Sea to Summit walk to connect tourists to the East Gippsland wilderness

Report shows strong support for Sea to Summit nature walk in East Gippsland

In 2018, the Victorian Government committed $1.5 million to plan a 120km nature trail linking the East Gippsland wilderness to the coast. While those plans were being made, the 2019/20 bushfires tore through the area burning over 1.1 million hectares of forest, decimating thousands of homes and jobs along the way.

The walk, proposed by Emerald Link with the support of the Goongerah Environment Centre and Wilderness Society, aims to link the environment to the economy and, in doing so, protect “the last unbroken forest wilderness areas on mainland Australia”.

Fortunately, the government continued the planning process throughout 2021, conducting comprehensive market research on the viability of the walk, which winds down from the Errinundra National Park to the Cape Conran Coastal Park.

In February 2022, the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio released initial findings on the viability of the walk and what the researchers found by surveying walkers and focus groups. In summary, it seems that a 4-5 day experience is most likely to appeal to visitors.

We look forward to seeing how the project progresses, viewing it as a valuable contributor to the Government’s Biodiversity 2037 plan and associated Victorians Valuing Nature initiatives.

Saving our High Country eucalypts

Standing by our iconic gumtrees

Anyone visiting the Victorian High Country cannot fail to be inspired by the beauty and majesty of the Snow Gum, with its twisted branches, pale green to cream-coloured bark and spreading habit.

This iconic species (Eucalyptus pauciflora) may be the subject of many tourist photos, but few visitors realise that the eucalypt, along with the Alpine Ash, is now under extreme stress due to a number of climate-related threats; the most devastating of which was the 2019/20 bushfires.

Friends of the Earth Melbourne (FOE) says five significant fire events over the past 20 years hasn’t given the trees enough time to regenerate and scientists are now asking if we are witnessing a ‘community collapse’ of both.

Being based in the Gippsland region of Victoria, we share these concerns and thank FOE for raising the alarm bells and taking action by engaging the community in efforts to map the snow gums in the northern end of the Dargo High Plains, as detailed in this excellent ABC News story.

The Alpine Ash is also facing widespread loss due to the hotter, drier conditions generated by climate change, with Greening Australia and Minderoo Foundation now involved in a program to find ’super seeds’ suited to a changing climate will help prevent widespread loss of Australia’s Alpine Ash forests before it is too late.

Action needed now

In August 2022, the ABC published an update on this story, presenting the issue as even more urgent today. Read the story here.

Protecting a South Gippsland icon, the Strzelecki koala.

Saving a much beloved neighbour

The Strzelecki Koala is Victoria’s only endemic koala species and a Gippsland local who we’re encouraging back onto Country via our EcoGipps venture.

According to Friends of the Earth Melbourne (FoEM) having healthy populations of the Strzelecki Koala is not only important for the region, but for the species as a whole, as genetic diversity is critical.

FoEM is leading efforts to protect the koala and safeguard populations more generally. It has developed a dynamic map of populations and is running a range of innovative programs to raise awareness and encourage citizen science (learn more here). 

Meanwhile in Alberton West

The Rendere Trust is also taking an active interest and role in protecting koala habitat by supporting efforts to save the Alberton West State Forest (near Yarram) from logging by VicForests.

The remnant bushland is home to many threatened species including the Strzelecki Koala, Powerful Owl, Greater Gliders and the Lace Monitor.

Here again, FoEM is leading the charge by calling for greater change against Vicforest and forestry industry standards.

Meet our Natural Capital Manager, Loulou Gebbie

Building and sharing knowledge of natural capital 

How do we encourage more people to value nature? Can we imagine a future where nature is meaningfully accounted for and included in decision-making? Can we inspire the community to invest in regenerative projects and use the markets as a tool to empower holistic land management?

These are just some of the questions that EcoGipps’ new Natural Capital Manager
Loulou Gebbie is considering. 

After completing her undergraduate Arts degree, which focussed on Human Geography and Australian Indigenous Studies, Loulou when on to complete a Masters of Ecosystem Management and Conservation.

Learning from our Traditional Owners

Loulou came across the Rendere Trust’s path in 2020 when she took up a university-led internship project with the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC) in Gippsland.

“The internship, which formed part of my University of Melbourne Masters, focused on linking Gunaikurnai land management practices to economic outcomes with a specific focus on identifying on Country carbon opportunities,” explains Loulou.

“The outcome was a report that focused on ‘communicating carbon’ and developing mutual understandings of carbon in the context of climate change, carbon policy settings, carbon markets, co-benefits and core-benefits.”

Loulou was employed as EcoGipps’ Natural Capital Manager in 2021 and is now leading a number of natural capital projects in Gippsland and beyond.

On natural capital

Loulou acknowledges that there can be confusion about the meaning of natural capital, but in general terms, “It is an approach to valuing the stocks of natural assets such as carbon, air, biodiversity, water and soil in order to maintain and protect them.”

In terms of how this will be applied in an EcoGipps context, Loulou explains that, ”the plan is to spend a bit of time initially connecting different organisations working on interrelated projects so that we enhance our collaborative network for biodiversity, landscape connectivity and social outcomes”.

She adds, “Among other things, we want to encourage people in and outside the region to invest in revegetation projects where the plantings have both a regenerative and carbon value and where investors can get credits that go beyond climate and incorporate additional environmental and social outcomes. It is a fast-evolving area and we want to scale it up.”

Read more about Loulou’s work with her colleagues in the University of Melbourne’s Pursuit magazine.