Friends of Grasslands
supporting native grassy ecosystems
PO Box 440
Macquarie ACT 2614
of Environment and Heritage
Conservation Programs Branch
PO Box A290
Sydney South NSW 2000
Reference: Draft Biodiversity Conservation Investment Strategy 2017-2037
Friends of Grasslands (FOG) is a community group dedicated to the conservation of natural temperate grassy ecosystems in south-eastern Australia, included related fauna species. 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 also has members in surrounding New South Wales.
The Directions Statement identifies acquisition of appropriate Crown lands of high conservation value that adjoin parks as important for improving park design, and also identifies some grassy ecosystems as part of the longer-term development of the national parks system. While this move is supported, neither document makes reference to those other parcels of Crown land with high conservation value that are not adjacent to the existing national parks system. Many of these parcels are Travelling Stock Reserves (TSRs); in general TSRs, fall between the two documents out for comment – this strategy and the accompanying Draft National Parks System Directions Statement.
The largely agricultural areas contain NSW’s most highly cleared (typically >70%, frequently >90%), fragmented and degraded landscapes. Many of these vegetation types are very poorly conserved in NSW’s formal reserve network because, historically, the emphasis for formal conservation of vegetation had a greater focus on large blocks of forest country and other land of low agricultural value. By definition, this has excluded almost all areas containing lowland communities such as Natural Temperate Grassland (NTG), Box-Gum Woodland (BGW), Tablelands Snow Gum Grassy Woodland and Grey Box Grassy Woodland, all of which are now listed under NSW and/or Commonwealth legislation as threatened. To a significant extent, the only places that retain remnants of those lowland communities in good or better condition are in TSRs. Many TSRs have outstanding biodiversity values, with excellent examples of remnant native lowland vegetation, frequently including sites with Endangered Ecological Communities (EECs). Many TSRs also contain populations of threatened flora and fauna species.
The Travelling Stock Routes that connect the TSRs are also very important. This is particularly the case in the west of the State, where the routes in the cropping zone of the western slopes and plains are often the only intact lowland native vegetation in those regions, i.e., the only vegetation where the native trees and ground layer are diverse, and the sites are weed free, and lacking soil disturbance. Linked as they are by the TSRs, they together form a network both within NSW and connecting to stock routes and corridors in other States. These interstate connections are important for biodiversity and ecological health overall.
We remain concerned that the outcome of the recent NSW Travelling Stock Reserve Review has not been made available publically, and FOG considers the future of high conservation value TSRs to be uncertain at present. This is reflected in the current document in Table 1 (page 13), where Crown Lands are flagged as “non-permanent: does not meet IUCN definition of protected area”. We note that management arrangements for TSRs are changing and draw your attention to our comments on the NSW Travelling Stock Reserves – Draft State Planning Framework 2016-2019 (see attachment), which include some possible investment strategies to protect these important remnants. FOG believes that all high conservation value TSRs should be included as priorities under Principles 1 and 2, and Travelling Stock Routes under Principle 2.
13 December 2017
Extract from FOG’s December 2015 submission on the NSW Travelling Stock Reserves – Draft State Planning Framework 2016-2019
The full submission can be found at http://www.fog.org.au/Submissions/20151203.htm.
FOG understands that funding for maintenance of the TSR network has long been a problem. We are concerned that the framework suggests that a minimum effort is required to look after those TSRs with high conservation values (section 5.1, page 13). In fact, this is not necessarily the case. FOG is also concerned about the implied devolvement to the regional level of acquisition of national or state based funding, since this is likely to lead to quite different levels of care being applied to similar value areas. Some suggestions for additional funding sources are:
- The NSW Government could apply BioBanking funding to maintain TSRs with outstanding biodiversity values.
- The NSW Government’s Saving Our Species (SOS) program is also directing funding to some TSRs with EECs and threatened species. There is greater potential for the values of TSRs to be maintained under this program.
- FOG understands that there are a number of TSRs in the State that adjoin national parks and nature reserves. Where such TSRs are retained, they have additional connectivity and buffering values, and may serve to increase the area of the native vegetation that is formally protected in the adjacent national park or reserve. Where such TSRs exist, they should be transferred to the management of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. In these cases the NSW government should also consider increasing the NPWS budget to allow for the additional area being managed.
- Similarly, several TSRs with outstanding conservation values exist in close proximity to towns. Where these exist, it may be possible to retain such TSRs as dedicated for biodiversity conservation and recreational use, with management taken on by the local community.
- Continuation of short-term grazing permits that recognise the biodiversity values of individual TSRs is another way to raise revenue for their management, provided such permits take into careful consideration timing of grazing, weed control and other issues concerning the sustainable use of the reserves.
- TSRs could be sold to landholders with a Conservation Covenant attached, such as under the Nature Conservation Trust scheme, that would ensure the area is managed for its conservation values.
In any event, FOG sees it essential that the NSW Government ensure that sufficient funding is available to manage TSRs with high conservation values, so that these reserves retain their values for future generations.