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Sowing seeds of hope after the fires

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Tree planting in the Lower Cotter Catchment.

Tree planting in the Lower Cotter Catchment. Photo: Richard Briggs

Replanting forests has helped many Canberrans recover from the 2003 firestorm.

Greening Australia's capital region chief executive Jason Cummings said volunteers wanted to clean up the landscape to be involved in something positive as part of their healing.

Since 2004 more than 12,700 volunteer days have been spent planting more than 300,000 seedlings in burnt areas.

In the Lower Cotter catchment, eucalypt trees, shrubs such as wattles and hop-bushes, grasses and forb plants - including beautiful native daisies - are restoring scorched earth.

Even ruined pine plantations are being replaced with native plants.

Native woodland is able to regenerate.

Away from urban areas and deep within water catchments, Greening Australia, which is working in partnership with ACT forestry staff, had plenty of freedom to replant.

Eucalyptus species including ribbon gum, with its long, dangling strips of bark, were not replanted because they had started ember fires before the 2003 fire front.

Improving water quality and native biodiversity in the Cotter catchment was timely before work to enlarge the Cotter Dam wall.

''From a water quality perspective there is less run-off from the native systems than there is from pine plantations, especially from active forestry,'' Mr Cummings said.

''It is a profound change in many ways. It symbolises the shift away from pine plantation forestry in the ACT and reshapes land use to conservation and water quality and recreation for the foreseeable future.

''The fire was a force for attracting people, but it is not really the motivating thing that keeps people coming back.

''We saw a spike in volunteers just after the fire.

''We continue to experience volunteers coming and staying but it is unrelated to the fire.''

John Thistleton

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