Friends of Grasslands
supporting native grassy ecosystems
PO Box 987
Civic Square ACT 2608
Phone: 02 62.. ....
The Hon Kevin Rudd MP
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Dear Prime Minister
I am writing to you as Friends of Grasslands (FoG) has continuing concerns about threats to conservation of significant remnants of lowland native grassland because of lack of action in managing kangaroos on Department of Defence land in Canberra.
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 been active for over a decade in advocating for grassy ecosystem conservation, including good management.
FoG made submissions in December (specifically about the 'Belconnen site') and January to the ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment's current grassland management inquiry, supporting immediate kangaroo management. Some extracted text from the later submission is included in an attachment to this letter; the complete submissions are available at www.fog.org.au. FoG also wrote to the Australian Government Minister for the Environment, the Hon Peter Garrett, in January about various matters relating to administration of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 including with specific relevance to the Canberra Airport and adjacent sites (Defence land) and conservation of threatened ecological communities and their associated species. FoG understands that Mr Garrett is supportive of the kangaroo management proposed.
FoG's position, shared by other environmental groups, is that kangaroo management is part of a broader approach to conservation and management of native grassy ecosystems. Such management must be timely to address threats effectively. FoG's view is that it is unfortunate that kangaroo numbers have been allowed to build up on the subject sites, and there is no good reason for further delay in dealing with the issue of over grazing: there are too many kangaroos with too little food now, and they are competing significantly for habitat resources with other more significant species - in terms of grassland conservation in this context - which may lead to dire consequences for those other species, including local extinctions.
Experts - i.e. those people who are trained and experienced in relevant aspects of species and ecosystem ecology and who we should trust to know best - agree that immediate action is needed to reduce grazing pressure. FoG urges the Australian Government's Department of Defence to act now.
FoG has advocated, and continues to advocate, for protection of remaining significant remnants of lowland native grassland to be reserved for conservation. FoG supports the ACT Government's intention to reserve the Lawson grassland when it becomes ACT land, as suburban development proceeds. FoG will continue to advocate for the best outcome for that reserve in terms of size, shape, buffers and management. FoG encourages the Australian Government to consider similar appropriate conservation management of the Majura grasslands e.g. via reservation under EPBC.
FoG also looks forward to considering an imminent MoU between the Australian and ACT governments about administration of the EPBC Act.
FoG welcomes your energy in tackling a range of issues in an inclusive way, and encourages you to support good conservation outcomes on Commonwealth land.
1 May 2008
cc AG Environment Minister
AG Defence Minister
ACT Chief Minister
Deb Foskey, ACT MLA
Mick Gentleman, ACT MLA
ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment
ACT Conservator of Flora and Fauna
Limestone Plains Group
Extract from FoG's submission to the ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment's grassland management inquiry in January 2008
FoG welcome(d) the CSE's inquiry, as deterioration of significant LNG [lowland native grassland] in recent years - particularly through overgrazing during the prolonged drought, at Majura, Belconnen, Jerrabomberra and Gungahlin - has been a real concern of FoG members and other environmental groups, shared by others within the ACT community.
Asnoted in the terms of reference, 'the ACT Government has prepared a number of significant strategies for the conservation of grasslands and woodland'. FoG's view is that, while Action Plans (APs) provide a good basis for protecting and managing grasslands, they are clearly not whole-of-government policy ... FoG is keen to consider progress reporting on implementation of APs, and notes that an implementation report on AP27 (woodlands) is available ... but that the report on AP28 (grasslands) is not yet available. ... Working from the report on AP27 ... it is likely that a report on AP28 will have highlighted issues such as the need to: protect key habitat, including to prevent intensive grazing; to 'monitor fauna, particularly threatened ... to determine their long-term trend and status ...'; and to 'participate in national recovery efforts ...'.
Further to the APs, management guidance is provided through documents such as the 'Grassy ecosystem management kit'. FoG questions whether: the planning for management of LNG remnants of concern (e.g. at Majura), meets the standard as outlined in the kit; whether plans are adequately agreed for implementation/review through memoranda of understanding or similar with critical landholders such as the Department of Defence ...; and whether such management is adequately monitored and steps taken where management is not sufficient to conserve LNG and its threatened species. ...
APs and recovery plans identify threats to LNG and associated species. FoG is concerned about a range of causes of deterioration including the following.
· Failure of site managers to manage to existing agreements (e.g. to manage grazing impacts), and subsequent degradation through ignorance/neglect.
· Exacerbation of existing threats by the prolonged drought of recent years, and related impacts such as overgrazing, disturbance and weediness - leading to loss and degradation of habitat, and population decline of some species.
FoG's view is that the ACT/Australian governments should seek to clarify planning/decision arrangements and to optimise funding arrangements, to ensure that both local/federal environment legislation and policy are implemented successfully. This should include measures to ensure effective (including both strategic and cumulative) assessment of potential impacts of proposals, and to target funding for protection of threatened ecosystems/species, at least to implement recovery plans.
 Sharp, S., Dorrough, J., Rehwinkel, R., Eddy, D. and Breckwoldt (2005). Grassy ecosystem management kit: a guide to developing conservation management plans, Environment ACT