Local cactus warriors honoured

The Tarrangower Cactus Control warriors have been honoured with a national Froggatt Award.
The accolade is awarded to those who have made a major contribution to protecting Australia’s native plants and animals, ecosystems and people, from dangerous new invasive species.
The passionate local group have lured university students, local scouts and even Work for the Dole crews into their scheme to rid invasive wheel cactus from their part of Victoria.
Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox said the local Tarrangower Cactus Control Group has gone to extraordinary lengths to turn the tables on wheel cactus, a weed that escaped gardens in the 1960s and began taking over local bushland.
“Their passion for protecting the natural environment from wheel cactus, a highly invasive and extremely difficult plant to kill, has roped all sorts of people into their program,” Mr Cox said.
The Tarrangower Cactus Control Group has contributed to state and national policy development, including the first-ever Victoria-wide map of wheel cactus and the Managing Opuntoid Cacti in Australia manual.
Tarrengower Cactus Control Group president Lee Mead said it is a real honour to be recognised with a national award.
“It’s really rewarding and great to see our volunteers acknowledged for all the work that has been put in over the last 13 years. And it will motivate us to keep going,” Ms Mead said.
The group has worked incredibly hard over the last 13 years using herbicides and manual labour to remove the weed infestations which were recently classified a weed of national significance, placing it in the same category as weeds such as blackberry, gorse and Patterson’s Curse.
During that time the group has also held regular community field days and had written and won numerous grants to continue its important work.
“We hold six community field days a year in collaboration with Parks Victoria on private and public land to conduct demonstrations and educate landowners, in particular those new to the area, on eradication of the weed,” Ms Mead said.
“We also compile information brochures, manage our website – which is always being updated with the latest information, and offer equipment loans and other incentives to help local landowners tackle their infestations.”
Ms Mead said 2019 will see the group enter new territory as it introduces a biological control for the first time, the Cochineal bug – known for its red dye, in a bid to help them beat the cactus. The group won a grant from the North Central Catchment Management Authority to help make the project a reality.
“We hope the combination of biological, chemical and manual controls will help us get on top of local infestations,” she said.
Froggatt awards were also given this year to an intrepid band of bushwalkers who led a feral horse protest walk all the way from Sydney to Mt Kosciuszko and to the creators of a green-haired Biosecurity Warrior.
The Froggatt Awards are given out by the Invasive Species Council every year and are named in honour of Australian entomologist Walter Froggatt, a lone voice in the 1930s warning of the dangers of releasing the cane toad into Australia to control beetle infestations in sugar cane.

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