The Mt Etna OGRES are an informal group of six retirees who style themselves Old Guys Restoring Ecosystems. Since 2017 they have been volunteering one morning per week to assist in a major revegetation project at Mt Etna National Park. In the period up to 2017 a series of projects funded by Greening Australia and Fitzroy Basin Association saw several thousand trees planted on the old mining sites at Mt Etna. The area had previously been mined for limestone and guano over several decades. The overall aim was to establish green corridors across the park. The original vegetation was Semi-evergreen Vine Thicket (SEVT) and care was taken to source plant material of local provenance.

With the end of funded projects, the OGRES decided that if the site was to become a functional ecosystem it would need ongoing maintenance. They continued to water the young trees and initiated a program of weed control. QPWS supported the project with fuel and herbicide. In December 2019 one of the big wildfires in central Queensland swept through the entire planting (and much of the national park). The OGRES began tagging any plant material that looked as if it might have survived the fire then continued to keep the weeds under control. (Watering ceased because the whole system of pipes and hoses was destroyed in the fire). By mid-2021 there had been a somewhat surprising recovery of trees in many areas. QPWS were able to fund pipes for a new watering system and between June and December 2021 the OGRES planted approximately 1000 trees in new areas. In 2022 a further 2000 trees were planted on the southern side of Rossmoya Road. These plantings were funded by Fitzroy Basin Association (through WPSQ ) and QPWS (and some private donations).

Some of the OGREs Volunteers after some hard work

As with all such projects, successful restoration depends on follow-up and the control of weeds. Many revegetation projects ultimately fail because of the failure to follow up the planting phase. The area is still closed to the public but the plantings can be clearly seen from the main road. The activities of the OGRES have contributed to the success of this project which longer-term will see two sections of the national park connected by a green corridor consisting of a diverse array of species from the surrounding semi-evergreen thicket (SEVT) vegetation. It is also anticipated that the project will contribute significantly to the recovery plans for the nearby Ghost bat and Bent-wing bat populations.

In 2022 the OGRES have welcomed contributions from a number of younger volunteers and if you are interested in volunteering you can put in an expression of interest with CCC.

– Dr Bob Newby