From fire-fuelled train history, to fire-fuelled conservation

The Koroit to Hamilton railway line is the focus of a partnership between CFA, VicTrack and Basalt to Bay Landcare Network, aiming at improving the native grassland at Warrong Siding.  


Warrong Siding native grassland proposed for planned burn for ecological benefit

The Koroit to Hamilton railway line was opened in 1890 and closed in 1977. It is typically a narrow linear reserve with a few wider sections where trains stopped to deliver mail and collect and deposit wool, timber, supplies and people.  Built at a time when agricultural mechanisation was low, the rail line has resisted a lot of the agricultural practices which have changed pasture, trees and the landscape away from native.

Now over 120 years later this same land managed by VicTrack and leased to the Basalt to Bay Landcare Network between Koroit and Minhamite, is a treasure chest.  The chest contains not only multiple rare, endangered, and threatened Victorian plants, insects, and animals, it is also a storyboard of our local transport and ecological heritage - its’ 37km length is referred to as The Green Line.

The focus of actions by Landcare are on keeping a healthy, diverse natural environment, promoting education, and strengthening the projects’ ability to buffer land and communities from fast moving grass fires, by introducing planned burning to the rail corridor. 

Fire is a tool for keeping native grasslands healthy and reducing fire threat.  Native grasslands benefit from regular burning by opening up spaces between plants, encouraging rejuvenated growth and flowering , and allowing seed to germinate.  It is also well documented that native grasses do not produce the flame heights and intensity of exotics.  To bring back managed fire into The Green Line sites Landcare is working with South West Region CFA, the local CFA brigade of Woolsthorpe, VicTrack, DELWP Forest Fire Management, and other supporters  to conduct a grassland burn on part of the former Warrong siding.

The burn is planned for autumn when native plants are not flowering and will decrease the cover of exotic grasses to create spaces for new native species to appear over winter and spring. This new activity of introducing fire will help to establish a start point for future burns like this on The Green Line.

Permanent post burn survey sites will be set up to record vegetation changes in the siding. One change we are aiming for is a re-emergence of threatened plants like the Basalt Leek Orchid, which can stay dormant in the soil for many years awaiting just this kind of intervention.

Media contact: Basalt to Bay Landcare Network Inc - Lisette Mill 0408712713

South West Region CFA - Heath Bunting

Landcare Australia - Rowan Ewing

Author: Justine Leahy