dense mats inhibiting and outcompeting native vegetation. They can cause major environmental damage in alpine and sub-alpine areas, and are considered a significant threat to the Victorian Alps if not eradicated early.
Participating in volunteer surveys is a great way to help protect the Victorian Alps from this dangerous weed, as well as a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the magnificent alpine environment during the green summer months.
The following comes from the ABC (journalist is Rosemary Bolger). It chronicles the latest stage in the decades long campaign to have the dam waters above Lake Pedder in south west Tasmania drained so that the original lake and ecosystem can be restored.
A long-running campaign to drain Lake Pedder and return the natural jewel of Tasmania’s south-west to its former glory is ramping up again.
Despite opposition from a small group of environmentalists, the lake’s still waters were swallowed up in 1972 by a massive inland sea created to supply the Gordon Power Station.
Harnessing the power of the green movement that emerged from the failed campaign, protesters went on to wage one of the biggest environmental fights in Australia to block the damming of the Franklin River.
Hawkweeds are a highly invasive pest plant species which can cause major environmental damage in alpine and sub-alpine areas of Australia if not eradicated early. Native to Europe, Hawkweeds have recently become naturalised on mainland Australia. Hawkweeds spread quickly via runners and roots, forming dense mats inhibiting and outcompeting native vegetation.
For several years, Parks Victoria has co-ordinated volunteer teams each summer to remove Hawkweed on the Bogong High Plains.
Volunteer recruitment is now open for the 2014/2015 season Falls Creek Hawkweed Survey. Participating in the Falls Creek Volunteer surveys is a great way to help protect the Victorian Alps from this dangerous weed, as well as a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the magnificent alpine environment during the green summer months.
This story by Hilary Burden from The Guardian describes some work being done to restore the famous Higgs Track, which climbs through the Great Western Tiers, across Tasmania’s Central Plateau, towards the Walls of Jerusalem. The context is how people from across the land use divide are finding ways to work together.
The Mountain Huts Preservation Society is collaborating with the NGO Environment Tasmania.
The article says:
“Historically, Mountain Huts and green groups such as Environment Tasmania have been foes, ever since the nationwide environmental movement encouraged the removal of mountain huts. Twenty or 30 years ago, manmade sites of historic significance to local communities in Australia’s high country were deemed to clash with a vision of a totally pristine wilderness.
But times have moved on, the Higgs Track is now part of the World Heritage Area, and the former foes are working together to build a bridge” (in this case a literal one, a bridge over a stream).
“Anglers say the past season was disastrous in terms of lost brown and rainbow trout populations, and fear famous trout rivers are now years from recovery. “It was the worst trout fly fishing season in living memory,” Greenwells Fly Fishing Club at Albury president Des Walters said.
Many blame the widespread removal of non-native willows and poplars on public land under government environmental policy as the chief cause.
This is from a few weeks ago, but is good acknowledgement of the efforts of researchers working to remove Hawkweed and control willows on the Bogong High Plains. Thanks to David Turner for spotting this one.
Two Victorian researchers have been recognised for their outstanding contribution to managing highly invasive weeds in Victoria’s Alpine National Park.
Parks Victoria Chief Executive Dr Bill Jackson today acknowledged The University of Melbourne’s Dr Nick Williams, and Dr Joslin Moore from Monash University, as joint recipients of Parks Victoria’s inaugural Nancy Millis Science in Parks Award.
Dr Jackson said the award was being presented to the two researchers for their outstanding contribution to fostering excellence in applied science for the benefit of park management.
“Both projects demonstrated the researchers’ strong willingness to work closely with park managers to understand the extent and challenge of the weed problems. They also demonstrated leading edge science in solving difficult problems.”
“The work of Dr Williams and his team from The University of Melbourne has helped to protect the Alpine National Park’s biodiversity and transformed hawkweed control into a cutting edge and targeted program. This research partnership between Parks Victoria and Department of Environment and Primary Industries staff has significantly reduced Hawkweeds in the Alpine National Park, and the goal of eradicating it altogether is now a real possibility.”
“Dr William’s research and the work being done by all the partners on this project also benefits private landowners as hawkweeds have the potential to invade agricultural land and significantly affect agricultural production.”
Dr Jackson said Dr Joslin Moore and her team had achieved great results in controlling willow on the Bogong High Plains and as a result has had a major impact in protecting the Bogong High Plains environment.
“Willows are highly invasive and following the 2003 fires began germinating in large numbers. This posed a significant threat to an area within the Alpine National Park that is particularly important for its high biodiversity and landscape environment.
“As a result of a 7 year partnership with Parks Victoria, local Catchment Management Authorities and Falls Creek and Mt Hotham resorts, Dr Moore’s work has been fundamental in improving efforts to control willows on Bogong High Plains.”
Dr Jackson said both researchers had extensively documented their research in scientific publications, adding to the international body of work on effective methods of managing these extremely invasive weeds.
“I warmly congratulate Dr Williams and Dr Moore, and their teams who have contributed to this work, on making a real difference to managing invasive weeds in Victoria’s iconic Alpine landscapes.
“Caring for our parks is a complex task that involves many challenges including climate change, population increases and threats such as invasive pest plants and animals.
“We need innovative solutions and a good scientific understanding of how best to tackle these issues and how best to care for these important natural environments. Dr Williams and Dr Moore’s projects are part of Parks Victoria’s Research Partners Program that fosters collaborative applied research with universities and other research organisations.
The Nancy Millis Science in Parks Award
This award presented by Parks Victoria honours the late Professor Nancy Millis who was Chair of Parks Victoria’s Science and Management Effectiveness Advisory Committee since its inception 1997 and a member of Parks Victoria Board’s sub-committee on Environment.
I recently posted about the need for people who enjoy the mountains to give back to the natural environment in some way. One great option is to join or support one of the many groups that do ecological restoration work or track maintenance. One group that certainly ‘walks the talk’ is the Victorian Mobile Landcare Group, who work across a range of projects in the Victorian High Country.
The following is a report on a recent project they completed on the Bogong High Plains.
For contact details on a range of groups, check here.
Roper’s Hut Track Repair
Seven members of the Victorian Mobile Landcare Group Inc. (VMLCG) travelled to Mt. Beauty late on Friday 7 March in order to take on a request from Parks Victoria (PV) to assist create a rock vehicle bridge to protect sensitive sphagnum moss beds which straddle the Management Vehicle Only track out to the iconic Roper’s Hut, burn in the 2003 fires and restored in 2009 by a community effort, headed by the Freemasons Victoria NE District.
The team met Parks Ranger Elaine Thomas and contractor Kim, on Saturday morning at Falls Creek and after rationalising vehicles and loads to reduce track impact, travelled out to the Big River Fire Trail and Roper’s Track intersection.
Once fortified by an early morning team, the VMLCG team then walked to the site, and after a JSA and briefing on design and approach by Kim, commenced the work to excavate and create the crossing.
In all, around 4 cubic metres of existing material was moved to make two purpose built and rock-based wheel tracks for both PV and contractor vehicles required to access the hut site. The 4 cubic metres of 75 – 150 mm granite rock used to fill the wheel tracks was kindly donated to the project by AGL, the operators of the recently constructed Clover hydro power station and this kind donation is much appreciated and acknowledged. Without it, this work would not have been possible.
This one is start of work 10 am. The pink dots are the track outlines we had to create.
This one is start of work 10 am. The pink dots are the track outlines we had to create.
The VMLCG was originally tasked for two days but with the combined effort of the team and Parks Victoria rangers, the entire project was completed between 10 am and 1:30 pm on the Saturday – and after a quick lunch, the crew returned to Falls Creek and an early mark for the weekend!
The next phase of the project will be when the VMLCG returns with Fintona Girls’School to plant out around 450 alpine shrub species to stabilise the soil around the tracks and reduce their visual impact. It is expected in time, the spot will become barely noticeably and yet provide a much needed stabilising base for the occasional and required vehicle access.
We’ll let the before and after photos speak for the work done.
The VMLCG specialises in the development and delivery of remote area landcare projects and works collaboratively with a number of conservation groups on a diverse range of projects across Victoria. They can be reached via http://www.vmlcg.org.au
I was reminded of the fact that track work can be incredibly aesthetic. In Tasmania there have been various stages in creating and stabilising tracks, with less use nowdays of locally cut timber, in favour of treated pine and lots of boardwalks. This is never very nice looking in it’s own right, and often needs helicopter lifts to get to remote areas, and hence has a higher environmental impact than locally cut wood. But the stone work in many places, including Mt Field, is fantastic. Thanks to the Parks Service workers, contractors and volunteers who have put in so much effort for so long to stabilise the track network in the mountains.
Although I have walked in remote areas since I was a teenager, I sometimes found track works an intrusion on my enjoyment of wild landscapes. Of course, I eventually realised that in popular – and especially alpine areas – they are a necessary part of reducing impact, by channeling what otherwise may be a myriad of smaller braided trails into a single pathway.
Then the poet Gary Snyder introduced me to the idea of track construction, of laying stones and other trail stabilisation as meaningful work, a way for us to interact with the wild. His poem Riprap and other works constantly remind me of that. Track building is a subtle, low impact way to engage mindfully with landscape.
Lay down these words
Before your mind like rocks.
placed solid, by hands
In choice of place, set
Before the body of the mind
in space and time:
Solidity of bark, leaf, or wall
riprap of things:
Cobble of milky way,
These poems, people,
lost ponies with
and rocky sure-foot trails.
The worlds like an endless
Game of Go.
ants and pebbles
In the thin loam, each rock a word
a creek-washed stone
with torment of fire and weight
Crystal and sediment linked hot
all change, in thoughts,
As well as things.
As we walked out from a fantastic trip, I was reminded that helping out on working bees to stabilise tracks is a great way of giving back to the places we love. If you live in Tasmania, you may want to get involved with Friends of Mt Field, a volunteer group that does much of the track work there. But where ever you are there will be a group doing this type of vital work. You will find some contacts here.
The following is a reportback from Parks Victoria on this summer’s Hawkweed program. For several years PV has been co-ordinating a program on the Bogong High Plains aimed at getting this invasive weed under control.
Volunteers help to eradicate dreaded Alpine weed
Volunteers are helping to eradicate one of the state’s worst weeds from the Victorian Alps. Hawkweed is an extremely invasive member of the daisy family and is a State prohibited weed in Victoria. It has already caused major environmental damage in North America, Japan and New Zealand. Three species have been discovered in the Falls Creek Alpine Resort and surrounding Alpine National Park. An eradication program is underway and being jointly overseen by Parks Victoria, the Department of Environment and Primary Industries and Falls Creek Resort Management. Universities, research organisations and volunteers are also helping with the eradication program.
Over summer, 59 volunteers made a significant contribution by seeking out Hawkweeds across the vast and rugged alpine landscape. Volunteers from the Victorian National Parks Association, Weed Spotters, Landcare and Bushwalking clubs, as well as individuals joined forces for the hunt. They searched a total area of 73 hectares over a five week period in December and January, discovering 15 Hawkweed infestations.
“The search involved approximately a thousand hours of surveillance over rough terrain and often in challenging weather conditions,” said Keith Primrose, Operations Manager for the Hawkweed Eradication Program with Parks Victoria.
The project was assisted with information from Parks Victoria’s Research Partners Program by the University of Melbourne, Parks Victoria and DEPI. This helped locate and prioritise Hawkweed infestations.
Falls Creek Resort Management supplied accommodation for the volunteers free of charge.
This meant they stayed on the mountain for the surveillance work and enjoyed their free time in this beautiful landscape.
Parks Victoria Volunteer Coordinator Yohanna Aurisch says these enthusiastic teams are making a real difference. “We had an amazing season with a fabulous bunch of volunteers and we can’t thank them enough for their time, hard work and dedication. They discovered infestations of Orange, King devil and Mouse-ear Hawkweeds and have helped us take another step towards eradicating this highly invasive pest.”
Keith Primrose says only a committed approach will see the eradication of Hawkweed from the Victorian Alps “Without the dedication and effort of these volunteers this program has significantly less chance of success.”
Planning is already underway for next year’s season and recruitment starts later this year. For more information contact Keith Primrose via email@example.com
If you think you have seen a Hawkweed please contact DEPI on 136 186.
The NSW Government’s Bill to amend the Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Act and replace the independent Snowy Scientific Committee with an advisory committee under the control and direction of Katrina Hodgkinson (NSW Minister for Primary Industries) passed the Lower House last week.
One of the key benefits of the current Committee is that it was “firmly independent of government” as Ms Hodgkinson puts it (ie, doesn’t tow a government line).
According to a report in the SMH:
Scientists, including former members of the six-member scientific committee, said the separation from powerful interests such as the giant Snowy Hydro Ltd gave the panel a critical watchdog role that is likely to be lost. Irrigators, Snowy Hydro and government officials from NSW and Victoria are likely to hold sway, they say.
Independence is “the way scientists give you the best advice”, said Sam Lake, an aquatic expert from Monash University, who served on the committee.
It is set to pass the Upper House Tuesday 25th March unless the Shooters and Christian Democrats change their mind and vote against it.
An independent Snowy Scientific Committee is vital for the restoration of the Snowy River and all other rivers affected by the Snowy scheme.
If you value the Snowy, please write to the Christian Democrats and Shooters and Fishers policy managers, urging them to oppose the government’s Bill.
A quick email is sufficient.
(cut and paste, make any changes you want, add your name and address and email to the two emails below).
Dear Paul and Robert
Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Act
I write to you to express my concerns about the NSW Government’s Bill which will amend the Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Act and replace the independent Snowy Scientific Committee with an advisory committee under the control and direction of Katrina Hodgkinson.
I believe it is essential that the panel continue to be composed of independent, appropriately skilled people. If the proposed changes in the Bill are passed, a critical watchdog role is likely to be lost. Irrigators, Snowy Hydro and government officials from NSW and Victoria are likely to hold sway, rather than scientists.
Having the ability to get independent advice is the best way for government to make sound, long term decisions about the Snowy River. An independent Snowy Scientific Committee is vital for the restoration of the Snowy River and all other rivers affected by the Snowy scheme.
I urge you to vote against the proposed amendments to the Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Act.