Victorian Volcanic Plains Conservation Management Network

Raising awareness about the value and use of native grasslands, seasonal wetlands, grassy woodlands & other ecosystems on the Victorian Volcanic Plains

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Land for Wildlife

Are you a member of the Victorian Land for Wildlife program or do you know someone who is? The latest newsletter has arrived. It is only available online so sign up for it if you haven’t done so already. If you have signed up then may just need to check your emails as apparently there are some people who don’t open the link and miss out on some valuable info. LFW_Newsletter

This voluntary program  promotes wildlife conservation on private land. According to the DELWP website if you wish to create or protect wildlife habitats on your property, then the Land for Wildlife scheme can offer you advice and assistance no matter whether you manage a farm, a bush block, a council park or school ground. link


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A question to ponder

If you are interested in a longer read over the holidays I commend Steve Murphy’s Recreating Country blog to you, with the current topic being why are we losing the battle to save grasslands and grassy woodlands – link

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Taking bring your own to a new level

Although I had some disappointing visits to cemeteries earlier in spring I decided to look in at Inverleigh Cemetery recently.  There were some lovely patches of native grasses remaining unmown on the edge of the pine trees and some fantastic Feather Spear-grass, one of my favourite grasses.

For the first time I also found a tiny patch with bindweed and blue devils and I don’t know if it was planted, came on  the wind or flowered because it wasn’t mown this year due to a few branches lying on the ground.

Many #VVP Cemeteries come up on the list as where to see grassland remnants. In a few years without intervention this probably won’t be the case. Many relatives want to plant something on a grave and mostly it is non-native with weed potential.

I found an interesting example of someone introducing their own preferred grass! No need to wonder why we are losing the battle for remnants in cemeteries.

introduced grass around a grave

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More on native grassland burning

There was so much information from the CCMA workshop on ecological burning that I decided to post some more from my notes. Participants at the workshop would have gained a good understanding on the intricacies of burning and that there is a long way to go to get more ecological burning back into the landscape.

Kangaroo grass

One of the benefits of burning roadsides is to make them safer. Some weeds make roadsides unsafe. Police in the south west are pleased to see roadsides burnt as it helps to reduce accidents. Phalaris, an environmental weed on roadsides, grows very tall and may hide kangaroos which jump out and cause accidents. Native grass is not as tall and thick and kangaroos are more visible. Kangaroo grass greens up after rain and grows over summer providing less fuel for fires.

If we involve those who work on roadsides such as grader operators, they  learn about the value of grasslands and gain a better understanding of why they need to work in certain ways to prevent weed spread. Taking those involved on working on roadsides on bus trips provides a positive experience especially if participants are given grassland brochures and asked to find a few species.

Promote the good things that are happening. If CFA brigades that are involved in roadside burns are kept informed about projects on roadsides and participate in workshops they develop more ownership and keep a closer eye on roadsides.


When there are fire restrictions in place you will need a permit to burn. Fire breaks are required. Burning is very bureaucratic within the fire restriction period and you can’t burn before 10am if you want to.

CFA brigades choose to burn and there is no legislation that says they have to burn. Here is a link to a video about the Glenelg Hopkins CMA and the CFA working together to get better burning on roadsides.

Private landholders may choose to burn outside the fire restriction  period which is usually from late April depending on the season. They usually choose to burn from a mown break as graded and ploughed breaks are expensive to put in and maintain and may allow weeds to take hold. They also can have more flexibility on the time of day for burning.


Getting burns to happen is difficult with fewer workers employed on farms and more contractors employed for specific work. There are less private trucks and fewer volunteers.

Burning on private land is difficult. There are less skilled people and it is expensive to employ contractors. The CFA don’t want to assist as it is seen as an extra activity and it is hard to get extra people to assist. There is a lot of pressure to burn.

Traditional Owner burning is not the same as ecological burning. It may have ecological outcomes but it is done for different outcomes and has a strong cultural element. Here is a link to a burn at Teesdale.

Native grass has more protein that exotic grasses and markets are developing for the seed. The price of kangaroo grass seed has sky rocketed recently as interest grows. The management of grassland is expensive and there is a need to look for economic opportunities. Some Traditional Owners are becoming more involved in land management including burning and investigating new markets for native plant produce.

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CFA Fire Ecology Guide

On the  continuing topic of fire ecology some of you may be interested in this document. ‘The purpose of this Guide is help users working in the rural landscape (the Country Area of Victoria) to make bushfire planning and operations as (environmentally) sustainable as possible.

This Guide is specifically aimed at preparedness and prevention, as well as managing fire to maintain or improve biodiversity (regime management).

This Guide can be used at any scale, from the property to the local, municipal or state-wide level’. Helen Bull of obliqua pty ltd prepared this guide for the CFA in 2011 link

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Ecological burning of grasslands

a shower of rain and the native grass quickly greens up

Early in December Corangamite CMA hosted an excellent workshop on the ecological burning of grasslands. The presenters were Dr John Morgan (La Trobe University), Peter Wlodarczyk (Greybox and Grasslands Indigenous Nursery), Dale Smithyman (Golden Plains Shire), Anthony Watt (CFA Vegetation Management Officer) and Tom Calvert (private landholder).

Many aspects of burning were highlighted including the reasons for burning, when to burn, the need to know why you are burning and the difficulty involved in undertaking burns.

fire opens up the inter tussock spaces

Ecological burning is undertaken primarily to create space between the tussocks. The inter tussock spaces get smaller within 4 years without fire and in 7 years there may be no gaps. Grazing doesn’t achieve the same effect as fire but don’t be in a rush to burn grasslands that have been long unburnt.

If the site has always been grazed understand the benefits and be clear on what changes will result if you decide to burn. Don’t change good management as good grasslands are resilient depending on what surrounds them.

Burning is a massive challenge. If you are considering burning you need to be clear why you are using fire. Is it for reducing the biomass, to promote seeding of kangaroo grass, controlling annual weeds or improving habitat for a certain species? Don’t forget to monitor the outcome.

The frequency, intensity, season, rate of spread and fuel type also needs consideration. Late March is a good time to burn as there is not much happening above ground. Fauna can escape into cracks in the soil and survive in refuges and will have finished their breeding cycle. Roadside burning usually starts well before this but the aim is for community protection.

very dry grass, enough people and tankers and the right conditions ensures a clean roadside burn

Fuel type is important. Phalaris burns at a high intensity and has a high residency time (how long the temperature is above a certain temperature is important for animals). Soil temperature can increase by 50oC. There is still a lot to learn about fire especially in long unburnt sites and in grasslands that are predominantly wallaby or spear grass.

Here is a reminder for an excellent reference bookon grassland management which includes a chapter on biomass management in native grasslands ( ‘Land of Sweeping Plains’ CSIRO Publishing)


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Read the Plains Facts

Check out the latest Plains Facts as there is some great info and an exciting ‘VVP in Colour’ photo competition. If you get a chance over the summer go thorough some of your #vvp photos so the CCMA can promote grassland ecosystems.  Plains Facts_Summer2017_Edition 21