Why Landcare matters

It’s one of my earliest memories. Mum, Dad, my little brother and I took a tiny tree wrapped in paperbark down the paddock and planted it by the bank of the gully. It was a big affair that must have taken an hour by the time we got there, assembled the guard and wandered home again.

But that’s what “tree planting” meant back then and here is the very same tree today.

How we planted trees 40 years ago

A tree just about as old as the Milk Maid

Everything changed in my teenage years when we joined 20 or so of our neighbours to visit a nearby farm criss-crossed with healthy young stands of trees. John and Gayle had created an oasis on a windy flat. It was the first Landcare event I can remember and Dad and I came away totally inspired. He set about planting trees.

An aerial photo of the farm in 1994 shows young trees emerging around the dam but little else. It was still a blank canvas but there was a sniff of success.

The centre of the farm in 1994

The centre of the farm in 1994

Can you see a few trees along a rough line in the centre of the picture? It’s a denuded gully that now looks like this, thanks to Dad’s hard work and a Landcare grant that went towards his costs:

The gully 20 years later

The gully 20 years later

During my six-year-custodianship, we’ve planted nearly 10,000 trees and re-fenced our 11 hectares of forest with the help of Landcare, the local catchment management authority, the shire and Greening Australia. Although the funding sources are diverse, it’s all happened because of Landcare as the group acts like a triage service, matching funding sources with farm projects. The funding doesn’t cover everything but it does make it possible, especially with practical help from other Landcarers.

Landcare continues to inspire. In the last few years, our local Landcare group has created a grand vision that brings together the work of individual farms: creating wildlife corridors that stretch from the forest to the river to the foothills across farms, linking precious remnants to provide a network of habitats. And it’s working. Together, we can see that it’s not just our own farms that are changing, it is the entire landscape.

In this, the 25th Anniversary of Landcare, the Commission of Audit has recommended halving its funding – just as this powerful grass-roots volunteer movement has really begun to make a difference. Do you care? I do.

Bruce and Zoe planting in late October

Bruce and Zoe planting trees in October 2011

Progress: peeping through the same trees two and a half years later.

Progress: peeping through the same trees two and a half years later.

People who drive conservation by walking the talk

Three men drove up to five hours (each way) to get to our farm and then worked tirelessly all day for nothing except the sense of satisfaction that comes with doing something good.

David, Chris and Bruce are members of the Victorian Mobile Landcare Group, which is unique because rather than being a collective of environmentally-aware landholders keen to make their properties more sustainable, this is a group of environmentally-aware volunteers who plant tens of thousands of trees all over the state.

As they explain on the group website, VMLG members are “people passionate about land care through responsible 4WD use, we are a non-profit association tightly affiliated with Landcare Australia and 4WD Victoria”.

Last year, the VMLG helped us plant 800 trees and we were wrapt that they could come again this year to add 1200 more. Here they are at the start of the day, ready to get stuck into planting.

Victorian Mobile Landcare Group volunteers

Victorian Mobile Landcare Group volunteers: Bruce, Chris and David (L-R)

Bruce, Chris and David soldiered on in the rain (“just one more tray,” eh Chris?), stopping only for an hour-long BBQ lunch. I was proud to have Zoe working alongside these fellows who do so much more than talk about their commitment to the environment.

Bruce shows Zoe how to plant trees

Bruce shows Zoe how to plant trees

At the end of the day, we had created two wildlife corridors and shelter for the cows – a great outcome for the environment, our animals and the landscape. One tree was set aside for Zoe and ceremonially planted in the garden to remind us of the day.

Members of the VMLG and Zoe with a ceremonial tree

Members of the VMLG (David, Bruce and Chris) and Zoe with a ceremonial tree

Thanks guys. We couldn’t have got this done without your help. Thanks also to the West Gippsland Catchment Authority for spraying and 800 metres of fencing and to the Yarram Yarram Landcare Network for the donation of 400 trees.