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A rescue plan for the snow gum forests

SnowGumForests_Square.pngSnow Gums (Eucalyptus pauciflora) are the classic tree of the Australian High Country. They are profoundly different to the trees found in mountain areas in other parts of the world, and give a uniquely Australian sense to our high country. However, they are facing a double threat: they are at risk from dieback and climate change driven bushfires.

Like most eucalypt species, the snow gum can survive fire. However, climate change is leading to more frequent and intense fire, which is causing more death of trees and changes to forest structure. And while dieback, caused by a native beetle, is a natural occurrence, the dieback is getting worse and more widespread because climate change is making winters warmer and summers drier and hotter.

While most snow gums in Victoria are included in national parks, we are on the verge of losing the landscapes that we spent decades protecting.

We acknowledge that these forests exist in the Cultural Landscapes of the unceded sovereign lands of Victorian Traditional Owners.

Good coverage of the threats

Read the recent story by Miki Perkins in The Age here. As we say in that story, “What we know is these forests will come back, but only if you keep the fire out. It’s a very low intervention approach.”

An iconic species under threat

In recent decades, climate-fuelled bushfires have devastated huge areas of the snow gum forests. There were 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. New research from Latrobe University shows that long-unburnt snow gum forests are now exceedingly rare (comprising less than 1% of snow gum forests in the Victorian Alps)

In recent years, Friends of the Earth (FoE) has been mapping the health of snow gum woodlands across north eastern Victoria and found a growing number of areas facing ecological collapse – that is, the loss of snow gum, with only grass and scrub remaining in once forested areas.

As climate scientist Michael Mann describes it, we are now seeing climate change play out in real time.

But we still have time to ensure the survival of this important tree.


This crisis can be resolved

We need the state government to intervene to protect these threatened forests. The first step in a meaningful government response should be to authorise an investigation into the ecological health of the forests, which would make recommendations to the state government about what to do next.

This investigation can be done quickly and at little cost, and will provide a direction for longer term government action to protect snow gums. We already know that if we can exclude fire from snow gums as they recover, there is a good chance we will see the development of old forests again. Groups like FoE have ideas on how to respond to the threats (you can read our rescue plan for the snow gums here) but state government needs to take action to assess the threat to these forests, and then allocate resources to protect them.

Take action

1/ Please send an email to the state environment minister the Hon Steve Dimopoulos and the State government urging them to take steps to protect the iconic Snow Gum forests.

2/ Please share your support for snow gums. Help spread the word about this important tree, the threats it faces, and the hope for restoration with your friends and colleagues on social media. Tag in the environment minister: Facebook - @DimoforOakleigh X - @Steve_Dimo

3/ sign up to get involved in this campaign. If you sign our letter (linked above) you will automatically get campaign updates. But if you would just like to get involved, please feel free to get in touch. [email protected]


Learn more

The FoE report, An Icon at Risk, Current and Emerging threats to the Victorian High Country, released in 2021 (and available here) highlights the many risks faced by the Alps, including the potential loss of the Snow Gum forests.

You can read about our work in the high country here.

You can find out more about dieback and Snow Gums here.


Support our work

If you like what we do, please consider supporting our work with a tax deductible donation.


What's at risk

Mt Wills

Mt Wills is an example of what a mature snow gum forest should look like. But these forests are increasingly rare and precious. We need government intervention to secure the long term survival of places like this.


Mt Wills is an 'island in the sky' - a small plateau which supports wonderful, widely spaced old growth snow gum trees, surrounded by deep valleys on three sides. It is connected to Victoria's highest mountain - Bogong (Warkwoolowler) - by Long Spur and is on the route of the Australian Alps Walking Track (the AAWT), our longest walking track in the high country.

There are impressive, older alpine ash forests on Long Spur, below the Mt Wills summit, which were scheduled for logging. This would have led to either failed regeneration in the coupes, or the creation of dense, flammable regrowth from logging operations which would have posed a direct risk of intense fire to the uphill old forests of Mt Wills.

This area must be protected from fire because of the value of its old snow gum forests.

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