Access Officer Report Sept 12 – GGR and Planned burns

I recently attended the second meeting of the Greater Grampians Roundtable of which I am a member representing climbers and recreational users.  As noted in a previous Argus, the GGR is an opportunity for various stakeholders who use, live and work in the Grampians to have an open conversation with the DSE and PV on a variety of land management issues.  This focuses predominantly on Fire operations/planned burns etc in the park but does and will encompass more land management practices as time goes on. Whilst our discussions and feedback have no bearing on the actual plans themselves, they do impact on the processes in which these plans are implemented. Hopefully as time goes on, the community/communities will have a better understanding on what’s going on and when and also a better understanding of the complex process that is involved, through us as representatives.
To be perfectly honest, my knowledge and understanding of the fire operations and practices was pretty limited to the basic. What I need to know for my immediate safety, impacts to the areas I climb at and parks I visit. I would imagine that I am not alone  with this level of understanding. Following the Black Saturday fires, the 5% burn target across Victoria was imposed by the Victorian Royal Commission on Bushfires. While there might be some people who agree with this target, it never sat completely right with me. We’re dealing with a natural environment that constantly changes and a blanket 5% allows no kind of flexibility. How do you decide what to burn when you have a set end target rather than just areas which look like they have a build up of fuel and are due for a burn off.
Well, personally – I still don’t agree with the 5% burn target as don’t most of the people I often speak to. And if Neil Comrie’s recent report (Bushfire Royal Commission Implementation Monitor) – he was charged with monitoring the State governments response to the Black Saturday royal commission, is anything to go by, this target might hopefully be coming up for review soon. The 5% target  is a very crude plan of some averaging out of figures – What does need to happen now is some more intelligent discussion and specifics put in place rather than blanket 5% burn target of public land.
What I do have now though is a much better understanding of the complexities of the planning and am heartened in many ways, that many of the people that are having to implement these measures on the ground to reach these targets that have to be met, are at least trying to tackle this head on. By their own admissions, this has and continues to be a tough gig but on a positive note, for them, it has meant that they have needed to be a lot more creative and a lot more thoughtful than just deciding to pick an area and burn it off. In years gone by, this approach was often taken and in State and National parks where so many values are at stake, this is not a sustainable practice. From town assets to ecological values, cultural heritage, income and recreational impacts it is a veritable mine field to manoeuvre around to ensure that areas targeted are burnt responsibly.

Part of my role as a representative is to deliver information out to ‘members’ of my stakeholder group this being recreational users which of course includes the climbing community.  Trying to put the amount of information I receive out there could very well be overload but I think it’s really important for all concerned to have a better understanding of how it works. I will have a special section on the CliffCare website https://cliffcare.org.au/grampians/greater-grampians-roundtable-and-planned-burns-program/  that is dedicated to this as well as further links and downloads should you wish to read the various documents that are involved and hope that should you have any questions you will comment and ask away.  Besides the background processes, I will be highlighting any immediate issues which directly affect climbers such as planned burns around climbing areas. Always take note of these – they can help with future planning of climbing trips and for those that prefer the very remote cliffs, can be a life saver. Do be aware though, that dates are flexible. Planned burns need to take into account weather windows as well as other outside influences. Sudden burn changes have happened in the past with very little notice – I will endeavour to get this information out and online as soon as I have it but if you haven’t subscribed to the CliffCare blog site it will be dependant on you checking it yourself.  This is a great reason to sign up to receive updates on the blog as they come in.  I am hoping to also put a newsletter sign up in the very near future which will also go a long way to getting information out there.
Take a little time to acquaint yourself with the ins and outs of the planned burns program –  though it may seem dry and maybe not as exciting as a new route or new climbing area, it does mean that having more information at your fingertips means a more informed understanding of the bigger picture and our place in it as well as other user groups. You really do need to understand the nature of the beast before you can begin to try and change it.

One of the major areas of concern for climbers in the proposed Fire Operations Plan for 2012 – 2015 in the Wimmera Region would have to be the Victoria Range and in particular the Red Rocks area, Chimney Pots, Fortress etc targeted in the next year. This would mean the area would be closed down for about 3 weeks. I don’t have any real specifics on this yet I made a point at the roundtable, that especially in remote areas like the Victoria Range, having a decent window of notice means that more people can be informed not only for their forward planning but there is less likelihood that people uniformed about the burns in the area will make spontaneous trips in. Any thoughts you may have on this will be appreciated and you can also comment directly by visiting the DSE site here http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/fire-and-other-emergencies/planned-burning-an-introduction/get-involved

You should also visit the GGR and Planned Burns page on the CliffCare site here https://cliffcare.org.au/grampians/greater-grampians-roundtable-and-planned-burns-program/  More info and handy draft documents on the FOP.
Cheers,
Tracey

Access and Environment Officer report June 2012

It does seem that every Argus report more recently I am rabbiting on about the latest working bee.  I know, same, same but different. Well I won’t be rabbiting on too much……but I do need to always thank the generous people who give up some of their time to help look after the cliff environments.  This time it was the You Yangs. Urinal Wall to be precise. With a grant that we were successful with in 2010 and then work postponed because of the floods and closures at the You Yangs, we have finally started the work. Contractors will be actually creating the small retaining wall at the base end of Royal Flush but we spent a couple of hours sourcing rocks from around the area to be used in the wall. With a small crew of 8 we waded through boneseed (gee, that plant was born to survive) and hunted for suitable sized rocks for the wall.  I did tell Mark Rippingale that his injured shoulders would be safe as the rocks we were sourcing didn’t need to be as big as the Pharos stock, but everytime I looked they seemed to have bigger and better rocks. Who was I to tell them to go smaller. Steve Toal and his partner Paula had rocked up earlier to get a few climbs in and brought along a haul bag.  Which I saw Paula using later, to great effect. As a backpack with rocks in it.
Mike Poore and his young family of two were there with chupa chups – as a reward for helping out.  Wilhem the two year old seemed determined to collect as much dirt as he could on the chupa chup. For a 2 year old he was putting on a pretty good show walking up and down the slightly steep track to the cliff base.
And true to form – the sun always shines at the You Yangs – it was a glorious day and at 11.00 the crew stopped and spent the rest of the day climbing. Perfect! Thanks to Ben Wright, Mark Rippingale, Michael Dowling,Josh Mills, Anthony Ulrich, Steve Toal and Paula, Mike Poore and future climbers Wilhelm and Mikayla. For more photos of the day, please visit out Smugmug site and check out the You Yangs gallery

Recently I was invited to join the Grampians and Surrounds Stakeholder Roundtable which meets about 4 times a year as a representative of recreational users and the climbing community. Below is a basic blurb about what the roundtables aims are. It is sponsored by PV and DSE. As you will read, it doesn’t formally influence the policies as such but can impact on the way that the policies may be administered. What I think will be really useful is being able to work with other usergroups on these issues and also being able to deal directly with those that our activities can sometimes impact on. I see this as a really positive move.
In order to truly represent the climbing community, it is important that I receive feedback from the climbing community.  Whilst I try at all times to keep an ear close to the ground when it comes to the thoughts and needs of climbers, please feel free to drop me a line.

Grampians Roundtable
The Grampians National Park and Surrounds Stakeholder Roundtable brings together a range of people who are interested in, or impacted by planned burning and other land management practices.
It aims to:

  • improve communication between stakeholders, land management agencies and the community
  • develop a shared understanding of complex land management issues, including fire management

The Roundtable does not formally influence government land management policy, but it can influence the way policies are put into practice.