Perfect winter weather accompanied our group of 47 visitors to the Strathbogie Forest on Sunday. We came to see and pay respect to some of the grand old trees that still stand in this forest.
Two giants at the Messmate picnic area on Barjarg Rd are a continuing source of inspiration for visitors. These are perhaps the two biggest, oldest Messmate eucalypts (Eucalyptus obliqua) left in the entire Strathbogie Ranges. [Click an image to open the slide show.]
Messmate picnic area
Giant Messmate 50 m tall, 3 m dbh
Giant Messmate crown
Messmate on stilts – how on earth?
Standing inside – humbling and unnerving.
The Mountain Gum (E. dalrympleana) is another giant tree of this high elevation mixed species forest. Continue reading
Old-growth trees and open understorey in the vicinity of Mt Strathbogie.
There’s much discussion about how fire should be used in the Strathbogie Forest. An aim of any fuel reduction program is to create a vegetation mosaic, so that fuel loads vary and a wildfire can’t just rush through a forest unhindered. Of course, we’re talking here of ‘normal’ bushfires; no amount of fuel reduction or breaks will stop a big fire on a really, really bad day.
Planned burns to reduce forest fuel have been conducted for many decades in the Strathbogies, but have only been mapped since the 1970s (40+ years ago). We are concerned that too much planned burning is occurring in the Strathbogies and that it’s having a negative impact on significant forest assets. Our recent survey of the Tames Rd planned burn showed how ecologically devastating a ‘successful’ planned burn can be.
These maps of the main part of the Strathbogie forest show how much planned burning was done and where, in each decade since the 1970s. For reference, some other forest management assets are mapped: brown= pines, yellow = ‘reserves’, purple = Special Protection Zones (high conservation value areas), green = mapped/modeled old-growth (forest with old-growth elements eg. big trees). The darker-green background is forests that Click on an image for the slide show.
Brown=pines, yellow = reserves, purple = Special Protection Zones, green = ‘old growth’
Planned burns, in red, 1970-1979
Planned burns 1970 – 1989.
Planned burns 1970-1999.
Planned burns 1970-2009
Planned burns 1970-2015
Its’ interesting to see how the patchwork of planned burns increases with time. Keep in mind that lines on maps don’t tell the whole story. Important detail such as percent coverage, fire intensity, fire impact are not documented for any of these burns, so the maps are only part of the picture. Nonetheless, it’s clear that much of the forest has been burnt in the last few decades.
In the Strathbogies, long-unburnt forest and ecologically mature forest is rare and fragmented. Such forest has particular biodiversity values not present in younger forest and there are many types of plants and animals that rely on long-unburnt forest for survival.
Two things stand out from this information:
- The existing fire mosaic is a good basis from which to develop a plan for strategic burning in the future and
- The remaining areas that are long-unburnt, that contain ecologically mature forest of high conservation value, should remain unburnt.
Now look at what’s on the Fire Operations Plan for the next few seasons, including 2016. Continue reading
Gold mining 1800’s (Source unknown)
A call of “Gold—I’ve struck GOLD!” A township of 500+ people. A rush!
Notice of upcoming event.
Saturday April 26th, 2014 – A history walk of the forest & the old Tallangalook township, with Anne Simpson and friends.
Meet at 1.30pm at the Strathbogie Memorial Hall to drive to the area.
Messmate Stringybark (Eucalyptus obliqua) south side of tree.
200 years old, 300 years old, more? It’s hard to say, but these trees have been around a long time and deserve to grow old gracefully. And though this forest has been logged for more than a century (note the young trees surrounding the giant), logging up until a few decades ago was sensitive enough to allow quite a few of these forest giants to survive; but their days may be numbered. In the harsh world of modern, industrial logging, there seems little room for grand trees like this one. Continue reading
Mt Strathbogie (left) and Golden Mount, from Rocky Ned Lookout.
Something strange is happening – there’s stirring and disquiet in the sleepy hollow of Strathbogie. Folk are starting to cast their gaze to the East, up into the tall, mountain forests where few venture (locals, anyway). There are rumors that these forests are facing death by a thousand cuts, literally. It appears that heavy-handed, industrial logging is moving in big-time, if VicForests has its way. These forests have been cut for several generations – selectively logged. As late as the 1980’s logging was carried out by a small team of men with a dozer and chainsaws. They’d cut single trees or small stands and make sure not to damage the next ‘crop’ of trees, so that they could come back five or ten years later and repeat the process. The cut timber was then supplied to a local sawmill that employed dozens of men. The relatively high market price of timber at the time made such small operations economical (even if no one got rich!). And the really big, gnarly, old forest giants? Well, they were no good as saw-logs and it was often easier, and safer, to just leave them alone. But now with 20 tonne machines, huge cash and capital investment by logging contractors and a wood-chip (pulp wood) monster to feed, the forest gets a raw deal – it’s open slather! And here’s what can happen. There was once a majestic forest here, not just a collection of mostly dead trees, but a healthy, productive, beautiful forest.
Looking across coupe 411-504-0002 from cnr Barjarg Rd & Ferraris Rd.
Unbeknown to the-powers-that-be, forests are complex systems made up of hundreds of thousands of different living things, from deep in the soil to high above the tallest tree, all contributing to the whole. And forests are resilient and pretty forgiving – think of how the forests burnt in Black Saturday are coming back! These forests had been providing local communities with saw-logs, employment, clean air and water and much enjoyment for the last 100 or so years (not to mention the thousands of years before that). So, what on earth befell the above forest, so that it now stands like a graveyard – testament to our greed and ignorance? Well, it wasn’t a bushfire, nor a tornado, no – just a couple of blokes, some massive machines and a good dose of greed and ignorance. That’s all it took to turn what was a beautiful and productive forest, into an ecological wasteland that is unlikely to produce any quality timber until our grandchild are old! Apparently, this is called sustainable forest management.
For some background information on timber production in Strathbogie forests – Strathbogie Ranges CMN web-pages.