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Grass tree survives thanks to volunteers

SW4WDC members and DPaW staff relocating the grass tree
SW4WDC members and DPaW staff relocating the grass tree DPaW

A 200-year-old grass tree in Wellington National Park may have been saved thanks to local volunteers from the South West Four Wheel Drive Club (SW4WDC) and local Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) staff.

The up-rooted grass tree was found by DPaW rangers on a steep embankment several metres off Lennard Track. It had been pushed over onto its side and from appearances, a vehicle had driven off the track and onto the fragile embankment, crushing bushes and shrubs, scraping bark off trees and uprooting the grass tree.

Ranger Jamie Gault said the grass tree measured nearly three metres tall, with five separate “heads” and had an estimated age of 200 years.

“Grass trees are very slow growing plants and a magnificent example such as this – especially located in this ancient and fragile part of the Collie River Valley – is worth every effort to protect,” he said.

“Due to recent wet weather, the grass tree had an excellent chance of survival so DPaW park rangers, in cooperation with SW4WDC, began a rescue operation to reposition the tree and restore the surrounding damaged bushland.”

Mr Gault said the SW4WDC had been strong supporters of the park through Track Care WA Inc and had “adopted” the Lennard Track.

“Every year the club conducts busy bees, performing important track maintenance as well as rubbish removal and were more than happy to help in this recovery operation,” he said.

SW4WDC environmental officer Pam White said the club was shocked to hear of the damage to the area, with members disappointed at the wanton destruction.

“Within a fortnight, we had organised nine volunteers onsite with all the required lifting, digging and positioning equipment needed for this sensitive operation,” she said.

“Relocating the grass tree took the concerted effort of all members of the group using hand winches, tree trunk protectors and winch extension straps. The entire operation took around five hours to complete, but by the end of the day the grass tree was upright and secure, and the rest of the damaged area had been rehabilitated and on the way to a full recovery.”

Mr Gault thanked SW4WDC members for their assistance and ongoing support, and reminded the public that four-wheel-driving in Wellington National Park was dependent on seasonal conditions.

“During the wetter months of the year Lennard Track is subject to a winter seasonal closure to prevent excessive soil erosion and reduce the risk of spreading weeds and dieback disease,” he said.

“The seasonal closure allows four-wheel-drivers to enjoy this beautiful area of semi-wilderness and ensure that it will remain for others to enjoy.”

The five-year partnership between SW4WDC and DPaW encourages the respectful use of Lennard Track, by spreading the message through signage and social media.

The club conducts track care days to help maintain the condition of Lennard Track. During these track care days, members restore eroded gullies and improve drainage by placing small rocks in any puddles along the track, or using hand tools to ensure water drains off the track. The removal of puddles has a major impact on reducing the spread of dieback disease.

DPaW encourages people to be responsible when driving and enjoying areas of significance.

Members of the public wishing to be involved in the maintenance of Lennard Track should contact SW4WDC or DPaW in Collie on 9735 1988.