As drought and unprecedented bushfire conditions rage across rural Victoria, one Stawell volunteer is dedicated to safeguarding an endangered aquatic praying mantis and other rare species in the Wimmera.
By coordinating the planting of 1.1 million trees, treating 20,000ha for invasive plants and animals and protecting 1,200ha of remnant vegetation through his decades of volunteer work with Project Platypus and Stawell Urban Landcare, John Pye has protected the vulnerable waterways in the region.
At Mount Cole Creek, 20kms outside Ararat, the former fire captain has monitored strengthening numbers of rare species including the endangered blackfish and aquatic praying mantis – and predicts the return of the ‘functionally extinct’ Wimmera platypus.
Resulting from his efforts, Pye landed the Australian Government Individual Landcarer Award at the 2019 Victorian Landcare Awards earlier this year.
‘The conditions are rough right now,’ Pye said, ‘but we have to work with what we have.
‘Climate change has transformed the Wimmera River into a series of intermittent creeks and treating these systems for invasive plant and fish species has given a fighting chance to native animals, some I had never even heard of before, like the aquatic praying mantis.
‘At Mount Cole Creek, there is a physical barrier which protects the native species and current conditions suggest a return of the Wimmera platypus could happen.
‘It very difficult to protect native species from the effects of drought and bushfires but it’s a matter of protecting what we have in the best way we can.’
John will go on to represent Victoria while competing for the Australian Government Individual Landcarer Award at the National Landcare Awards in 2020.
Dr Shane Norrish, CEO at Landcare Australia, commended Mr Pye on his outstanding accomplishments.
‘It’s an honour to be able to recognise the great work being carried out by someone like John Pye,’ said Dr Norrish.
‘A hugely deserved winner, he has not only significantly contributed to the protection of native biodiversity through on-ground, grassroots activities. But through his tireless work, he is nurturing the voices of international environmental leadership on climate change and we’re incredibly proud to help shine a light on his inspiring, important efforts.’