Friends of Grasslands 2016 Annual Reports
Prepared for the Annual General Meeting, 21 March 2017
Conservation Council Offices, Lena Karmel Lodge, Barry Drive Acton
- Advocacy Group
- Conservation Council Biodiversity Working Group
- Bush on the Boundary
- West Belconnen
- Kosciusko to Coast
- Activities program
- Grasslands on National Lands in ACT
- Hall Cemetery
- Cooma Grassland project
- Scottsdale Monitoring
- Other on-ground work
(Note: Friends of Grasslands was without an elected President for the year to March 2016. The role of Acting President was shared between Ann Milligan and Kim Pullen.)
The year 2016 was one of continued consolidation for Friends of Grasslands. Membership remained steady at just over 200, with a majority in the ACT and surrounding areas of NSW. FOG maintained strong activity in the areas of advocacy, on-ground conservation and rehabilitation work, and field excursions. We continue to enjoy a high standing within the regional conservation community and in our work with the ACT and NSW local governments. FOG is represented on the Biodiversity Working Group of the Conservation Council ACT Region, and has strong links to Bush on the Boundary (BoB) and Kosciuszko to Coast (K2C). Our field activities in 2016 included trips to Cowra, Moruya and the Bundian Way near Delegate, which reached out to NSW members.
A revised FOG Strategic Plan was posted on our website, which continues to be well visited.
Advocacy Group coordinator Naarilla Hirsch had a full year with a total of 22 submissions.
FOG continued rehabilitation work in remnant grasslands and grassy woodlands on National Lands in central Canberra, at Hall Cemetery and on the Old Cooma Common and adjacent areas. FOG members volunteered for the annual Scottsdale vegetation monitoring event on Scottsdale, a Bush Heritage property near Bredbo, south of Canberra.
Our bimonthly newsletter, News of Friends of Grasslands, continued under the able editorship of Ann Milligan with an average page count of 14.6 for the six 2016-17 issues. An increasing proportion of members are electing to receive their newsletter by email.
The Acting Presidents wish to thank the committee and other members for their inputs and support during 2016.
Particular thanks go to Naarilla Hirsch and Leon Pietsch who are stepping down from their roles this year, Naarilla after eight years as Advocacy Coordinator and Leon from the Treasurer position. Also on behalf of FOG, we thank Webmaster, Richard Bomford, for all the invaluable work he does for the FOG website.
Details of FOG’s work in 2016 will be found in the attached reports.
SECRETARY’S REPORT (John Fitz Gerald)
During 2016, the FOG secretary’s role continued to be shared among a small group of committee members.
Correspondence was received and sent mostly by email, but PO Box 440 continues to be an important FOG contact. All items of mail, incoming and outgoing, are stored electronically using Dropbox.
Throughout the year, over 140 items of incoming correspondence and 12 of outgoing were filed. One of the most important was the advice that FOG Inc. and its Public Fund were entered onto the Register of Environmental Organisations on 27 April 2016. This allowed the Public Fund to commence operating with Deductible Recipient Status offering donors tax deductibility.
TREASURER’S REPORT, 2016 FINANCIAL YEAR (Leon Pietsch)
The financial accounts for 2016 are presented somewhat differently to those in previous years’ reports. First, the activation of the Friends of Grasslands Public Fund to receive tax-deductible donations requires us to keep a separate set of accounts recording donations to and expenditure from the Fund. Second, with the completion of Woodland Flora, the previous separate Publication Account has been incorporated into the General Account, with the associated activity and funds labelled as “Education and communication”. Third, the sub-accounts presented last year for the Anniversary Forum and the Investment Account are no longer useful, since Forum activity is complete and the Investment Account has been superceded by the Public Fund. Therefore there are only two sets of accounts presented this year, one for the Public Fund and one for the General Account.
The accounts have been audited by Pauline Hore JP, B.Ec., CPA, which is gratefully appreciated. The audit report, which contains no qualifications, is available to anyone who wishes to see it.
Income from grants totalled $15,500 in 2016, compared to $14,500 in 2015. The two sources were the National Capital Authority ($6,000) and NSW Local Land Services ($9,500).
Expenditure on current grant related activity equalled $14,664, with $3,153 spent on NCA projects and $11,511 on LLS projects. After deducting $300 administrative charge, the remaining NCA funds equalled $8,489 ($5,942 had been carried over from 2015). Remaining LLS funds at 31 December equalled $12,489 ($14,500 had been carried over from 2015). FOG is obligated to spend these funds on projects nominated in the respective grant agreements.
Education and Communication Fund (previously Publication Account)
$550 was spent on additional editing of Woodland Flora before its second print run. This is likely to be the last publication work done on Woodland Flora, and it has been some years since publication work has been done on Grassland Flora. However, there are funds remaining from the grants originally provided to FOG to publish Grassland Flora and Woodland Flora. These remaining funds, plus profits earned from the sale of the publications, are now labelled in the accounts as funds reserved for financing education and communication projects.
Sales of Woodland Flora and Grassland Flora totalled over $11,000 in gross terms, contributing $1,781 to current income once the cost of goods sold was deducted. $638 was charged to users for postage and delivery costs for distributing Woodland Flora and Grassland Flora, which significantly offset actual costs of $838. $859 was also charged to this fund for half the rent of the lock-up. Overall, the fund had a deficit of $877 in 2016, which reflects the editing costs for Woodland Flora mentioned above plus the cost of complementary copies of Woodland Flora provided to contributors to the publication.
At the end of 2016, there was $37,278 in the education and communication fund.
Other income and expenditure
Other income in 2016 totalled $5,552, about $1,200 less than in 2015. The largest contributor was membership subscriptions totalling $3,670, down somewhat from the $4,620 of 2015.
Of the $7,142 other expenditure, the largest item ($1,886) was for printing and posting the newsletter. Other significant items included half the rent of the lockup ($859 for 18 months), donations to other organisations ($500), membership of other organisations ($480), and a once-only write down of merchandise stock from $744 to $0, as discussed below.
At 31 December 2016, FOG had assets of $83,539. The bulk of these were in the form of bank deposits totalling $58,023. Stocks of Woodland Flora and Grassland Flora were valued at $24,949 (when valued at the cost of printing). This year, only the stocks of Woodland Flora and Grassland Flora are being included in the asset value of merchandise stocks. The value of stocks of other merchandise (other publications purchased for resale, cards, T-shirts, etc) has been written down from $744 at the beginning of the year to $0 at the end of the year. This has been done to simplify the effort required to compile the FOG accounts, since the values concerned are relatively small. The value of any purchases of merchandise stock is now recorded as current expenditure, rather than being capitalised at purchase cost and later recorded as ‘cost of goods sold’ with an equivalent subtraction of stock value. Correspondingly, income now includes the full value of any sales of merchandise stock, instead of only including the value of sales less the ‘cost of goods sold’.
After deducting liabilities of $1,741, net assets stood at $81,799. This is $1,631 less than net assets at the end of 2015. However, the decline was partly offset by a $480 increase in the net assets of the new Public Fund, as described below.
Viewed as the accumulated funds of FOG, the $81,799 comprised $8,489 to be spent on NCA grant activity, $12,489 to be spent on NSW Lands and Environment activity, $37,278 reserved for education and communication projects, and $23,543 not reserved for any specific purpose.
During 2016, the Friends of Grasslands’ Public Fund was approved as a public fund listed on the Register of Environmental Organisations. Since then, donations from individuals that are not tied to any specific expenditure have been paid into the Public Fund and tax-deductible receipts issued. Donations to the end of December totalled $880. The Public Fund sponsored Cathy Robertson to attend the APC conference, leaving $490 in the Fund at the end of the year.
ACCOUNTS OF FRIENDS OF GRASSLANDS INC. - 2016
FOG GENERAL ACCOUNT - INCOME AND EXPENDITURE 2016
FOG GENERAL ACCOUNT - BALANCE SHEET, 31 December 2016
Notes to the accounts
1. There was no grant income from the NCA in 2015 because they made a payment in December 2014.
2. The education and communication reserved funds are essentially the funds previously reported separately as the Publications Account. The funds include the original grants received for the production of Grassland Flora and Woodland Flora, plus the net profit made from sales of those two publications. Now that production of the two publications is complete, the funds are being treated as reserve funds to be spent on education and communication projects. This is to maintain consistency with the intent of the two original grants.
3. The income and expenditure values for 2015 include $666 received and passed on as payments for the bettong walk at Mulligans Flat. The income and expenditure values for 2016 include a $390 payment reimbursed by the Public Fund.
4. The values of total income and total expenditure shown for 2015 are both $2246 less than those shown in the annual report for 2015 because transfers between the previous working account and publication account have been netted out to give more comparable figures to the consolidated 2016 accounts.
5. Mostly complimentary copies of Woodland Flora given to contributors to the publication.
6. 2015 payment for Lock-up was for 6 months only, 2016 was for 18 months.
7. The value of merchandise stocks at the beginning of 2016 equals $17,127, which is $203 less than the closing value for 2015 ($17,330). This reflects an error in the 2015 accounts, which has led to an adjustment item of $203 in the expenditure account.
8. 2016 included a 3 year subscription to ANPC for $290.
9. The value of all merchandise stocks, except for Woodland Flora and Grassland Flora, have been written down to $0 to simplify record keeping and compilation of accounts. Note that the merchandise concerned is still available for sale and when sold will contribute to income, now without any deduction for cost of goods sold.
10. The values of assets and liabilities for 2015 are both $70 less than shown in the 2015 Annual Report, due to the consolidation between the General and Publication Accounts.
11. ACT Government grant funds include those from Environment and Planning and from ActewAGL. Neither grant is currently operative. The Environment and Planning grant had negative accumulated funds, largely because the ACT Government did not reimburse FOG for GST costs incurred in carrying out grant work. The negative balance has been absorbed by the FOG non-reserved funds: $2246 in 2015 and $56 in 2016. The ActewAGL grant had $250 to defray costs of FOG delegates attending ActewAGL meetings. However these meetings no longer occur, and the positive balance of $250 has been incorporated into FOG non-reserved funds in 2016.
12. The grant agreement with the NCA includes the provision to transfer a 5% administrative fee into general FOG funds.
FRIENDS OF GRASSLANDS' PUBLIC FUND ACCOUNTS – 2016
INCOME AND EXPENDITURE
BALANCE SHEET, 31 December 2016
Notes to the accounts
1. Excess funds were transferred from the General Account bank account when they were wrongly thought to be donations.
Sales (Sarah Sharp)
During 2016, 787 books were distributed. Of the 632 copies of Woodland Flora distributed, 51 were given away, the majority to those people that contributed to the production of the book; 197 were bought by community groups (either for free distribution through their networks or for on-sale); 240 were bought by retailers; and 144 were sold to individuals. The biggest retailer selling our books is the Botanica Bookshop. CSIRO Publishing is also retailing the book. In November, a further 2000 copies of Woodland Flora were printed. Grassland Flora is continuing to sell at a steady rate, with 133 copies sold in 2016, its 19th year of production. Prices for Woodland Flora are $20 for members, $25 for non-members and $15 each by the box or for trade orders, and for Grassland Flora, $20 and $12 for trade or by the box.
Several other grassland-related books have been provided to FOG to sell on an ad-hoc basis. These are not advertised, but are displayed for sale at events. These include David Tongway and John Ludwig’s excellent book, Restoring Disturbed Landscapes, Putting Principles into Practice, that was the basis for a field workshop by David in 2016 and Land of Sweeping Plains, a comprehensive review of management, ecological and social aspects of grassland conservation in south-eastern Australia.
Land of Sweeping
Total distributed 2016
The accounts for these sales are in Leon’s Treasurer’s report. As previously, the books are sold for not much more than cost price, and profits gained are used to produce more educational resources.
Contact email@example.com for more information.
MEMBERSHIP (Sarah Sharp)
Membership remained steady in 2016, with 205 members. We welcomed 11 new members during the year, 7 of whom live in the ACT, 3 in NSW and one in South Australia. There are 2 life members, one honorary member and 6 complementary members.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Advocacy Group (Naarilla Hirsch & Sarah Sharp, coordinators)
In 2016 the Advocacy Group prepared 22 submissions, mostly to government, covering a range of conservation issues and proposals. Major matters during the year included the Ginninderry (West Belconnen) development being undertaken by Riverview, the Molonglo River Reserve management plan, the draft action plan for the Pink-tailed Worm-lizard and the NSW biodiversity reform package. The proposed Ginninderry development has taken considerable time and effort, as Advocacy Group members Barbara Payne and John Fitzgerald have been attending community consultation meetings as well as preparing FOG’s comments on the strategic assessment. Another big effort was FOG’s submission on the NSW biodiversity reform package, where we were ably assisted by FOG member Rainer Rehwinkel as well as being involved in discussions with the Conservation Council’s Biodiversity Working Group on the issue.
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 and the Conservation Council’s Biodiversity Working Group. 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.
The Advocacy Group held its annual meeting to discuss 2017 priorities and its operation in January. A major change in the Group’s operation is Naarilla standing down as convenor at that meeting and Sarah taking on the role on an interim basis until after the AGM. Ann Milligan is stepping down from the Group, and some other Group members are also unable to dedicate as much time to FOG advocacy as they have done in the past. As a result, the Group reviewed its priorities and determined that only core FOG matters would be taken up. The result was a statement to be used as a guideline when deciding which issues FOG should comment on – the statement is provided below. Major issues that we anticipate will arise in the coming year include review of the ACT Grassland Conservation Strategy, the Eastern Broadacre Strategic Assessment, the Canberra Airport northern road, development of the CSIRO’s Ginninderra site and the NCA precinct plan and on-going involvement in Ginninderry planning. Other development matters in ACT and the Southern Tablelands region of NSW will undoubtedly continue to arise and will be followed up as required.
As usual, the achievements of the Advocacy Group reflect the contributions of all Group members, John Fitz Gerald, Tony Lawson, Jamie Pittock, Barbara Payne, Ross Dennis and Ann Milligan, Naarilla and Sarah, with assistance at times from other FOG members.
A note from Sarah: Naarilla has done an outstanding job in convening the advocacy group for eight years. She has maintained a weekly check of all website notification sources, sent information on relevant ones to the advocacy group (and other groups including the Conservation Council), she prepared drafts of many of the submissions, proofed all submissions, sent in all submissions on time, and filed information on them, including keeping arguably a better record of offset conditions than Government. Luckily for the group, she is remaining a member of the group, and will continue to do the web search and to file records and help with submissions. On behalf of the rest of the group, I thank her wholeheartedly for her dedication, care and professionalism she has displayed in fulfilling this extremely important role in FOG. Her shoes will be hard to fill. If anyone, whether on the committee or not, would like to be involved in advocacy, we would welcome you with open arms, even if you have only limited capacity.
Conservation Council Biodiversity Working Group (Sarah Sharp and Tony Lawson)
Tony and Sarah have continued to represent FOG on the Conservation Council’s Biodiversity Working Group. This meets once a month. Naarilla as the FOG Advocacy Group coordinator gets all notices and minutes and sometimes attends, as have other FOG committee members at times. The BWG is an extremely important network to be involved in, with the exchange of concerns, ideas and knowledge, as well as sharing the load of providing input to submissions or other matters. The main issues covered in 2016 were:
- ACT and Federal election submissions and identification of election policies
- NSW Biodiversity Conservation Bill and Local Land Services Amendment Bill submission. Reforms were passed in NSW on 17 November. Although 87% of submissions were against the legislation, there has been no attempt in the reforms to cater to submissions.
- Preparation of a draft nomination to the ACT Flora and Fauna Committee: Loss of Native Hollow-bearing Trees as a threatening process.
- Planning: West Belconnen (Riverview) development; Molonglo; Williamsdale Solar Farm; Ginninderra Field Station; Red Hill Federal Golf Club; Western Murrumbidgee.
- ACT Government biodiversity budget allocations.
Bush on the Boundary was initially established in 2006 to provide a forum for exchange of information on biodiversity conservation with reference to nature reserves in Gungahlin and surrounding urban developments. Since then three other BOB groups were established. Molonglo BOB was established in 2010, North Watson BOB later (FOG is not involved in this one) and West Belconnen in 2015. They are an effective means to share information in an open forum, enabling an exchange of ideas and information and frankly discuss issues of common concern. No minutes are taken, and some matters discussed are in confidence.
Molonglo (Sarah Sharp)
BOB Molonglo met only several times during the year. At the end of the year discussions were held to review the priorities for this group, whose role has changed as residents move in. Meetings generally provided updates on areas of development and the research and management occurring within Molonglo River Park. The Draft Plan of Management for Molonglo Reserve has still not been released for public comment.
West Belconnen (John Fitz Gerald)
This group of community representatives met monthly throughout the year to discuss issues around planning of the development now known as Ginninderry, along the Murrumbidgee River straddling the ACT–NSW border.
Barbara Payne stepped down as FOG's representative during the year and John Fitz Gerald took on the role.
The developer, Riverview, has just completed a new Link building as the centre for land sales and for community involvement alongside the Strathnairn Arts Centre. A development application for Stage 1 housing construction has been lodged with ACT Planning. A rezoning application for the lands in NSW has also been lodged with the Yass Valley Shire Council. Many reports informing these applications, both scientific and heritage, have been released and can be accessed via the Ginninderry website.
Kosciusko to Coast (John Fitz Gerald)
K2C moved into its new mode where the funding for Facilitator Lesley Peden was mainly earned and used in working with individual landowners in promoting Land for Wildlife agreements. In this way, Lesley was able to keep contact with the individuals while promoting K2C's key objective in improving landscape-scale connectivity. Maya Potopowicz has been engaged to take on the K2C activities in the Yass Gorge projects. NSW Office of Environment and Heritage opened up its Save our Species program, and K2C will run several workshops this year and in future as part of the focus on the Scarlet Robin overseen by South East Local Land Services. A topical and very successful forum "Tackling Dieback" was organised and run by Rainer Rehwinkel in November 2016.
Rainer Rehwinkel retired from OEH and decided to also stand down as Chair of K2C. After a short time where the Chair position was vacant, Geoff Robertson recently offered to take on the job (once again) and this was accepted by the K2C Executive. K2C expects to go through a process of strategic development to reinforce its ties with all of its Partners, including FOG, and to search for new funding opportunities that would allow the Facilitator to work more directly for K2C. An initiative to run a mini-forum after each bimonthly committee meeting is hoped to encourage increased partner representation in K2C business.
Activities program (Margaret Ning, Paul Archer, Ann Milligan)
Our aims, when planning FOG visit-type activities (rather
than workparties), are
(i) to have one activity per month (excluding August), or perhaps two per month in spring, and
(ii) to try and spread the visits around so they are not all in the ACT.
In 2016 we had reasonable success in achieving those aims – though you could say we saw more of NSW than ACT.
In April, FOG spent a weekend in Wadbilliga National Park. We also supported the Conservation Council’s walk in Kama Nature Reserve for the ACT Heritage Festival. In May, on a weekday afternoon in ACT, David Tongway showed us how Landscape Function Analysis can measure the way groundcover modifies water movement in the landscape. June’s activity was supposed to be a visit to grassland restoration sites at ‘Scottsdale’ property, near Bredbo, NSW. However, extreme rain meant that day was cancelled.
The mid-winter talks afternoon, at Mugga Mugga (ACT) in mid-July, featured John Blay speaking about the his research to identify the Bundian Way in southern NSW and his book about it. We had expected also to hear from Dr Kate Auty, the new ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment, but unfortunately she was ill and unable to join us. Luckily John could speak for the full hour.
September, October and November took us mainly to NSW again, with visits to grassy landscapes at Moruya in September, arranged for us by FOG members Jenny Liney and Jackie Miles. Then we had a trip to see masses of wildflowers in the grassy cemeteries around Cowra, NSW, led by Rainer Rewinkel in early October. In mid-October, we enjoyed a weekday afternoon visit to the flower carpet of Conder grassy woodland (ACT), led by Michael Bedingfield. The final two excursions for 2016 were a challengingly cold rescheduled visit to the Scottsdale grassland restoration plots (full of flowers), NSW (late October), and then the weekend trip to part of the Bundian Way near Delegate, NSW, in early November. The show of blossom in Stirling Park for FOG’s annual wildflower walk in mid-November was well-worth seeing, as was the November floral display in Turallo Nature Reserve (near Bungendore NSW), which was opened to visitors, led by Rainer Rehwinkel and supported by FOG, as part of the Open Garden scheme. The year wrapped up with the picnic at Jerrabomberra Wetlands office in December.
In 2017 so far, we have visited the Australian National Botanic Gardens nursery in February (ACT) and FOG members’ grassy woodland property (‘Ballyhooly’) near Bungendore (NSW) in mid-March.
We are very grateful to all who have spoken, led and hosted FOG at these activities, and to all the members and guests who have come along to enjoy them. Every activity has been well attended.
Looking ahead, we have a visit to restoration plots in ACT planned for April, and a walk among the gum trees for ACT Tree Week in May. For June, we expect to go to Yass Gorge, NSW, and in July the mid-winter talks are booked for Saturday 15, with two speakers - Dr Kate Auty speaking (see above) and also Lydia Guja from the ANBG Seed Bank. And already we have a range of interesting destinations sketched in for spring. We may look at linking with the Open Garden scheme again this year, to bring visitors to native grasslands (which can be like gardens, when in full flower).
Grasslands on National Lands in ACT (Jamie Pittock, Sarah Sharp, John Fitz Gerald)
FOG continued its efforts during the year to improve the conservation status of grassy ecosystems on National Lands (federal government land) 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 again supported FOG with a grant $6,000 in 2016 to support work parties with training, plants, herbicides and equipment.
In 2016 FOG undertook nine work parties supporting implementation of the NCA’s ecological management plan for these lands. The work involved 158 people registering each day who volunteered for a total of 556 hours. An estimated 337 m3 of green weeds was cut.
At Stirling Park and Attunga Point we made significant progress in clearing woody weeds such that only a modest area in the east remains untreated. Woody weed control was aided by additional, NCA funded, removal of large weeds by contractors below Forester Crescent, in the pine plantation and along the lake shore at Attunga Point. FOG and the NCA stepped up spraying of blackberry, weeds grasses and St John’s Wort. Trees and shrubs replanted in key, disturbed areas have grown quickly and are forming a typically open grassy woodland structure that will extend the unbroken area of habitat in the Park. Forb species, including Hoary Sunray and Sticky Everlasting, planted in partnership with Greening Australia several years ago, have taken hold and are reoccupying larger areas of the park.
The work at Stirling Park is being enhanced by a restoration project being undertaken in the adjoining ACT unleased land Bullan Mura (Women’s Pathway) (Block 2 Section 28 Yarralumla). Molonglo Catchment Group received funding to undertake restoration in this block, involving woody weed removal and enhancement of several important Indigenous cultural sites. Friends of Grasslands is a partner in this project. This block is a direct extension of the NCA managed Stirling Park woodland, so clearing of woody weeds in Bullan Mura has direct input into the restoration of the entire Stirling Park.
At Scrivener’s Hut modest control of woody weed regrowth and spraying were used to maintain previous restoration work.
At Yarramundi Grassland, strategic weed control was undertaken to maintain the habitat quality of a core area of quality grassland. Many of these weeds were compromising planted areas that hopefully are becoming forb seed orchards. In October, FOG participated in a lunchtime walk for NCA staff covering some of issues key to grassland management. In November, NCA started up a new mowing trial covering around 400 m2. This trial is aimed at establishing how much Wild Oats can be suppressed with a single-pass annual mow in Themeda-rich areas.
Priorities for 2017 include completing the first pass at woody weed removal at Stirling Park, controlling regrowth in previously restored lands and commencing control of Vinca infestations. Further efforts are also needed to legally protect the sites as the NCA begins to develop ‘precinct plans’.
Hall Cemetery (John Fitz Gerald)
A very different year at Hall Cemetery:- a controlled burn by the ACT Fire Unit across the front woodland block in April, followed by an extraordinarily wet winter. As reported several times in FOG Newsletter, the planted Bursarias were quite affected, and only 10 survive from the 35 growing at burn time - 5 of these were neither scorched nor burnt, and 5 more have recovered from being scorched. We conclude that the wet winter weather, when plants stood in some centimetres of water for weeks at a time, was a major contributor.
The total group work effort this year was lower than normal at 57 volunteer-hours; this was entirely due to the site being submerged on the date set for work in September 2016, meaning that only 3 work mornings went ahead. Sincere thanks to all who contributed.
As expected, fire and water have made big differences to the grassy species in the woodland, both good and bad. On the plus side, some native species such as Blue Devils and Senecios had a very good year. On the minus side, some of the weeds like Spear Thistles and Prickly Lettuce have grown vigorously, probably enjoying the open spaces after fire. Also it seems that weed seeds were washed into the woodland so that species like Fumaria germinated widely. The exotic grasses were not greatly set back - many of the perennials quickly sprouted from burnt roots after rain and are already back to pre-fire state, though probably thinned a little. Unfortunately, an area of dominant Microlaena which had been managed and steadily expanded by whipper snipper has been repopulated by exotics like Yorkshire Fog and Ryegrass. Summer was not kind to the Blakeley's Red Gums either as insect attack was severe this summer right around the region. The large number of small regenerating Red Gums has been reduced by fire with a healthy fraction eventually resprouting from their bases.
Cooma Grassland project (Margaret Ning)
FOG's South East Local Land Services (LLS) grant for work on the Old Cooma Common and adjacent areas (Firing Range, and Crown Land) is for $32,000 over three years; $25,000 for spraying and $7,000 for ‘other’ expenditure.
Other than spraying St John’s Wort (SJW) and African Love Grass (ALG) in the Monaro Golden Daisy (MGD) areas for three years, FOG’s grant responsibilities also include three lots of monitoring, four written products, three field days (aka ‘awareness raising events’), and five progress reports. (Spraying amounts were anticipated to be $12,000 in the first season, $8,000 in the second and $5,000 in the third.)
Since the beginning of the grant in February 2016:
- the spray contractor, Terry Myers, has done around 19 days spraying at the Common and Firing Range on SJW and ALG (a total of $13,896.35), commencing in February 2016;
- on 9 January 2016 the first lot of monitoring was completed with the setting up of MGD, SJW and ALG transects, with the second lot of monitoring on 21 December 2016. (Five of us participated on both occasions.)
- we have completed three written articles on the grant, two in the FOG newsletter, one in the Monaro Post;we have also completed progress reports in May 2016 and November 2016. Receipts from the grant have included: 26 February 2016, $14,500; 10 August 2016, $9,500; and 6 February 2017, $1000 (a total of $25,000).
- we have taken the opportunity to talk about the grant on a handful of occasions, which substitute for field days. We have prepared a poster on the grant to assist us on these opportunities.
In the meantime we have been ably assisted by Snowy Regional Council’s Chief Weeds Officer, Brett Jones, who decides when the contractor moves in on the Common to spray what target weed. One of our biggest risks with this project is the vagary of the rainfall. As such, the SJW spraying happened later in the 2016 ‘summer' than anticipated, and most of it has again been held over this summer. The latest spray happening is that the contractor will start two days spraying of ALG this week (mid-March 2017).
Over the last 12 months Canberra-based Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) volunteers have visited OCCGR on 7 occasions. Ann and I welcome them, thank them for coming and show them the poster we have prepared summing up our aims at the three LLS grant sites. They then proceed to work on OCCGR for a few hours, invariably in typically challenging grassland conditions (cold, heat, wind, etc.!!!), on whatever target weeds we nominate for them. We assess the site on the morning, sometimes in consultation with Brett Jones, to decide what can be tackled, always in the best quality vegetation areas, and sometimes specifically the main MGD area. Ironically, the only month the CVA volunteers did not make it, was the month that the MGD flowered, so we all missed out on seeing that!!!
Also some Green Army (GA) visits occurred in August 2016. They were good too as they could cut and daub target weeds. Unfortunately the GA program folded before more work could be done there.
Other awareness-raising opportunities included a trip to Cooma to participate in a National Landcare meeting, with a couple of women from the National Landcare Program assessing the LLS grant projects with one of the local LLS managers. Another opportunity came at one of Ian Chivers’ Native Grass workshops, where we were given time to say a few words about the grant.
In addition, Council has spent over $17,000 on SJW and ALG on OCCGR from 2014–15 to 2016–17, so we have a very productive partnership at work.
Scottsdale Monitoring (Linda Spinaze)
Wednesday 2 November was the date decided upon for the annual Scottsdale Monitoring event for 2016. There were 9 enthusiastic volunteers for the day, and the weather was perfect.
We have monitored these 9 sites since 2009, to assess whether African Lovegrass is decreasing or increasing relative to the native population, to identify patterns of dominance across the transect over time, and to assess whether ALG is regenerating or senescing over time.
The vegetation cover on some of the sites has varied quite a bit over the 6 years, but we have yet to analyse the data to assess if there is a trend.
There is some discussion with Matt Appleby of Bush Heritage regarding other monitoring sites which we may be able to do, depending of course, on availability of volunteers.
Thanks to John Fitzgerald, Sarah Sharp, Margaret Ning, Geoff Robertson, Ann Milligan, Elena Guarrracino, Narelle Moody and John Boyd for volunteering.
And thank you to Phil Palmer for providing lunch for us. Bush Heritage's previous manager, Peter Saunders is no longer supervising Scottsdale's activities, and has headed to northern Australia.
During the year FOG’s info-line received requests for helpers for other groups’ grassland ID and monitoring. Most of this work fell to Margaret Ning, who helped in ID over several weeks at ACT Government grassland plots, and also put in some time on Ken Hodgkinson’s grassland restoration plots – a Ginninderra Catchment Group project.
Website (Richard Bomford)
Content was updated over the course of the year to include ongoing work such as the newsletters, calendar and advocacy submissions.
In the 11 months to the end of February 2017, the site had around 75,000 visits (many of them probably accidental). A total of about 100GB of data was downloaded.
The top pages of interest in February 2017 were:
- Grasslands (1,000 visits)
- Grasses of NSW (360)
- Grasses brochure (100)
- Grassland Flora (book) (100)
- 2014 Forum (70)
- Woodland Flora (book) (50)
- Get help (40)
- Indicator species (40)
- Revision of patn analysis 2009 (40)
The FOG website costs about $15/year for hosting by HostMetro and a further $10/year for domain name registration with OnlyDomains. FOG email services are provided free of charge by Google Mail.
Newsletter (Ann Milligan, editor)
Thank you, to FOG’s generous contributors of articles, reports on activities, and lovely photos. Especial thanks to our regular (or semi-regular) writers and photographers: Michael Bedingfield, Janet Russell and John Fitz Gerald (and Jenny Liney). Together you have made it possible for FOG to produce 90 pages for readers to enjoy during 2016–17 in our six bi-monthly newsletters.
It is pleasing (to this editor) that the range of topics continues to be wider than plants alone, reflecting the nature of native grassy ecosystems. Within plant-focused articles, we are learning details we had never thought about, through John Fitz Gerald and Jenny Liney, and about life on the ninth floor of a city apartment thanks to Janet…. there is so much happening on those balconies! We have been alerted to several good books and reports, including: Insects of SE Australia; Jewels in the Landscape; Plants and Fungi of SW NSW; On Track – Searching out the Bundian Way; Dark Emu Black Seeds. And Sarah Sharp has brought us up to date with the new listing of Natural Temperate Grassland of the SE Highlands, and several reports on new weeds to watch out for.
The number of newsletters sent out by snail-mail remains at just over 100, with some of those recipients also getting the emailed newsletter, enabling them to see the beautiful photos in colour and still read the text comfortably on paper. I wish more people would choose to receive the newsletter both ways.
Mailouts are fun occasions. ‘Thank you’ to the merry team who help fold, label and stamp each copy.
‘Thank you’ also to Webmaster Richard Bomford, who uploads each newsletter in pdf and html to the FOG website, two months after the edition has first been sent to members. During 2016, Richard also scanned and uploaded all old newsletters that had previously been missing from the early years of FOG, so now you can find them all, from 1994 to early 2017, all listed at the one newsletters webpage!
e-Bulletin (Ann Milligan, editor)
FOG e-Bulletins are emailed to all FOG members and also to non-FOG groups. They are intended to be an alert and reminder about relevant activities, both FOG and non-FOG, in the near future. Occasionally extra reminders are also emailed to members.e-Bulletins were sent out in March, May, July, September, November in 2015 and in January 2016, prepared (with helpful comments from others) and dispatched by Ann Milligan or Sarah Sharp.