Forested Foothills

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The Forested Foothills priority region extends from Dargo to Bairnsdale and across to Bruthen (refer to map). The northern boundary of the plains is characterised by the peaks of the Victorian Alps, through to the top of the Red Gum Plains in the south.

The forested foothills region is strongly associated with the Gippsland Lakes priority landscape area comprising much of the eastern river catchments that flow into the lakes, including the Mitchell, Tambo and Nicholson rivers.

The area primarily comprises a patched mosaic of cleared and vegetated land.  The native vegetation is dominated by lowland eucalypt forests of stringybark and silver top ash. The grazing land is made up of small to medium holdings that support sheep and cattle, and some forestry.

The foothills support a diverse range of flora and fauna species, including threatened species such as the southern greater glider, lace monitor and sooty owl. 

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Available data indicate that the Forested Foothills is in moderate condition (Table 1).

Table 1: Condition and trend of the Forested Foothills

WaterLand cover (DELWP 2020)There has been a 40 % decline in wetland extent in this local area since 1985.Declining
Index of Stream Condition (DELWP 2011)Toms Creek and Forge Creek were in moderate condition when last assessed in 2010 with low scores of riparian vegetation and aquatic biota.Unknown
BiodiversityCollaborative Australian Protected Areas DatabaseArea of permanent protection in this local area is low.Potentially declining
Area of native vegetation remains high with over 85% of the local area retaining native vegetation cover (native forests cover 83% of the area).Stable
LandAustralian National University’s Centre for Water and Landscape DynamicsLess than 1 % of the land in this local area has exposed soil.Increasing
Production forestry is the dominant land use, with around 12% of the land cleared for agricultural production, dominated by grazing.Stable
CommunityThe area includes Bairnsdale, with a population of 15,500 people. The area also includes smaller surrounding communities including Wy Yung, Lindenow, Glenaladale, Bruthen, Dargo, and Ensay. In October 2010, the Federal Court made a determination that native title exists over much of Gippsland, including the Gippsland Lakes local area, is held by the Gunaikurnai people (those persons who identify as Gunai, Kurnai, or Gunai/Kurnai).

The following high or very high threats to this local area have been identified through regional Biodiversity Response Planning (Tambo Foothills, Mitchell Foothills) and stakeholder workshops:

Natural resource extraction

Legal and illegal natural resource extraction can destroy habitat (e.g. grazing, timber harvesting, track creation, illegal firewood collection) or directly affect species populations (e.g. hunting, fishing).

Weed invasion

Weeds displace native species, alter vegetation structure and impact fire regimes. Over abundant native species displace existing flora 


Declines in populations and abundance of native species due to fox and cat predation. Introduced predators can act as disease and weed vectors


Threats to vegetation communities including threatened species from introduced grazers in particular rabbits and deer


Increased fire frequency and intensity impacting terrestrial and aquatic habitats. 


The resilience of natural assets, agriculture and communities in Forested Foothills Local Area are increased and ecosystem services are maintained in the face of climate change and other stressors.


By 2040, the long-term objectives for the Forested Foothills are to:

  • protect and enhance the condition of unique vegetation communities that support native animals and cultural values, in areas including the Mitchell River National Park, Colquhoun and Mount Elizabeth State Forests, and rainforest gullies
  • reduce threats and improve habitat to maintain population of key animal species, including owls, gliders and glossy black-cockatoos
  • integrated fire management across the Forested Foothills, communities and partners agencies working together to manage the landscape to protect communities, built assets and the environment
  • promote sustainable land management practices, particularly relating to soil and groundcover management, that support higher productivity and protection of the environment
  • maintain and improve the condition of significant waterways and tributaries of the Mitchell, Nicholson and Tambo rivers
  • promote awareness of, and participation by, communities and land managers in the management of fire, land health, vegetation protection and improving waterway health; also recognise, develop and utilise Traditional Owner knowledge of the cultural landscape.

This will be achieved by focussing on the following themes:

  1. Biodiversity – protecting unique vegetation communities 
  2. Water – protecting waterway health in the Mitchell, Nicholson and Tambo catchments
  3. Land – increased resilience and production in agricultural land
  4. Community – supporting community and landholder participation, and embracing Traditional Owner knowledge.
Theme - Water

Water – improving the condition of the Mitchell, Nicholson and Tambo Rivers

Current State

Mitchell, Nicholson and Tambo rivers are free of willows.

Some sections of waterway have continuous native vegetation riparian corridors with stock excluded.

Outcomes (2027)

Waterways are maintained as free of willows, and ongoing surveillance is undertaken for new and emerging weeds in remote tributaries.

Continuous native vegetation riparian corridors with stock excluded along priority reaches.

Outcomes (2027)

Rivers and tributaries are maintained as free of willows and no new and emerging weeds are established.

Continuous native vegetation riparian corridors along all reaches of river, with stock excluded.

Theme - Biodiversity

Biodiversity – working with land managers across the region to address pest plants and animals

Current State

Pest plant and animals threaten unique vegetation communities.

Pest animals such as deer and pig transfer weeds and impact on native vegetation.

Following landscape scale bushfires, these are key priorities moving forward.

Outcomes (2027)

Impacts are reduced on unique vegetation communities, through weed control and native animals are protected through ongoing integrated large herbivore control and habitat improvement.

Outcomes (2027)

Unique vegetation communities are maintained. 

Maintenance and targeted improvement of the condition, security, diversity and integrity of natural ecosystems and the status of threatened species.

Fire regimes are suitably managed.

Theme - Landscapes

Land – protecting agricultural land, productivity and soil health

Current State

Emerging focus on sustainable practices, particularly relating to soil and groundcover management. The focus is shifting from recovery following drought to increasing resilience to climate change and other stressors.

Outcomes (2027)

Continue to work with landholders to improve farm management practices.

Effective management of groundcover to conserve soils for the benefit of both agriculture and the natural environment.

Landholders will use systems and techniques to deliver long term outcomes for both farming and the environment, making the whole system more resilient to on-going threats (e.g. invasive weeds, pest animals) and to climate change.

Outcomes (2027)

Targeted improvement of the productive values and stability of the Dargo Mountain Basin and Tambo Valley agricultural land and soils.

Theme - Communities

Community – Working together to improve public spaces and recreational and visitor facilities

Current State

Community is involved in discussions and decisions with land managers and partner agencies in the management of fire, land health, vegetation protection and improving waterway health.

Outcomes (2027)

Community and Landcare Groups are collaboratively working with land managers and other partner agencies to be involved in fire and environmental management.

Outcomes (2027)

Community, partner agencies and land managers working seamlessly together to achieve environmental outcomes.

Landcare are integral to the collaborative approach with land managers and partner agencies.

There are four phases in the framework that describe the current status and trajectory of the local area:

  1. Target setting
  2. Taking action
  3. Recovery and growth
  4. Target achieved.
  • Support the development of the Central and Gippsland Sustainable Water Strategy, including supporting GLaWAC in the use and delivery of cultural flows on the Mitchell River, and permits and approvals for the partial removal of the Nicholson Dam wall.
  • Management plans developed to maintain the condition of the unique environments and cultural values.
  • Identify recreational opportunities in the forested foothills (4WD, Hiking, Canoeing, etc.).
  • Continue to develop best practice guides and initiatives to support farmers.
  • Integrated future fire management planning.
  • Continue to work with landholders to improve soil health and ground cover through education, trials and initiatives.
  • Control woody weeds along waterways.
  • Work with landholders to construct fencing along waterways and keep stock out.
  • Partial removal of the Nicholson Dam wall.
  • Improve the condition of environmental recreational assets and infrastructure.
  • Support farmers with demonstration trials, knowledge sharing days and initiatives.
  • Continue to maintain waterways and control woody weeds.
  • Maintain the condition of assets and infrastructure to support environmental recreation.
  • Continue to undertake surveillance and control (as required) on pest plants and animals.
  • Continue to support farmers with best practice works and programs.

  • Soil health improved and erosion reduced.
  • Variety of environmental recreation opportunities with well-maintained assets.
  • Woody weeds along waterways are controlled.
  • Flows into the Gippsland Lakes are unimpeded.