Gary Muir: Life in Paradise Round About

For nearly 20 years, every Thursday night, Gary Muir has slept outside.

Gary is a seventh generation Australian. His family were farmers and first moved to Western Australia from Scotland in 1856, to help supply the south coast whaling fleets.

Sleeping outside reminds Gary of his roots and the importance he places on connecting with his wilderness home. 

His daily routines are a nod to a family who for generations would help represent the local Murrim people and were part of a culture and movement that was responsible for protection of some of the most significant wilderness left in Australia today - the amazing Karri forests surrounding Walpole in Australia’s great south-west edge.  

"A paradise round about, a survival, a part of Eden where so far, the virgin beauty of God's fair domain has been preserved intact". Frank Skinner Thompson. 

"Larger than life" is a phrase that's often used to describe Gary. It’s hardly surprising. Gary's family history, deep enthusiasm and burgeoning knowledge of this region is a steadfast reflection of the landscape’s history and vitality. 

Fascinated by history and geneaology, Gary has created a life based on his understanding of the past, present and future of this region and his place in Walpole, his role in the protection of this wilderness is inspired by his connection to people who have come before.   

Gary’s name-sake and distant relative John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club is perhaps one of the greatest naturalists of all time. In 1903 Muir famously inspired Ted Roosevelt to preserve 230 million acres of land, on what became the Yosemite National Park. Muir forest and Muir woods in the US are named after him.  

Gary’s own family legacy is hallmarked across the state. After they took up land in south west Western Australia, Gary’s family joined their parcels together to become what’s now known as Muir’s highway. Even a local endemic cockatoo Muir's (Western) Corella are named after them. 

The Muirs have celebrated 156 New Years days at the same location in Walpole, surrounded by giant Karri forests that still reach the ocean here today - where elsewhere in Australia they would have been long-since cleared and replaced with flimsy regrowth. Instead, here, you can stand beneath several hundred years old trees with 10m girth at their base.  

Gary runs “WOW” Wilderness Cruises in Walpole, which gives him the chance each day, to meet travellers to the region and tell his stories. It’s a business that started 106 years ago. All the family’s horses were supplied for the first world war and lost, so his grandfather started Muir’s tours when he first bought a car in 1908. He was one of the earliest tour guides for the area. 

Gary helped design and build the “Valley of the Giants” treetop walk, even forcing contractors to stay and camp on site during its surveying - wild Quokkas, a diminutive wallaby endemic to Western Australia, emerge on dusk to feed graze among its metal understorey.  

Then there’s his award-winning entrepreneurial invention the evotically-named Phyto Fighter 1000, a boot-cleaning station now used at sites all over Australia. 

There are several ground-based pathogens and fungi in Australia that are spread rapidly along walking trails. They kill frogs, undermine root systems of flowering plants, leading to chronic die-back and affecting countless nectar-eating animals. Indeed, Phytophthora, after-which his cleaning station is named, is Greek for ‘Plant Killer’. 

Being one of 34 global hotspots for biodiversity based on the high number of unique flowering plants, animals like Honey Possum, Western Spinebill and myriads of other creatures are affected. In Queensland, his stations are being used to combat Chytrid fungus, which has already caused the near-extinction of a number of species. 

Gary’s relentless persistence and ambition to protect this region may ultimately see him, with this single invention, protecting his own 230 million acres of Australian bush. 

If a man can do all that, imagine what we can all do together? And in this case, it didn’t even require the intervention of a national leader or politician.

Food for thought. 

Wildiaries • July 2016