Friends of Grasslands
supporting native grassy ecosystems
PO Box 987
Civic Square ACT 2608
Phone: 02 62.. ....
Natural Environment and Resource Management
Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate
GPO Box 158
Canberra ACT 2601
Draft ACT Pest Animal Management Strategy
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 the 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.
In general, FOG supports the draft ACT pest management strategy. In particular, we are pleased to see in the strategy recognition of the negative impact of pest animals such as rabbits on grassy ecosystems and approaches to deal with them. Also we support use of a whole-of-system approach to management of pest animal damage in grassy ecosystems. The suggestion that reduction of pest animals may be most effective and efficient in areas where vulnerable or endangered native plants, animals and ecosystems occur is, in our view, very important. So little is left of our native grassy ecosystems, and some of what is left has been damaged in recent years by the combined effect of drought, weeds and over-grazing by pest animals.
FOG supports Key Principle 9 on page 4 of the Strategy, relating to native animals and the desirability of management for damage reduction. It also supports the ACT Government’s current stance on kangaroo management as outlined in its ACT Kangaroo Management Plan. FOG sees this as a key part of a broader approach to conservation and management of native grassy ecosystems. Such management must be timely to address threats effectively. In the past, the build up of kangaroo numbers on some high quality native grassland sites has led, in combination with the drought, to deterioration of those sites and significant impacts on dependent animal species such as the endangered grassland earless dragon and striped legless lizard – many of which are still recovering from this impact.
FOG notes in Section 2.3.2 of the Strategy the intention that “the ACT Government will investigate excluding native animals from the Pest P&A Act and amending the NC Act to facilitate their management for damage reduction purposes”. In this regard, I include an extract from FOG’s comments on a similar question submitted on 16 February 2011 to the Review of the Nature Conservation Act 1980:
“Page 41 Should the definition of animal and native animal under the NC Act, or specific uses of these terms, be amended and how?
- FOG considers that the definitions of animal and native animal should be expanded to include invertebrates and fish.
- FOG would support changes to the NC Act to allow for more effective management of animals. We want native animals to be protected and non-native animals to be appropriately managed and, if causing a threat to biodiversity, controlled or eliminated.
- Because of our change in land management practices since European settlement, some native animals may exist in excessive numbers and pose a threat to agriculture, grazing or conservation of biodiversity. In these cases, numbers need to be controlled, with the procedures used being based as far as possible on solid scientific research.
- The dingo requires special attention. FOG supports its protection in selected areas, but agrees that it needs to be controlled outside those areas.
- FOG would support annually reporting of issues such as dog attacks on animals, actions taken etc. Kangaroo culling could also come under this category..”
As noted in the draft strategy, resources are limited for pest management and for other activities (e.g. weed control) essential to the conservation of our remaining natural temperate grasslands and yellow box-red gum grassy woodland. The strategy offers a way to use these limited resources more effectively. However, in FOG’s view, there needs to be sufficient resources made available to allow control and, if possible, eradication of exotic pest animals avoiding any build up to unmanageable numbers which have major impacts on reserves and other conservation area of the ACT, as happened recently during and following the drought. In other words, while the strategy is very important, there needs to be some commitment from Government and land managers to provide sufficient resources over the long term to reduce the impact of pest animals on high quality conservation areas.
In finishing, FOG enthusiastically applauds the recently announced ACT government commitments to rabbit control and cat containment measures. Long term and firm budget commitments to measures like these give our organisation confidence that pest management issues are at last being effectively addressed and that the future of the natural environment in the ACT is a little bit closer to being assured.
John Fitz Gerald
16 September 2011