Category Archives: Enjoying the forest

Don’t miss Talking Fire – register now

Talking Fire picsCome along to Talking Fire, 12-13 November. It’s free and you can come for the whole weekend, or drop in for a day or a session.

Talking Fire is about our local community, and fire in our local landscape. How can we work better as a community to reduce the risk to us – to our homes, families and friends – as well as protect our forests, wildlife and cultural sites? Talking Fire won’t be anything like the standard annual fire briefing!

Saturday will start at 10am with a welcome to Country, short talks on cultural burning, ecology, local fire experiences and fire myths with speakers Trent Nelson, Professor Andrew Bennett, Joan Sartori and Sam Strong.  Then we’ll head out to Mt Tarrengower to hear from long-term fire spotter Peter Skilbeck. Then we will visit the Muckleford Forest to look at how the forest has recovered after the 1981 fire and the more recent planned burns, with guides Paul Bates (DELWP), Tanya Loos, David Cheal and others. Instead you can drop into the Newstead Community Centre and record your fire stories with Gordon Dowell, or map favourite places that you’d like to see protected from fire. Everyone will come together at 3.30 to share what we have learnt, and set the scene for Sunday.

Sunday morning starts at 10.30, and our focus will be on risk. We’ll hear about landscape-scale fire planning from Alison Boak (DELWP), community planning around risk from Steve Pascoe, and vegetation and fire from David Cheal, fire ecologist. Turning to the local scene, representatives from our local brigades and the Shire will look at how local planning could reduce risk.

After lunch, provided by Newstead Men’s Shed and Community Garden, Jinette de Gooijer will facilitate an exploration of ideas and options on how we might respond – as a community – to what we have learnt over the weekend.

What will come out of Talking Fire? That is in the hands of everyone who comes and contributes! So come along. Register via our website – talkingfire.org – it only takes a minute and it’s free.

Thanks to Mount Alexander Shire Community Grants, Maldon & District Community Bank (Bendigo Bank), and the Norman Wettenhall Foundation for funding support, and to all the local organisations and individuals who are helping make Talking Fire a reality.

Guarding our internationally important bird area

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Diamond Firetail (Geoff Park)

In 2014 Connecting Country posted that we have an internationally recognised IBA – an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) right here!

IBAs are sites of global bird importance, and are considered to be critical for bird conservation.  BirdLife Australia has identified approximately 300 IBAs across the Australian territories, each of which had to meet at least one of four strict criteria

In Connecting Country’s area of interest, four local patches of habitat were included in 2009 as part of the Bendigo Box Ironbark IBA.  These include our patch – the Muckleford Forest – and three other areas, forest within mostly privately owned land in Strangways (but also encompassing the Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve); the Sandon Forest; and the Pilchers Bridge Nature Conservation Reserve. Read the full CC post.

The Bendigo Box Ironbark area was considered to be an IBA on the basis of it being an internationally important site for the Flame Robin, Diamond Firetail and Swift Parrot. Now Birdlife are looking for guardians for each IBA and Connecting Country are keen to find out if those who participate in Muckleford Forest activities via this blog are interested in getting involved. Interested? Email mucklefordffg@bigpond.com and we’ll let you know more!

Minister fails to answer – so let’s go walking tomorrow!

The Minister responds

We have heard back from Minister Lisa Neville. What we got was a standard letter that focuses on the review by the Inspector-General for Emergency Management Victoria on performance targets for future fuel management program on public land. We know it’s a standard letter because we’ve seen the response to others who have also sought a moratorium on this seasons burns where there are significant biodiversity issues – like Donkey Farm Track and in fact much of the Muckleford and adjoining forests.

To quote Minister Neville: ‘We’re not pre-empting the results of the review, so planned burns scheduled for 2014-15 are still current’.

But our submission highlighted issues with a currently planned burn where we believe that the government is flying close to the wind in relation to state legislation. You’d think she might have at least mentioned our submission and the issues raised – even to reject our arguments.

We’ll be writing again to the Minister and to our local member of Parliament Maree Edwards to ask for a response to the substantive matters raised. And we are seeking a meeting with our regional DELWP officers to continue to advocate for the Donkey Farm Track area and to get their response to our submission.

But let’s enjoy the forest!

This Sunday, 19th April 2015 – tomorrow – there will be a bush walk in Muckleford. The walk is part of the Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests bushwalking program. We will walk through areas of interest like the firewood collection area and Dunns Reef. It’s a good 5-6km, with some uphill trekking, but fairly easy.

If you want to come on the walk, meet at the Continuing Education building in Templeton Street at 9.30am to car pool. Otherwise, meet at the Red, White and Blue Poppet Head mine in the Muckleford State Forest. Bring water bottle, snacks and lunch. We will be finished by 1pm. For any queries, call Neville Cooper on 0401 319 659.

The Dunns Reef area is scheduled for a burn in Autumn 2016. The Fire Operations Plan designates 257.6ha (CAS 011) to be burnt for fuel reduction defining the objective as “to provide an irregular mosaic of areas of fuel reduction which will complement works in adjacent fire management zones and can assist in ecological resilience and forest regeneration’. The way in which ecological resilience will be achieved by these burns has never been explained by DELWP (or its predecessor organisations DEPI, DSE etc). We don’t know which areas DELWP intends to ‘treat’ but they did put a sketch plan on the table a couple of years ago. There are also some designated Special Protection Areas within the Dunns Reef area, it adjoins the Muckleford Conservation Reserve and appears to be part of the Phascogale (Tuan) Priority Area (like the Donkey Farm Track area) based on Phascogale surveys conducted over many years by the Department.