Worth the wait! – Grassland burn successful at Mt Vandyke this January

Colleen lighting the hilltop burn

As some of you may have read in previous blogs, Mount Vandyke in an NGT restoration reserve, in in the heart of Cobboboonee National Park in Victoria. The site is a volcanic peak, which has been historically cleared for grazing and then developed for plantation forestry. Now it’s on its way to becoming NGT’s first small mammal reintroduction site, and has been fenced with a predator proof fence.

Ahead of mammals being released, we are in the process of restoring the grassland at Mount Vandyke – taking it from weedy pasture to a native C4/herb dominated grassland. Weedy pasture grasses can be quite a challenge to get rid of, and the legacy of past agriculture is lots of nutrients and biomass in the soil, favouring the pasture grasses over natives. So, as part of the grassland restoration process we have been planning the first of many burns, using fire as a management tool. The burn will reduce biomass and nutrients in the soil before the direct seeding of native grasses. In preparation for the burn the two areas had been sprayed with herbicide several times, and after the burn the areas will be lightly tilled and sprayed a number of times to control emergent weeds and to prepare a clean seedbed for the direct seeding of native grasses.

On Friday the 19th of January, after two attempts were cancelled due to rain in late 2023, we finally managed to burn the allocated fire zones on Mount Vandyke. Following an ominous week of rain and wind, the weather cleared, the tussocks dried, and a gentle breeze guided the flames across the hillside. It couldn’t have been better! The 3.5-hectare area was burnt in two zones: 2-hectares at the top of the hill and 1.5-hectares on the lower flats.

This successful burn is a testament to all involved, and sets up the site for planned restoration works this coming autumn. Preparation for the burn required extensive collaboration with the CFA who provided the burn plan and permits (and shared a story about the burn here), Lyons CFA Brigade, who helped to organise the day, provided personnel, and supplied equipment and NGT staff, who helped supervised and provided the all-important catering.

We were also honoured to have a local Portland artist, Carmel Wallace, attend the burn, to develop her mixed media artwork exploring the environment of the Cobboboonee National Park. We look forward to seeing the final piece!

You can read the next blog post about how the already planted area of grassland here is going.

We gratefully acknowledge our generous supporters and donors in making the purchase and on-going restoration of the site a reality.

John Bradford