The Yea River, as a small mountain stream high in the Toolangi forest. This is the very water I will follow to the ocean!
The mountain ash trees grow tall, reaching towards the sky forming a vast forest canopy and the dense community of tree ferns blossom out of the understory below. Water swells from the moist, fertile soil and vibrant fungi gathers on decomposing timber. Ferns grow upon ferns and the myrtle beach and sassafras trees twist and wind out of the gullies and as the forest breaths foliage of all forms hang down, drifting in the breeze, and the mountain streams begin to trickle towards the sea.
During the first weekend in March a group of people gathered and wandered through these forests. Guided by the experienced naturalist Don Butcher, we experienced these ancient forests; visiting giant trees, pure mountain streams and remnant gondwana rainforest. This was a unique weekend spent exploring and getting to know the amazing Toolangi forest and also a symbolic visit to the headwaters of the rivers that will carry me towards the ocean.
Within the lush mountain forests, damp gullies full of moss and ferns release water, slowly, streams form and flow through the gondwana rainforests and down towards the valleys below. The Yea River, Kalatha Creek and the Murrindindi River sprout into life out of the Toolangi catchment. These perennial rivers provide water, the life blood of this country to communities below and feed much of the Murray River system. These are the same waters that will carry me ‘from my backyard to the sea’.
These forests, as well as attracting rain, breathing air and being the ecological sponge that feeds our waterways year around are also a hub of life, providing critical habitat for many unique terrestrial mammals and majestic nocturnal predators. The Leadbeater’s Possum; Victoria’s state emblem lives and roams in old growth mountain ash forest of which 1% remains, Barred Galaxia swim along the streams and Sooty owls lurk with the rainforest realm. Toolangi is a special place of huge ecological significance, the Tangurung and Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation have deep cultural bonds here and the forest is essential to the natural phenomenon of the water cycle. You would think it absurd to clear fell cut these forest and burn the remains, however that is what has been all so common in the Central Highlands for decades.
After the 2020 bushfire season that saw many Victoria forest burn, Vicforests focused their attention on the older unburnt forest of Toolangi, targeting patches of forests with higher ecological importance to meet their wood pulp quota of supply for Australian Paper, a subsidiary of Nippon paper group. In March 2020 Vicforests began operations in the Zinger coupe, a patch of forest next to the Kalatha tree, a giant tree and forest walk much loved by the community. A week of protesting and direct action followed while legal battles were being played out in Melbourne courts. And 8 days after work commenced the mechanics left, leaving the forest standing. A huge win for the forest thanks to the amazing community and groups dedicated to protecting our all important forests.
Huge shout out to Wildlife of the Central Highlands (WOTCH), Forest Conservation Victoria, Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum Inc, Kinglake Friends of Forest Inc, Toolangi Forest Protection Group, Warburton Environment, Knitting Nannas of Toolangi, Little Red Toolangi Treehouse and many more community groups and individuals that stood up for this precious patch of old growth.
For more information about Toolangi visit any and all the above groups facebook pages and websites.
A good place to start is https://www.wotch.org.au & https://www.leadbeaters.org.au
Also check out http://www.homeoftheyarraeducation.com.au to learn about Melbourne’s mountain catchment and Don Butcher