Friends of Grasslands

supporting native grassy ecosystems

PO Box 987

Civic Square ACT 2608

Phone: 02 62.. ....

Dr Maxine Cooper

ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment

9 Sandford Street

MITCHELL† ACT† 2911

Dear Dr Cooper

I am writing to provide comments as requested on 'the Belconnen native lowland grasslands' site - the Belconnen Naval Station site or as Friends of Grassland (FoG) refers to it, 'the Lawson grassland' - as requested as part of your current inquiry into 'lowland native grasslands management', specifically at the stakeholders' roundtable on 21 November.

 

As you are aware, FoG is a community group dedicated to the conservation of natural temperate grassy ecosystems in south eastern Australia. FoG advocates, educates and advises on matters to do with conservation of grassy ecosystems, and carries out surveys and other on‑ground work. FoG is based in Canberra and its more than 200 members include professional scientists, landowners, land managers and interested members of the public.

 

FoG has two main concerns regarding the Lawson grassland which are:

FoG has visited the Lawson grassland over many years. Although the kangaroo population has been established there for a long time, some members can remember when mowers were used to manage the grass (around 10-12 years ago), not entirely satisfactorily. FoG's most recent visit was on 20 October, and a news item will appear in the next newsletter (attached). What we saw was a mostly wallaby grass (Danthonia) grassland that was botanically diverse but overgrazed, with inter-tussock spaces that seemed more extensive than normal. FoG's position is that the number of kangaroos needs to be reduced to sustainable levels if the natural site values are to be retained. FoG has been told that historically the kangaroos†have just turned up - by jumping the fence - and their numbers have built up slowly. In the past the property was grazed by sheep. Although areas of Ginninderra peppercress have been fenced off recently, FoG members did not see any on the day, possibly because they had been grazed.

 

Sale and development of the Belconnen Naval Station site has been a long time coming; as recently as around four years ago it was imminent. FoG's view is that the area inside the fence should be conserved, and there seems to be no dispute about that. However, there has been some discussion about moving the fence - reducing the area? Some members have argued, reasonably, that some areas of Danthonia outside the fence should not be developed because they are possibly golden sun moth habitat. The other major area that should be conserved is the Themeda grassland on the eastern end of Lawson (also mentioned in the attached article).

 

FoG welcomes your consideration of the current management needs of the Lawson grassland site: immediate protection from overgrazing by kangaroos is critical.

 

Yours sincerely

(Mr) Kim Pullen

President

3 December 2007

Attachment

Article for FoG January/February 2008 newsletter: 'Belconnen Naval Station'

[by Sarah Hnatiuk and Naarilla Hirsch]

 

20 OCTOBER. Eight FoG members visited the now decommissioned Belconnen Naval Station. We inspected three parts of the site and, unexpectedly, were taken on a tour of the Station itself where much of the original equipment is still in place. We saw the two transmitting halls and massive valves, powerful enough to send messages to Whitehall. We learnt something of the history of the Station, including how the Hillís hoists in Kaleen tingled as people hung out their washing while the station was transmitting. There are plans to establish a museum in the Station to record its history as a communication centre from 1939-2005, together with that of the small village community that served it.

 

As we drove on to the site, the kangaroos were very much in evidence in the shade under the trees and streaming across the paddock when disturbed: 563 were counted very recently. The impact on the vegetation, of them and the drought together, was obvious: grass and palatable herbs had been grazed very short, and there were frequent patches of bare ground. Despite this, we saw a number of flowering plants as we walked across the area that has been proposed for conservation when the suburb of Lawson is developed on the Station site. There were significant patches of Triptilodiscus pygmaeus, Goodenia hederacea, Vittadinia cuneata, Eryngium rostratum, Stackhousia monogyna, Calocephalus citreus, Leptorhynchos squamatus. Down by the lake we saw many Ranunculus lappaceus in full flower. There were also extensive patches in stony places with lichens and mosses amongst the herbs.

 

Two enclosures have been erected very recently to protect small populations of the endangered Ginninderra peppercress Lepidium ginninderrense which occur in a lower-lying area in the north west of the site. We searched in vain for signs of the peppercress. A patch of very small, dry plants in a dried out wet spot had us wondering if we had found it, but it was eventually identified as another member of the Ranunculaceae, Myosurus australis (mousetail).

 

The last stop for the afternoon was at a grassland area beside the road. This was designated 'grassland pasture', and the area where we first stopped was a dense Themeda grassland with some invasion by serrated tussock. Further up the slope there were more inter-tussock spaces and the flora was more diverse, and our visit culminated with the discovery of some greenhood orchids.

 

The species we saw included Themeda australis, Danthonia carphoides and another Danthonia species, Bothriochloa macro, Poa sieberiana, Austrostipa scabra, Elymus scaber, Aristida ramosa, Chrysocephalum apiculatum, Calocephalus citreus, Asperula converta, Acaena ovina, Convolvulus erubescens, Goodenia hederacea, Euchiton involucratus, Lomandra filiformis, Dichopogon sp. (chocolate lily), Diuris sp. (donkey orchid), native plantain, Leptorhynchos squamatus, Tricoryne elator, Vittadinia muelleri, Triptilodiscus pygmeaus, Rumex dumosus, Wahlenbergia spp. and Pterostylus cynocephalus. Unfortunately, there were a number of weeds such as African lovegrass, Paterson's curse, Capeweed, St Johns wort, Briza minor, nodding and saffron thistles, Oxalis spp., clover, exotic plantains and flatweed. Some apple box seedlings were also encroaching on the area from over the fence.