Battling Weeds and Building Friendships with Tasmanian Land Conservancy, Australia

by isvolunteers on Tuesday, 7 June 2016

ISV Australia Project Leader Meg Cossar paints a picture of the volunteer experience working with ISV partner Tasmanian Land Conservancy (TLC) last season, exploring some of the country’s most spectacular locations and protecting threatened species and unique places.

Sunrise at the Sheep Shack

A spectacular sunrise at the Sheep Shack at the Tasmanian Land Conservancy. (c) ISV

After a long flight and arriving on a cold, wintry evening, seven young volunteers from the United States were wondering what exactly they’d signed up for! But the stunning morning view of the rolling mountains welcomed the group to their ‘off-the-beaten-track’ adventure, and they started to relax. After all, this was an experience of a lifetime.

Walking to the project site at Long Point

Walking to the project site at Long Point Wetland. (c) ISV

Eager to learn and get stuck into things, we donned our gumboots for the first walk to “the office”. We started at Long Point Wetland, one of the first properties purchased by the Tasmanian Land Conservancy for its unique ecosystem values. A salt marsh and RAMSAR wetland backing onto Freycinet National Park, Long Point is a haven for vulnerable and rare plant communities and habitat for migratory birds.

Killing Mr Gorse

Thomas Kirk adds some more gorse to the pile

ISV volunteer, Thomas Kirk, adds some more gorse to the pile. (c) ISV

In this beautiful spot, we met our old friend Mr Gorse; the number one invasive weed in Tasmania. Introduced by the English as a hedge plant for stock, gorse has thrived in the cool climate conditions of Tasmania. It’s dense, prickly and extremely hardy.

The best management technique in the sensitive wetland environment is the “cut and paste” method. That means cutting the stems with loppers close to the ground and applying chemical (round-up) to the cut. This has to be done within 10 seconds of cutting, so working in pairs was the way to go.

Project site Long Point in front of The Hazards

Long Point Wetland, one of the first properties purchased by the Tasmanian Land Conservancy for its unique ecosystem values. (c) ISV

Building Friendships

Group Photo - Natalie Rao, Lisa Ochoa, Bryan Luu, Emily Wilkins, Thomas Kirk, Connor Vasa, Chelsea Carhuff and Meg Cossar

Group Photo – Natalie Rao, Lisa Ochoa, Bryan Luu, Emily Wilkins, Thomas Kirk, Connor Vasa, Chelsea Carhuff and Meg Cossar. (c) ISV

Tackling the gorse together provided ample opportunities to get to know one other. Despite the tiring work, bursts of laughter and the hum of conversation buzzed across the salt marsh and a trail of cut gorse built up behind us.

The volunteers commented on how a positive attitude makes all the difference when trying new things or doing repetitive work. Seeing the good things – like working with great people, being in a beautiful place and learning about another country – far outweighed the challenges of cutting and pasting gorse all day long.

This positive attitude led to the creation of great friendships as we worked side by side to achieve our project goals of bettering the natural environment and living respectfully as an ISV family.

To thank volunteers for their contribution to conservation in Tasmania, we took an afternoon to hike to Wineglass Bay Lookout to see one of the best beaches in the world. Named due to the blood that flowed into the Bay from hunted whales in days gone by, we reflected on changes in Tasmania over time.

Battling Broom

Flat_Rock_Reserve_Matthew_Newton

The spectacular Flat Rock Reserve, which only two years earlier was head high with Montpellier Broom. (c) ISV

During our second week, friendships deepened as we tackled another weed – this time Montpellier Broom introduced from Spain. Only two years earlier, Flat Rock Reserve, was head high with this weed. Dedicated and ongoing work from ISV and TLC meant we were able to build on previous volunteer efforts by focusing on removing small seedlings and young regrowth. TLC predicts that in a few more years, the weeds from this area will be eradicated!

Why do people trash our environment?

Looking for possums in hollows of dead trees - These trees died due to prolonged drought

Looking for possums in hollows of dead trees. These trees died due to prolonged drought. (c) ISV

Before TLC owned the site, it was an illegal dump with people unloading unwanted stuff for a quick, easy and free disposal. The volunteers spent hours picking up glass, metal, plastic and a veritable array of used goods. Through carefully segregating the waste streams, we were able to recycle most of the items at the tip (which was not very far away ironically).

We discussed who or what ends up paying for “free” rubbish disposal, why people might dump rubbish despite a waste disposal source being available nearby, and the challenges of promoting conservation where there are value conflicts.

Lasting Change

Tim Devereaux from Tasmanian Land Conservancy explains how to remove gorse

Tim Devereaux from TLC explaining how to remove gorse. (c) ISV

At the end of our time in Tasmania, we reflected as a group on our experience, inspirations, learning and achievements. Each and every one of us felt that we had made a positive impact and learnt more about living sustainably. Lessons learnt were eager to be shared with friends and family back home. Less obvious lessons about living in the moment and reducing time in front of phones and computers inspired volunteers to continuing connecting with people and place more deeply as they continue their adventures in on tour Australia and beyond.

A massive thank you to the volunteers: Chelsea Carhuff, Natalie Rao, Bryan Luu, Connor Vasa, Emily Wilkins, Tom Kirk and Lisa Ochoa.

Check out news coverage of the group’s achievements:

Listen to an interview on ABC Rural Radio here. 

Featured in ‘The Mercury’ here. 

Find out more about volunteering in Australia!

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