The Friends of the Earth Melbourne Forest Collective has launched a campaign working closely with regional communities to protect Victoria’s high country in the Alpine regions.
Disappointingly, these areas have become under imminent threat of logging, with new coupes being placed on the Timber Release Plan in areas of environmental significance with incredible outdoor values. We have been highlighting the need for the state government to act to the threats posed to these forests by climate change driven bush fires.
In 2023 we think it's time to catch up with our allies in the regions, meet new friends and supporters, and build the profile of some of our key campaigns. So we have begun hosting a series of road trips to different parts of the state during the year.
Over the last few years, the pandemic restricted our ability to get out into the regions which really limited in person connections, so we are taking the opportunity to get back out there to create wonderful experiences for our supporters and allies to come together for the environment. We need nature and nature needs us!
Last year we kicked off with a trip to Mt. Stirling with Friends of Mt. Stirling and the Victorian National Parks association. At night, the group conducted nocturnal surveys. What we found was a rich diversity of forests and ecosystems, from mid elevation mixed species forests, areas dominated by alpine ash, and in the higher area towards Mount Number 3, proposed coupes where older snow gums intermixed with alpine ash. While we did not spot either Greater Glider or Yellow-bellied Gliders (YBG), we found forests within the coupes with likely habitat for these species and an active YBG feed tree. It was a rainy but lovely time camping up on the mountain.
Earlier this year in January we visited the Little Dargo, hosted by a local family called the Treasures who have lived in the high plains for many generations. We gathered on their property where they spoke to us of the history of the area and the significance of the valley at threat which survived the fires of 2019/20 which burnt huge areas of north eastern Victoria. The remaining unburnt forests are more important than ever. One of these areas lies in the headwaters of the Little Dargo River, just south of Mt Hotham. It is a pristine area, without roads, and containing mature forest, much of it dominated by Mountain Gums and Alpine Ash. It is an area of state forest that lies right next to the Alpine National Park.
On our walk we saw a stunning array of wildflowers, mature mixed species forests and a stand of tea trees with a gorgeous fresh water trickling spring. The Victorian Forest Alliance (VFA) Survey Team visited the area over the weekend to survey for rare Mountain Leafless Bossiaea (Bossiaea bracteosa). The bossiaea is a threatened plant which is protected from logging by a 200m exclusion zone. VFA surveyors found large populations across several coupes, confirming that these areas must be protected from logging. This was an excellent find! These forests are home to rare plants and animals like the spotted and alpine tree frogs, and masked owl. The campaign to #SavetheLittleDargo continues to grow.
Most recently in March, Friends of the Earth hosted a mountain road trip beginning in Bright, travelling through the upper Big River Valley up to Mt. Wills where a group camped on top of the mountains, watching the sun sink behind swimming mountains that make up the Great Dividing range. It was an awesome time, hanging out around roaring fires, connecting with other campers out for a fish in the pristine rivers. We met with wonderful locals who had been living sustainably in the valley for decades, some of which depend on water sources flowing from areas of forest earmarked for logging.
We were joined by an enthusiastic contingent from Extinction Rebellion (XR) North East Victoria–Albury Region, who brought along their new and wonderful Pygmy Possum and Gang Gang costumes. Many excellent photos were captured and laughs had as folk ventured into the Big River to hold a giant banner saying “Stop Logging Victoria’s Forests”.
The Big River joins the Cobungra River to become the Mitta Mitta, and is important for the water it supplies downstream to the Dartmouth Dam and the Murray River. It is a fabulous rafting river and draws many paddlers each year to the remote upper reaches of the valley as well as huge numbers of fly fishers. Logging, especially at scale in the headwaters can be expected to negatively impact on water quality.
Part of a hike was led along the iconic Australian Alpine Walking track where several coupes have been placed. This presents us with a clear invitation to link in with keen bushwalkers and trail running groups who share a mutual love of one of Australia’s longest designated walking tracks connecting Walhalla to Canberra.
We are excited to continue hosting collaborative community events, highlighting the extensive outdoor opportunities and environmental benefits of the Vic high country, calling for an urgent protection of these forests and an immediate transition away from native forest logging.
The Victorian Alps are worth more than woodchips!
Alana is theFriends of the Earth Forest Collective Coordinator. The FoE Forest Collective meets every three weeks in-person and online. Find out more and get involved at www.melbourne.foe.org.au/events