8 February 2024 |

The team at VNPA are deeply saddened by the death of Dr Michael Feller. Michael died unexpectedly and peacefully just shy of his 78th birthday on Monday 22 January. 

Michael’s career as a forest fire scientist and forest ecologist was long and successful. He worked for many years in academia, both in Australia and Canada where he had been a Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia. Fortunately for us, Michael joined VNPA as a member and supporter in 1976. In the 48 years since he built an incredible legacy – one we are honoured to be part of.

Like most nature lovers, Michael’s passion for the outdoors was borne from the endless hours he’d spend immersed in nature. He was a keen bushwalker, a mountain climber and he loved skiing and kayaking.

Michael has made an enormous contribution to the protection of nature in Victoria at VNPA. His service on the Conservation and Campaigns Committee, of which he was co-convenor, and VNPA’s Council since 2013, was invaluable, as was his representation on the Parks Victoria Falls to Hotham Track Stakeholder Committee.

Michael was also involved in supporting and contributing to many campaigns over the years, including drives for new national parks such as the Alps and Otway Ranges, and he was active in the endless forestry wars.

Michael had so many wonderful characteristics that enhanced both his personal and professional relationships. Primary among these was academic integrity With Michael nothing was ever woolly, guessed or estimated. He was a scientist’s scientist. In a world of compromised studies, purchased opinion pieces and self-serving endorsements of conveniently selective evidence, Michael was rock solid – staunchly committed to the scientific truth, and nobody was going to sweet talk him to a position he had not verified!

Michael was a generous teacher and mentor. He spent time explaining forest ecology to many, with patience and gentleness. This same manner would of course have characterised his lectures to undergraduate classes, through to his supervision and mentoring of his many students, but also to many in the forest movement.

The horrors of Australian forestry practice, the misrepresentation of such devastation as ‘scientific’ and Michael’s deep love of the forest environment fuelled a sense of moral indignation and outrage that drove him to work in many demanding and often simultaneous high-pressure projects on behalf of the forests. He was persistent in his advocacy for forests and other special places, a trait we all respect and hope to mirror.

For years Michael was the ‘go-to’ person on forest and fire knowledge and his passion meant long hours of work for long periods. He was a true forest activist and scientific source, as well as a gentle human being.

Michael’s passing is great loss to his wife Evelyn, to all of us and to the forests and mountains he loved. While Michael may have left us, his contribution to nature protection will continue to live on.

Thank you, Michael, for your work, your wisdom and your knowledge. You will be sorely missed.

Matt Ruchel, Executive Director and Gerard McPhee, Councillor