The following is another letter written in response to the recent willow destruction activity on Monkittee Creek, just outside of Braidwood. This one was penned by Annie Duke and was sent as an open letter to the South East Local Land Services office.
To whom it may concern,
I must express my outrage and deep disappointment at the recent government funded and sanctioned environmental vandalism on Monkittee Creek, below the bridge on Little River Rd.
As a Braidwood Urban Landcare Group (BULG) member actively engaged in a non-destructive revegetation project along other parts of Braidwood’s urban waterways, I am truly stunned by this destructive willow removal. It amazes me to think how much public money has been wasted on this venture, while I and others invest hundreds of hours of under-resourced volunteer time planting and tending trees, building biodiversity and landscape resilience, without the expensive and destructive approach employed by South East Local Land Services (SELLS).
I feel great sympathy for residents who must pass by and witness this tragedy each day. As a down-stream resident I am deeply concerned about the inevitable impacts to be expected from these works with the next heavy rains and for years to come. All vegetation has been removed and the bare dirt that remains will last long into the future – especially given the current hot, dry weather retarding any recovery, even of grasses. Establishing new vegetation will be a long term venture and will require a great deal more money and resources and a long period of follow up watering to ensure any success. The lost habitat will not even begin to be replaced for at least 15 – 20 years and even longer for any useful hollows to develop. I have personally and repeatedly observed a vast range of wildlife happily using the willow-lined creeks throughout Braidwood as a home. I grieve for those creatures who inhabited this location.
I am baffled that an agency supposedly concerned with “sustainable water and vegetation management, healthy soils and biodiverse ecosystems” (from the SELLS website) has intentionally enacted so much damage to an existing and viable waterway ecosystem for no environmental gain whatever. This site, right on the edge of our town, is now a highly visible demonstration of all the wrong “how to’s”: how to degrade a landscape, how to create creek erosion and how to destroy habitat and reduce biodiversity. Perhaps I should also add the following; how to misguide landholders, and how to justify the use of expensive machines.
Apparently, SELLS claims to be “committed to engaging local communities” (also from the SELLS website). Working since 1997 BULG developed a Waterways Management Plan for Braidwood during which residents were canvassed for their opinions, attitudes and desires for the waterways in their town. These were compiled and inform the approach BULG takes to Landcare works. BULG was not consulted or even informed of these impending works on Monkittee Creek.
Many residents and community members would feel the Heritage values that apply to our built environment also encompass the natural heritage – that is, trees and landscape among other things. Not just gum trees, but also non-native plantings and tree-scapes that have developed as a response to patterns of use and habitation in this region. These willows are not “just weeds”. They are part of our community’s history. They are part of the ecology and the delicate water cycle of the area. They are also home to countless birds, animals and insects. Or they were!
My understanding of the next step in this process is that the poisoned tree carcasses currently piled on site will be burnt. Many creatures that previously inhabited this shady, tree-lined stretch of creek will now be sheltering in these large piles of dead wood. What will become of them when this material is “tidied up”? What quantity of Co2 will be added to the atmosphere as a result and what will account for the crucial organic matter lost to this soil? Are there structures, such as log sills, planned for the site? Where is this material to come from? What forest are those logs to be ripped from? How much will it cost to haul them here?
A reassessment of Natural Resource Management strategies and policies is long overdue. Those responsible must immediately cease this destructive practice of willow removal. There has already been too much of this destruction across this fragile continent. The focus must now be on undertaking non-destructive programs that enhance the landscape’s ability to repair erosion and resist damage during rainfall and flooding events. The goal must be to hold water in the soil, increase valuable habitat and biodiversity and facilitate the vital climate moderation performed by vegetation. There is no need for any willow destruction in order to achieve these goals.
Please, immediately cease spending public money on these out-dated practices. Instead, undertake some real scientific research and revise policy to reflect new understandings and local community concerns.
Annie’s letter was received by the field officer presently coordinating the work and, on request, conveyed to that person’s supervisors, and higher authorities in the SELLS hierarchy. Annie has since received a phone call from the supervisor and a letter from the General Manager of SELLS, Derek Larson. I will post that response letter shortly. Annie’s letter was also published in the Braidwood Times today. I will re-post any further correspondence on this topic as aired in the BT.
You too can contact South East Local Land Services if you have any concerns regards their existing management techniques or projects in Braidwood or anywhere else in the Southeast of NSW.