The last major planting of seedling trees and shrubs by ADA members at Clydebank Morass State Game Reserve in Victoria was completed in 2014. Greening Australia, who had been coordinating with the ADA virtually from the program’s commencement in 2005 rounded out their involvement in 2015 by completing a number of large direct seeding projects to fill any gaps that had not yet been addressed.
The higher ground at the 1,500-hectare Clydebank Morass now presents a very different picture to what it did when this important hog deer conservation project started. The hundreds of hectares of former farmland that were once covered in waist-high introduced grass species and scattered red gums are now a mosaic of grassland patches and various age-classes of shrubs and trees.
While it will be many years before these areas once again resemble untouched pristine forest, evolution is already taking place, with swamp paperbarks suckering to produce dense thickets, black wattles starting to die off, prickly wattles succumbing to hard frosts and native grasses starting to re-assert themselves as the tree-cover suppresses the growth of introduced pasture species. Hopefully, wildfire will not intrude for some years yet, but as our native vegetation has evolved with fire, sometime in the future it will inevitably occur to also make its mark on the area’s vegetation.
So, what of the deer? A small number of hog deer were present in the reserve prior to the replanting project starting, but whether numbers have increased since then remains uncertain. Certainly, if Boole Poole Peninsula or Blond Bay State Game Reserve are used as benchmarks, Clydebank still has some way to go deer-wise, but whether other issues still need to be addressed is unclear. Major floods, or conversely, a lack of drinking water, and poaching, disease and fox predation could all be continuing to constrain deer numbers.
Similar to the highly successful Blond Bay Project, the Clydebank Morass revegetation work has pushed the boundaries and involved hunters in conservation work that has benefits for the wider hunting community. It will never provide hog deer hunting opportunities for thousands of hunters but it has certainly been a step in the right direction and has demonstrated to the public, public servants and politicians that hunters can also be conservationists.