Friends of Grasslands 2014 Annual Reports
Prepared for the Annual General Meeting on 17 March 2015 at the Conservation Council Offices, Lena Karmel Lodge, Barry Drive Acton
President’s Report (Sarah Sharp)
Many thanks to all the committee members for their considerable input in our anniversary year in 2014. Without their consistent support and assistance FOG couldn’t operate. Many of the committee members have taken on specific roles, and provided considerable input, as described in their reports below.
I also wish to thank other FOG members, who, while not on the committee, undertake a range of activities on behalf of FOG. These include Jamie Pittock for his ongoing organisation and supervision of work parties on national land and liaison with National Capital Authority and Yarralumla residents, Linda Spinaze for organising the annual monitoring at Scottsdale, Richard Bomford for maintaining the website, Barbara Payne for her contribution to the advocacy group, Geoff Robertson for his considerable input into the organisation of the October forum, Janet Russell for her role as information contact and collecting and sorting mail and Andy Russell (and Barbara) for their roles as Public Officer.
Kris Nash, Stephen Horn, Rainer Rehwinkel and Isobel Crawford have decided not to nominate for the committee this year. I thank them all very much for their contribution to FOG through serving on the committee. Kris has very ably maintained the secretariat role for some years, with well-kept records of correspondence and has brought much experience and provided practical advice to the committee. Isobel has had a long-standing role on the committee, and taken on various projects, including Vice-President and Newsletter Editor; I am very pleased to announce that, despite no longer remaining on the committee, she has volunteered to maintain the membership records, so will retain a strong link with FOG. Stephen and Rainer’s involvement and contributions have been very valuable, and are much appreciated, and it is hoped that their relationship with FOG is maintained. I wish Kris, Stephen, Rainer and Isobel all the best as they pursue other interests.
Our financial position is strong. Leon has undertaken a restructure of the accounts, which makes it easier to identify individual components, as our finances have become more complicated. Not only do we maintain finances to cover memberships and direct costs such as provision of newsletters, but we have several grants to account for, several for on-ground work and for preparation of the Woodland Flora, as well as special events including the Forum. We also maintain adequate funds from donations and interest from the general account to provide an annual $1000 donation to support a selected landholder project. Many thanks to Leon for the considerable work he has undertaken to ensure the finances of FOG are easily understood, accurate and always at hand.
Members also represent FOG in committees, including the K2C committee, the Conservation Council’s Biodiversity Working Group (see separate report), Bush on the Boundary groups (see separate report), the Canberra Airport Group, Murrumbidgee to Googong Pipeline, Majura Parkway development, ACT Government’s Conservation Effectiveness Monitoring Program, the Monaro Region Weed Committee and the Save Stirling Park Group. The efforts of all FOG members who participate in these groups and ensure liaison between organisations is greatly appreciated.
2014 was the 20th anniversary for FOG, and several events in 2014 celebrated this. A three day forum was held in October/November with participants from Victoria, NSW and ACT (see separate report). It was a most successful event, and we were asked several times were we going to hold similar events annually (not on your life, I say!!!). However, we are considering the need to have some form of more regular fora, probably at a much reduced scale of organisation and expense and ideally in cooperation with other organisations.
In November there was a great dinner at our regular stamping ground, the Mugga Mugga Education Centre, to mark the actual anniversary of FOG’s inception. Many past active members attended, and it was a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and colleagues. Geoff Robertson presented a powerpoint history of FOG.
On-ground restoration work, in 19 work parties, was undertaken at Stirling Park, Yarramundi Reach and Hall Cemetery and at the Poplars in Queanbeyan. Activities included weed control, planting, surveys and, through grants, contract spraying of herbaceous weeds and Blackberry and planting by Greening Australia. We have a very strong cooperative relationship with the National Capital Authority. Our restoration work has recently been extended to the block to the east of Stirling Park managed by TAMS, in partnership with Molonglo Catchment Group and the indigenous community.
Other activities, as described in reports below, include monitoring at Scottsdale in cooperation with the Bush Heritage Trust, several outings to visit sites within the region, and our regular mid-winter presentation. Together with the website, our newsletter continues to provide a wealth of material on these activities, as well as information of more general interest to FOG members. Many thanks to all the contributors to the newsletters, and to Ann Milligan (newsletter) and Richard Bomford (website) for maintaining and managing them.
FOG has strong relationships with other non-government organisations. In 2014 these included the Conservation Council ACT Region, Kosciuszko2Coast, the Southern Tablelands Ecosystem Park, the Molonglo, Ginninderra and Southern ACT Catchment Groups, ACT Landcare, Australian Network for Plant Conservation, Greening Australia, Stipa and the Australian Association of Bush Regenerators. These relationships enable FOG to utilise opportunities to engage more fully with other groups and foster participation in activities. Many FOG members are directly involved in these or other conservation groups. A less recognised, but important asset for FOG as a member of the Conservation Council is that we are able to utilise the offices for meetings, at no cost. This is greatly appreciated.
To conclude, I want to emphasise most particularly the outstanding work achieved by FOG members, much of which is undertaken cooperatively with other organisations and community groups. It is the relationships we have within the group and with other groups that give us so much energy and impetus to continue to advocate for grasslands and other grassy ecosystems and their component species. FOG is highly regarded as a group that is hard-working with high integrity, has a significant knowledge base and is respectful of other opinions and attitudes. I am sure that this will continue, based on the high calibre and dedication of active members. My thanks to you all for your support in my role as president.
Secretary's Report (Kris Nash)
During 2014 as previously, the FOG secretary’s role was shared between committee members with several people collecting and distributing posted mail and myself generally receiving, disseminating and storing electronic mail. A new and successful initiative was to rotate the responsibility for taking and writing up committee meeting minutes. The sharing of responsibilities continues to enable a simplified approach to the secretarial duties.
The main duties of the communications secretary relate to the receipt of communications (mostly via email) and the subsequent filing into appropriate places or dissemination to the relevant party. Details of all communications received and the corresponding actions are kept and published each month. The monthly records are stored in the common dropbox folder and are available to committee members. A new system of storing the electronic mail directly into a dropbox folder allows for a more streamlined approach, and allows for an efficient back up process.
Communications generally consist of emails or letters:
· outgoing from FOG to various parties including politicians, contractors, government agencies and other organisations;
· incoming from various parties to FOG requesting information or support;
· correspondence to/from members and ongoing projects; and
· newsletters, flyers and other printed matter.
Communications relating to specific FOG roles such as Advocacy and Financial Matters are kept by relevant subcommittees.
Approximately 335 pieces of electronic communication were handled between January and December 2014, an average of about 28 pieces per month. The growth in communications in 2014 related to FOG’s 20th anniversary, ongoing communications with the Register of Environmental Organisations, and an increase in the receipt of flyers and newsletters from other environmental organisations.
Unfortunately I am unable to continue to serve as secretary for FOG in 2015. It has been an honour to be involved with such dedicated and professional people as are on the committee, and feel confident that the new secretary will be warmly welcomed and supported, just as I have been.
FOG has traditionally maintained two sets of accounts, each with its own bank account. The Publication Account covers the production and distribution of publications, and the General Account covers all other FOG activities. This year the General Account has been split into four sub-accounts to help manage and monitor several distinct FOG activities, but they still all operate using the same bank account. The sub-accounts are the Working Sub-account, the Grants Sub-account, the Investment Fund Sub-account, and the Forum Sub-account (only required for this year). For comparison purposes, the 2013 accounts have been restructured to match the 2014 accounts.
As previously, the accounts are presented on an accruals basis, rather than a cash basis. See the note at the end of this report for more explanation.
Membership subscriptions are the main income source for the Working Sub-account ($3,840 out of a total $6,175), with newsletter and administration costs being the largest area of expenditure ($3,323 out of a total $6,474). There was a deficit of $299 for the year for the Working Sub-account, compared to a $126 surplus in 2013. As a result, as shown in the balance sheet, the accumulated funds of the Working Sub-account fell from $14,011 at the start of the year to $13,711 at the end.
The main reason for the deficit was the decision by the FOG Committee to subsidise the Anniversary Dinner held in December because it marked an important landmark in FOG history and because FOG has a healthy financial situation overall. Tickets sales for the dinner came to $1,440 and costs were $1,732, that is, the subsidy equalled $292.
The Grants Sub-account records the income provided to FOG through grants for undertaking specific activities as agreed between FOG and the agencies making the grants. Grant income does not necessarily come evenly across years, and is not necessarily spent in the year that it is received. Therefore the Grants Sub-account can show considerable volatility.
In 2014, $22,000 was received in grant income, while there was expenditure of $26,296, resulting in a deficit of $4,296. However, this largely reflects the high level of unspent grant funds remaining at the start of the year ($18,673). At the end of year, there was still $14,376 remaining as unspent grant funding. Some of this was only received late in 2014, in the expectation that it would be spent in 2015.
Investment Fund Sub-account
The Investment Fund Sub-account has been established to make contributions to major projects undertaken by land-holders to protect or improve grasslands. The aim is to have a fund that it is self-sustaining and able to provide $1,000 a year to a selected project. The Fund’s income comprises interest payments from fixed term deposits held in the General Account, and any general donations to FOG.
Funds at the start of the year equalled $10,000 since it had previously been agreed that this was to be a minimum amount that should be held in the Fund. With a payment of $1,000 and income of $1,608 (including a bequest of $500), the Fund closed the year with $10,608. With current low interest rates, additional capital will need to be added into the Fund if it is to generate income of $1000 a year.
A separate sub-account was created to help manage the FOG Forum. Forum costs in 2014 amounted to $17,343, most of it for catering. At $20,644, ticket sales more than covered those costs. In addition, there was income of $3,695 in sponsorship and donations. The resulting surplus was $6,996. However, the proceedings of the Forum are still to be produced and costs incurred will be paid from this surplus.
General Account summary
In total, the General Account received $54,112 in income and had expenditure of $51,113, leaving a surplus of $3,008. General Account assets increased by the same amount, to $45,995 at the end of the year. As shown in the balance sheet, most of this is in the form of bank deposits ($44,016).
In 2013 there was a surplus of $17,916 but nearly all of this was due to Grants expenditure being much lower than Grants income, as explained above.
Book sales (including postage and other handling charges) and bank interest generated $3,460 income for the Publications Account in 2014, compared to $3,289 in 2013. There was no income from grants. However, $4,666 of grant funds were spent on authoring costs for Woodland Flora, and total expenditure for the Account was $6,003. The resulting deficit was $2,542. A deficit is to be expected during the development of Woodland Flora, since grant funding was provided for this in earlier years and is still to be spent.
At the end of the year, there were $64,421 in total accumulated funds in the Publication Account, including $38,618 from the Woodland Flora grant and $10,439 from the Grassland Flora grant. Significant further expenditure of grant money is expected while completing and printing Woodland Flora this year.
The $65,341 of Publications Account end-year assets are mostly held as bank deposits ($59,096), with book stocks amounting to $6,004.
Note on accrual accounting
Under accrual accounting, income and expenditure are mostly recorded when an agreement to a transaction takes place rather than when actual payment occurs. For example, the value of invoices issued by FOG (or received by FOG) in 2014 but not yet paid by the end of the year are included in income (or expenditure). Because the income to be received by FOG had not yet entered the FOG bank account, the amount to be received is included as an end-year asset in the balance sheet item “accounts receivable”. Similarly, payments owed by FOG had not yet resulted in a decrease in the FOG bank account, but are included as the end-year liability item “payments pending”.
Expenditure on the purchase of equipment such as a chain saw is not included as expenditure in the income and expenditure account, but is recorded as a decrease in bank deposit assets with a corresponding increase in depreciable equipment assets. However, depreciation on such equipment assets is included as an expenditure item in the income and expenditure account. (Annual depreciation has been set at 20 per cent of the purchase price.) Similarly, the purchase of stocks of books such as Grassland Flora is not counted as expenditure in the income and expenditure account, but as an increase in book stocks. When books are sold, the amount FOG paid for those books is called “cost of goods sold” and subtracted from the value of gross sales. Only the net value is counted as income. At the same time, the value of book stocks is decreased by the cost of the goods sold.
Grassland Flora and the Grassy Ecosystem Management Kit: 304 copies of Grassland Flora were sold in 2014. At the end of the financial year 1097 books remained. Income generated in 2014 from the book sales (sales less liabilities and book costs) was $1767.04.
76 cards designed by Michael Bedingfield and by David Wong were sold, many at the FOG Forum and Anniversary dinner. After costs $54 was generated from the sales.
Woodland Flora: Significant progress was made on the book in 2014, but despite every effort it was not completed as hoped during the year.
T-shirts: Sixteen T-shirts were sold in 2014.
Membership (Sarah Sharp for Kim Pullen)
There were 198 members of FOG in 2014. During the year 23 new members joined FOG, some joining when registering for the forum. We have one honorary member, Geoff Robertson, one life member and eight complimentary memberships, which are given to older members and also to several long-term members who have provided especial contributions to FOG. One of those was awarded to Michael Bedingfield, in recognition of his regular articles and fantastic artwork in the FOG newsletter.
In 2014, the Advocacy Group has made 28 submissions on a range of conservation issues and proposals. Major concerns during the year included the Commonwealth – State/Territory bilateral agreements for assessments under the EPBC Act, the NSW Crown Lands Review, the ACT Offsets Policy and Strategic Bushfire Management Plan, and various listings for threatened species/communities under the EPBC and NSW Environment Acts. We also made other approaches to government on specific issues.
A significant role of the Advocacy Group is networking with other environmental and community groups. Advocacy group members attend meetings of groups such as Bush on the Boundary, the Conservation Council’s Biodiversity Working Group and K2C meetings. We continue to attend a number of different presentations and community consultation meetings concerning conservation matters (including the Murrumbidgee to Googong (M2G) pipeline Environmental Reference Group), and to meet with Canberra Airport Group and the Riverview Group (about development of West Belconnen).
We were not able to progress our concerns about offsets other than via submissions in 2014, but have already flagged this, together with the general condition of Natural Temperate Grassland sites, as major issues to follow up in 2015.
My thanks to all the Advocacy Group members for their help when I was unexpectedly out of action for some time in the middle of the year.
Tony Lawson and I are the FOG representatives on the BWG, and Naarilla is also frequently involved in BWG matters. FOG has a close and important relationship with the Conservation Council, and has undertaken a number of activities in partnership, including collaborating with submissions on several large and important submissions, as indicated below. Further information on BWG’s main activities can be found in the annual report on the Conservation Council website.
The North Gungahlin Strategic Environment Assessment was finalised in 2013, implementation remains an issue and various aspects were discussed during 2014, including compliance, funding and protection of Superb Parrot habitat at Throsby. FOG, together with COG worked closely with CC on this assessment. Similarly, the BWG has retained a watching brief on implementation of the Molonglo NES Plan.
The Nature Conservation Bill was a major issue in 2014. FOG, together with the Conservation Council, Canberra Ornithologists Group, National Parks Association and others prepared a submission on the exposure draft in April, after a roundtable workshop with the Commissioner for Environment and Sustainability, Ministers Corbell and Rattenbury and Nicole Lawder (shadow minister on the Environment), members of the Rural Landholders Association and member groups. The outcome is that many of the issues that were raised were included in the final Bill, but implementation will need to be followed up in 2015.
The Conservation Council Biodiversity Offsets Policy was finalised in April, with input from FOG (from our existing policy) and other member groups and a joint submission prepared to the ACT Draft Offsets Policy in June 2014.
The Conservation Council convened a meeting of member groups with Commissioner Land and ESA staff to discuss issues and directions in the Strategic Bushfire Management Plan (SBMP) Review. The third version of the SBMP was finalised and made public in September 2014 (see http://esa.act.gov.au/community-information/publications/sbmp/). Everyone is encouraged to look particularly at the annual Bushfire Operational Plans for information about wildfire mitigation operations occurring in their areas of interest.
FOG has been involved with Gungahlin Bush on the Boundary Group (the original BoB) for quite a few years. For all that time I have been the FOG Rep.
Initially, BoB Gungahlin focussed on boundary issues associated with the Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve, and the Sanctuary being created therein. Regular meetings were well attended with representation from other community groups, Government conservation managers and rangers, academia and scientists, private and government developers, the local catchment group and the Conservation Council. The meetings provided an opportunity to keep each other informed and to work out and suggest solutions to potential problems. Some important successes were achieved by the group.
Over time the focus has moved away from MFNR, with the result that many participants have dropped out, while only a representative of the rural lessees has joined the group. Nowadays, besides FOG there is usually only someone from the Ginninderra Catchment Group, Friends of MFNR, the rural lessees, the LDA and the Forde community group, and sometimes someone from the Conservation Council. There are not a wide enough range of people represented to keep each other informed about issues, and the group is no longer in a position to suggest broad based solutions to pressing boundary issues.
It has tried to broaden its responsibilities by looking at rural edge issues and by extending its coverage to Belconnen, i.e. the whole of the Ginninderra catchment, and the Riverview proposal in West Belconnen. But it now seems that the latter is being tackled within the Conservation Council.
It has now got to the situation where the group no longer meets regularly, but rather on an as needs basis. It is not clear that the need will arise again.
What are the lessons from this? First such groups probably have a finite life. Second, to be successful the different potential players concerned with a particular issue need to be involved, if issues are to be successfully tackled. Once too many of the players drop out we lose some of the perspectives on issues and the capacity of the group is greatly reduced. Leadership of the group is also important in providing drive and momentum. It has been lacking in recent years.
Membership of BoB Molonglo comprises representatives from Conservation Council, Molonglo Catchment Group, Land and Development Agency, FOG, Rural Landholders Association, TAMS Parks and Conservation Service, Canberra Ornithologists Group, Greening Australia, ANU Fenner Group.
During 2014 BOB Molonglo met only several times, awaiting reports and plans. A briefing on progress of development was provided in May by Economic Development Directorate at Molonglo Bush on the Boundary. Planning of recreational activities, with related tracks, appropriate plantings, mitigation of weeds and overflow of recreation into the areas of concern, including Pink-tailed Worm-lizard habitat, grassland, woodland and the riparian corridor remain a major concern.
Activities Program (John Fitz Gerald)
Major FOG activities are detailed elsewhere in this report. In addition to these activities, other successful events held during 2014 included a rewarding work morning supporting Queanbeyan Landcare in weed control at the iconic Poplars Grasslands. Site visits this year were to Jerrabomberra East Grasslands in the ACT, and to Lake Bathurst (near Tarago); both were well attended, as was the mid-winter presentation at Mugga Mugga Education Centre. Special thanks to all those involved in organising and running the whole range of activities.
NCA projects (Jamie Pittock)
FOG made a huge effort during the year to improve the conservation status of grassy ecosystems on national lands managed by the National Capital Authority (NCA) in central Canberra, namely Stirling Park (52 ha; Yarralumla), including subsidiary sites at Scrivener’s Hut and Attunga Point, as well as at Yarramundi Reach (23 ha; Acton).
The NCA has supported FOG with a grant $6,000 in 2014 to support work parties with training, plants, herbicides and equipment. FOG gratefully received $17,282 from the ACT Environment Grants program to advance conservation of the sites, and FOG and partners then contributed work valued at more than $64,000 in labour and weed spraying. Extensive Blackberry infestations were significantly reduced to the point where our volunteers can now maintain control over key areas of habitat. Chilean Needlegrass and St John’s Wort has been pegged back in key places.
Further, over 200 trees and shrubs were planted to re-establish key woodland links at Stirling Park and a water tank was installed to maintain them. In collaboration with Greening Australia over 2,000 forbs were planted at Stirling Park and Yarramundi Reach to re-establish species that had been eliminated or significantly diminished. In some of these places wild populations have been re-established. Small infestations of other weeds, like African Lovegrass, have also been controlled. A further grant of $6,000 from the ACT Government in 2014-15 is enabling follow up weed spraying and re-planting.
The habitat of the endangered Button Wrinklewort was greatly improved. Spring and summer 2014 saw fantastic indigenous understory regrowth and magnificent displays of wildflowers at Scrivener’s Hut, Stirling Park and Yarramundi Reach in areas that FOG has been restoring. Monitoring by FOG at the sites was expanded with a major vegetation survey in the summer of 2013-14, replicating that of Muyt in 2005. The results show that the numbers of threatened plant species are at similar levels as 2005 but woody weed species are significantly reduced in areas that FOG has restored.
FOG volunteer hours decreased from 1,013 volunteer hours in 2013 to 649 in 2014, partly due to a reduction in the number of work parties for 17 to 14 to avoid extreme weather. Under our partnership agreement with the National Capital Authority, FOG has held 63 work parties at these sites since 2009, contributing over 4,500 volunteer hours to conservation of these lands. New work with the Molonglo Catchment Group and Ngunawal nation has been planned for 2015 to restore a 2.3 hectare block of ACT land at Stirling Park that contains significant cultural sites as well as endangered grassy woodland.
Little progress was made in 2014 to reserve Stirling Park from options to develop new embassies and a Prime Ministerial Lodge on parts of this land.
Hall Cemetery Annual Report (John Fitz Gerald)
Four work mornings were held throughout the year in the grassy woodland block surrounding Hall Cemetery, involving a total volunteer input of around 75 hours. Continuing the trend of recent years, there was little effort involving cutting of large woody weeds - a few tenacious Briar Roses would have been the only exception. Instead, control focused on fleshy weeds including various Thistles, Plantain, Cleavers, Sticky Weed, Capeweed and Fumaria via both physical removal and herbiciding. In addition areas of exotic grasses are being slowly pushed back by attacks on Phalaris, Perennial Rye and Tall Fescue, but this is a big job. Finally, the sites around healthy Bursaria are regularly maintained to keep cover low in case of uncontrolled fire. The flowering season (Bulbine Lily, Tricoryne, Blue Devil and Ranunculus, to name just a few woodland species) in the damp of early summer was most impressive. However the show in the Cemetery grassland was outstanding.
Old Cooma Common Grassland Reserve (Margaret Ning)
Unfortunately there have been no working bees, or any other FOG-initiated activity, at OCCGR in the last twelve months. Fortunately however, Cooma Monaro Shire Council have very generously paid for contractors to recently spray the St Johns Wort at the Common, reasoning that all previous work would have been undone if they hadn't done so. In fact the contractors also hit the Cinquefoil Potentilla sp. that had been creeping through on to the Common from adjacent Crown Land. Next on the agenda will be the African Love Grass.
I shall be keeping an eye out for more grant opportunities which FOG could use to get funding for the Wort next season, either on its own, or in partnership with Council.
FOG has continued its annual monitoring day on the Bush Heritage property of Scottsdale. This year we had a small but experienced group of volunteers. Just 5 of us in total, so it was very timely that we had agreed that the original monitoring no longer needed to be conducted this year. The reason for this was that there had been a decision made by Scottsdale a year ago to stop agisting cattle on the property, and the original reason for the monitoring was to assess the effect of cattle on the density of African Lovegrass. We have been monitoring these areas now since 2008.
In 2014 we continued the monitoring of the non-grazed areas, to assess the rate of natural regeneration. These plots are spread out over the north-eastern section of Scottsdale, and take a bit of time to complete, but by splitting into two teams we were able to finish by lunch-time.
After lunch Peter Saunders and Matt Appleby drove us to a paddock that had been extensively covered by Serrated Tussock, but which had responded well to spraying and replanting, and now had minimal Serrated Tussock on it.
Thanks to Sarah Sharp who continues the time-consuming task of collating all the measurements, and to John Fitz Gerald, Margaret Ning and Geoff Robertson for all their assistance on, before and after the day.
Southern Tablelands Ecosystems Park has had another successful year operating Forest 20 at the National Arboretum Canberra. You will have read about the official launch of “the Clearing” STEP’s outdoor education facility by Shane Rattenbury MLA in the recent FOG Newsletter. This was the major project for 2014 and has been achieved with the support of an ACT Government grant and generous donations. The weekly Thursday morning working bees have been well attended and as the weather cools and conditions suit planting of understory species will resume in earnest. The number of different species planted has reached 100.
At the AGM held on Sunday November 16th in the Green Room at the Arboretum (the weather was inclement so the Clearing wasn’t used) Margie Bourke was re-elected President, David Shorthouse continues as Vice-President, Tony Lawson Secretary, Ross Dalton takes over the Treasurer position and Committee members are Jens Svensson, Judy Smith, Bill Handke, Lainie Shorthouse and Andy Russell. A major project this year is likely to be improved signage and perhaps FOG could provide some assistance with this.
Work continued to bring the FoG website up to something resembling current web standards, principally by separating content in html from styling in CSS (cascading style sheets), and weaning the site away from Microsoft proprietary formatting. The updated site is much easier to maintain and update, works better on small devices such as smart phones, prints better, and probably works better with screen readers for people who have difficulty reading, though the latter has not been tested.
Content was updated over the course of the year, particularly for the 2014 FoG Forum, but also to include ongoing work such as the newsletters, calendar and advocacy submissions. The most popular pages were the home page, the Forum page, grasslands, Grasses of NSW, and the July 2012 and March 2008 newsletters.
The site had around 40,000 visits from 25,000 visitors (many of them probably accidental - over 90% stayed for less than 30 seconds) in 2014, with visitors downloading about 40GB of data. Which costs us the princely sum of $13/year for hosting by HostBig and a further $10/year for domain name registration with OnlyDomains. Google provided FoG email addresses free of charge.
Six issues of the bi-monthly newsletter were produced during 2014–15. Each issue reported on FOG’s advocacy activities, and advertised and reported on our work restoring grassland and woody grassland sites in the region. Each issue also had an article with fine drawings of grassland fauna by Michael Bedingfield, and a Cultivation Corner article by Janet or Andy Russell, about grassland plants in cultivation. Most issues included special reports, such as of places visited by FOG members, or research relevant to grasslands and woody grasslands: for example, Golden Sun Moth habitat translocation; attempts at weed-control by use of sugar and other methods; and an outline of the ACT tree register.
Recent newsletter issues have urged members to consider getting the full-colour pdf file so you can better appreciate the beautiful photos, and several members have now taken up the offer.
Many thanks to all our contributors and readers – and to the wonderful team who help with proofreading and with packing and distributing each issue.
FOG e-Bulletins are sent out about one month after the FOG newsletter. They are emailed to all FOG members and also to non-FOG groups, and are intended to be an alert and reminder about relevant activities, both FOG and non-FOG, in the near future.
e-Bulletins went out in February, June (2), August and October 2014 and January 2015, prepared and despatched by teamwork between Sarah Sharp, Kim Pullen and Ann Milligan. Thank you to Tony Lawson for earlier e-Bulletins and guidance to the current compiler.
The major event of 2014 celebrating our 20 year anniversary was the three day forum held between 30 October and 1 November, entitled ‘Grass half full or grass half empty? Valuing native grassy landscapes’. Thanks to Andrew Zelnik for his witty title. The forum was held to recognise, celebrate and promote its on-going commitment to conservation of grassy ecosystems. The forum investigated themes of the diverse range of values, changing priorities, managing grasslands and grassy ecosystems, lobbying and education. A total of 137 people who attended all or part of the three day event. Thursday and Friday were at the Discovery Centre at CSIRO with 23 formal talks and four workshops, posters, demonstrations and displays. On Saturday a bus took us to Stirling Park (National Capital Authority), the Jerrabomberra Nature Reserve grassland and Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve and sanctuary. At each of these sites talks related to management, conservation and direction were presented and discussed.
We have had really positive feedback, which is, to a large degree, a result of the terrific input of all the presenters, with their enthusiasm and extensive knowledge that they brought to the forum. Many thanks indeed to those who travelled to Canberra to attend the forum. We all really did benefit from an interstate perspective.
A big thank you to the FOG members who did so much to get it all organised and help make it run so smoothly. In particular, the sub-committee (above) worked hard for the entire year preceding the forum, Leon Pietsch managed the accounts for this and, together with Margaret Ning, looked after the registration table and sales, and kept an eye on the proceedings and managed queries and issues as they arose. Andrew Zelnik spent the entire forum in the sound box ensuring the recordings were working.
Proceedings will be prepared and supplied electronically to all participants, others on request and will be on our website.
In November 1994 FOG was launched at the (then) National Museum site at Yarramundi Reach. To mark this event in November 2014 we held a celebratory dinner at the Mugga Mugga Education Centre, attended by many present and past members of FOG. Geoff Robertson presented a powerpoint history of FOG, based on material he has been collating about FOG.