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‘From the ground up’

A workshop on the conservation and rehabilitation of grassy ecosystems of the ACT and region

 

Canberra, 28-29 November 2006

 

 

This report is extracted from an article published in Australasian Plant Conservation 15(3).

 

This workshop focused on the conservation management and rehabilitation of Natural Temperate Grasslands and Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands, listed as endangered and critically endangered respectively under the EPBC Act.

 

Including presenters and volunteer helpers, 86 people participated in this workshop, from as far away as Adelaide, Armidale, Lismore and Victoria. Presenters were largely local specialists but Paul Gibson Roy (an ANPC Committee member) came from Melbourne and Peter McGee came from Sydney. Topics covered landuse history and management strategies, rehabilitation planning, rapid soil health assessment (Landscape Function Analysis), soil microbes in grassland rehabilitation, conservation genetics, guidelines for seed collection, manipulating management such as grazing, fire and slashing, monitoring and adaptive management, and the role of volunteers. Case studies were on re-establishing complex grasslands in Victoria by direct seeding and grassland management for endangered fauna protection in Kuma Nature Reserve in the Monaro region of southern NSW.

 

Field activities focused on trialling components of the Grassy Ecosystems Management Kit produced by local grasslands specialists, most of whom were involved in this workshop. Sarah Sharp, of the ACT Government’s Parks, Conservation and Lands group, was a key organiser of the field program, aided by the energetic contribution of the other field leaders.

 

We visited Little Mulligan’s Flat and the Justice Robert Hope Reserve. At each site, the group broke into four smaller groups and rotated around four activities. In addition to the Management Kit activities, David Tongway demonstrated his Landscape Function Analysis technique, a highly effective method of assessing soil health. He also demonstrated a new technique for assessing drainage line erosion risk and status. 

 

The field day was an increasingly typical Canberra spring day: hot, dry and windy. Fortunately the woodland trees provided enough shade to keep the group happily working through all the activities.

 

The attendance of three community volunteers at the workshop was sponsored by Natural Temperate Grasslands Recovery Team, while five were funded by Department of Environment and Heritage sponsorship.

 

This workshop was partly funded by an ACT Environment Grant and Department of Environment and Heritage sponsorship.

 

Feedback and sponsorship

 

"This workshop has been invaluable to me as a landholder and non-scientist. Very good communication of complex ideas. Will help me to understand my property and to work systematically towards a management plan. Thanks." (Private landholder and participant in Canberra Grassy Ecosystems workshop).

 

Feedback from the workshop was very positive, though the evaluation forms have yet to be fully analysed. 56.5% of the Grasslands registrants returned their evaluation forms. The participant quote above was just one of the enthusiastic responses we received. Some feedback also suggests other ideas and topics, though the two-day format clearly cannot encompass all desires.

 

Sponsorship to assist the attendance of community volunteers, such as we achieved at the workshop, will be sought for future ANPC workshops. While our workshops provide a very generous discount for volunteers, students and pensioners, some still cannot afford to attend. This sponsorship was designed to target volunteer workers who would benefit from the workshop, contribute to it and transfer their new skills to others in their rehabilitation project. This sponsorship increases the ANPC’s reach, particularly to local landholders.

 

Without the specialist presenters, who gave their time freely and enthusiastically, there would be no workshop. The same is true of the registrants who bring to the workshop their experience, enthusiasm and willingness to learn and to share. A huge thanks goes to all those who participated in developing the workshop and turning it into reality. 

 

 

Sally Stephens

ANPC Project Manager

 

 



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