WILDCARE Cradle Mountain Volunteers

Wildcare Cradle Mountain Volunteers have been involved with track-pruning of the day-walks in Cradle Mountain- Lake St Clair National Park for close to 10 years and this task will continue to be an integral part of their Volunteer Program Plan with the Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS).

One of the 7 “Leave No Trace” Principles is to stay on durable surfaces, be it a boardwalk or formed track. Clearing of over-grown or fallen vegetation away from tracks is important at Cradle Mountain National Park as it allows people to comfortably walk on track without brushing against vegetation or experiencing obstacles. People tend to break off vegetation or create new walkways when they are confronted with obstructing vegetation causing die-back in alpine plants which are very slow to grow and re-vegetate.

All work has previously been completed by using hand-tools, such as secateurs, loppers and hand-saws which has proved to be tedious, time-consuming and cause of “wear and tear” on the volunteers. The recent development of quiet, light-weight battery-powered gardening pruners and shears appeared as a beneficial (and approved by PWS) option to increase the time and efficiency of work and improve work-health and safety of our volunteers.

A grant from Wildcare’s Tasmanian Nature Conservation Fund (TNCF) of $1449.10 enabled the purchase of 2 Stihl Shrub shears and 2 Stihl pruners along with spare batteries and maintenance equipment.

The use of these tools has been an integral part of working bees since the purchase in October 2022. Cradle Parks carried out a job-risk assessment for the use of the power tools and volunteers have been required to be instructed on correct use, safe-handling and maintenance by a Ranger prior to use. The on-going care and maintenance of the tools, to ensure long-term use, is a priority of the group.

A workshop to introduce the use and care of the power tools was conducted by a Cradle Parks Ranger in October 2022 and attended by 12 Wildcare Cradle Mountain volunteers. The tools have been used on each bi-monthly and Spring-bee working-bee since that date, and the on-going induction on the correct and safe use of the tools has continued to build the numbers of volunteers who are permitted to work with the power tools.

The battery-operated tools have greatly increased the speed and efficiency with which volunteers have been able to work and enabled a cleaner cut, particularly when working with larger branches. On the November 23 Spring-bee, a section of overgrown button-grass which would have taken over 30 mins with hand shears, took 10 mins. Our volunteers have happily reported that pruning the tangled long branches of Baeura which encroaches the Dove Lake circuit-walk is easily trimmed back with the hedge-trimmer compared with the tedious method of cutting individual branches with secateurs. Battery operated tools are quiet and have allowed our pruners to work without disturbing the quality of the experience of visitors, (which is also a ‘Leave No Trace’ principle). Having the battery-operated tools as part of WCMV’s tool-kit will enable track-workers’ to achieve their objective of annual pruning of all day-walk tracks.