ACT State of the Environment 2007

Indicator: Ecomanagement

Summary

The ACT was the only Australian jurisdiction to receive in 2007 a triple-A rating from the World Wildlife Fund for Nature for its nature conservation estate in terms of its rated comprehensiveness, extent and standard of management.

During this reporting period the ACT Government prepared or finalised a number of management plans, strategies and agreements that are relevant to managing ecosystems in the ACT, namely the:

  • ACT Natural Resource Management Plan 2004–14 (2004)
  • ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy (2004)
  • ACT Lowland Native Grassland Conservation Strategy (2005)
  • Draft Variation to the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve Management Plan (2005)
  • Draft Namadgi National Park Plan of Management (2005)
  • Lower Cotter Catchment Draft Strategic Management Plan (2006)
  • Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve Draft Management Plan (2006)
  • Draft ACT Weeds Strategy 2007–17 (2007)
  • ACT Aquatic Species and Riparian Zone Conservation Strategy (2007).

A number of these Management Plans were not finalised at the end of the reporting period (June 2007):

  • A draft management plan for the Jerrabomberra Wetlands area, recognised as a significant freshwater habitat in the ACT, was released in 2006 for public comment.
  • A final draft management plan for the Lower Cotter Catchment was ready for ACT Government consideration at the end of the reporting period. The Draft Plan was released in 2006 with the aim of protecting the existing and future water supply, natural and cultural heritage, conservation and recreational use.
  • The Namadgi National Park Revised Draft Plan of Management was released in 2005 for comment: 175 submissions were received.
  • The Googong Foreshores Draft Management Plan (2007) has been prepared for the Googong Dam Area (commonly referred to as Googong Foreshores), which is Commonwealth land within New South Wales, managed by the ACT Government on behalf of the Australian Capital Territory Executive. 

What the results tell us about the ACT

Natural Resource Management Plan implemented

The ACT Natural Resource Management Plan 2004–14 was finalised in March 2004. The Plan meets the requirements of the Bilateral Agreement with the Commonwealth for delivery of the Natural Heritage Trust.

At the end of the reporting period the Plan was under a mid-term review. There are similarities between the Plan and the state of the environment report in that both are environmental documents used for managing the Territory's environment. One aspect of the review is to more closely align the two sets of indicators used by each. This closer alignment will benefit the Office of the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment as well as the Natural Resource Management Council for reporting purposes, and also reduce the duplication of requests for information by both parties.

A number of actions listed in the Plan have been progressed during the reporting period. The Plan contains a strong focus on community involvement and this has enabled some of the land degradation issues caused by the 2003 bushfire (as well as other environmental concerns) to be addressed.

Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy finalised

The Woodlands for Wildlife: ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy, Action Plan No. 27 was finalised in March 2004. It was the first strategy released by the ACT Government to perform a number of roles. It incorporated action plans and a multi-species/ecological communities strategy (ACT Government 2004). The strategy is designed for use as part of planning processes in the ACT as well as being an Action Plan under the Nature Conservation Act 1980.

Some implementation of the strategy has occurred including completion of surveys of woodlands and protection of key habitat areas. There is concern within the community, however, about the proposed Molonglo Valley development and the expected consequent loss of Yellow Box Red Gum woodland. For further information and a full account of implementation progress see the Ecological communities indicator.

Lowland Native Grassland Conservation Strategy finalised

A Vision Splendid of the Grassy Plains Extended: ACT Lowland Native Grassland Conservation Strategy, Action Plan No. 28 was finalised in 2005. The strategy has taken an integrated approach within a regional context to protection of remaining lowland native grasslands. The strategy seeks to maintain and improve the natural integrity of the remaining lowland native grassland ecosystems (ACT Government 2005).

Implementation of the grasslands strategy has started in some areas, but amendments to the Territory Plan have yet to be completed for a number of the Priority Actions identified in the strategy. In one example, where land use changes are proposed for Lawson, careful management of the grasslands and species dependent on them is needed to minimise harmful effects, especially for the Golden Sun Moth and Ginninderra Peppercress. For further information and a full account of implementation progress see the Ecological communities indicator.

Namadgi National Park Revised Draft Plan of Management

The Namadgi National Park Revised Draft Plan of Management was released in 2005 for comment: 175 submissions were received. By the end of the reporting period the plan was not finalised.

The primary management objectives of the plan are water, natural heritage (protecting landscapes, ecological systems and biodiversity), cultural heritage, fire, recreation, education and research, community partnerships and operational management.

The plan aims to protect in perpetuity the natural and cultural values (including hydrological values) of the park from a range of pressures that have the potential to adversely impact those values (TAMS 2007c).

Lower Cotter Catchment Draft Strategic Management Plan

A final draft management plan was ready for ACT Government consideration at the end of the reporting period. The Draft Plan was released in 2006 with the aim of protecting the existing and future water supply, natural and cultural heritage, conservation and recreational use. A series of implementation plans for managing the lower catchment have been developed and are being actively implemented.

The Lower Cotter Catchment Management Group is the key driver of implementation. The group comprises a core of Parks, Conservation and Lands and ActewAGL staff, with input from Emergency Services Agency/Rural Fire Services and others as required for specific issues (Commissioner for the Environment 2007).

Recovery of the catchment from the 2003 bushfire is integral to the plan. Major revegetation projects were undertaken in 2006–07; one project involved volunteers from Greening Australia planting 1000 native species over 25 hectares in strategically important riparian zones. Good early winter rains in 2007 are expected to result in a high survival rate for these plantings. The ongoing drought resulted in lower survival rates for 130,000 seedlings planted over 250 hectares by contractors in spring 2006.

Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve Draft Management Plan

The Jerrabomberra Wetlands area is recognised as a significant freshwater habitat in the ACT. A draft management plan was released in 2006 for public comment. The plan was not final at the end of the reporting period.

The wetlands have significant bird habitat areas including migratory birds. There are agreements in place with China and Japan to protect the migratory species. The plan aims to conserve habitat for the migratory species, manage potential impacts from development in surrounding areas, ensuring an appropriate interface between the reserve and surrounding urban areas, access to and through the reserve, weed management and potential impacts of water based activity in or adjacent to the reserve (TAMS 2007b).

Draft ACT Weeds Strategy in progress

A revised weeds strategy has been prepared to cover the next 10 years (2007–17) (TAMS 2007a). It had not been finalised by the end of the reporting period.

This strategy builds on the previous one, using knowledge gained in the last 10 years to ensure that better monitoring and evaluation of weed control is undertaken. For further information see the Pest plants indicator.

ACT Aquatic Species and Riparian Zone Conservation Strategy

This strategy, completed in 2007, seeks to maintain and improve the natural integrity of the rivers and riparian zones in the ACT, within a regional context. Progress on implementing the strategy will be reported in the next state of the environment report.

Community involvement

There is significant community involvement in the ACT's natural resource management. A number of groups undertake projects on a voluntary basis to collect data and to improve the condition of the natural environment. The groups include bird experts (such as Canberra Ornithologists Group) and they range from the one-person membership of a Parkcare Group to larger organisations such as Greening Australia. The ACT Government employs coordinators and facilitators who work with the community in conservation management.  It is important that Government agencies and private landholders who are responsible for management of the ACT's natural environment continue to cooperate with the scientific community and also involve community groups in developing management arrangements and plans.

There are three Community Catchment Groups in the ACT and region: the Ginninderra, Molonglo and Southern ACT Catchment Groups.

Community support for post-2003 bushfire restoration and other native vegetation regeneration projects is facilitated through a range of programs including Park Care, Landcare, Waterwatch, ACT River Rescue and ACT Land Keepers. Park Care groups help maintain and conserve the Canberra Nature Park and Namadgi National Park by facilitating local actions that complement government programs. Landcare groups operate in rural and urban areas, bringing together landholders and interested community members to focus on natural resource management issues in their local area. Both Park Care and Landcare groups have been actively monitoring post-fire recovery and undertaking actions to address fire impacts, such as erosion, weeds and replacement of plantings.

Waterwatch groups operate across the Territory with dedicated volunteers undertaking routine and episodic monitoring of water quality and riparian conditions, with the measurement data fed into a Territory-wide database. The Campfire Project, directly after the 2003 bushfire, mobilised these Waterwatch volunteers to take stock of the impact of the fires on local water quality; this work is continuing.

ACT Land Keepers is a partnership between the ACT Government and Greening Australia, and is jointly funded by the ACT and Australian governments. ACT Land Keepers worked with landholders on ACT non-urban land to conserve and enhance native vegetation and to restore stream banks. The VegLink component of ACT Land Keepers engaged community volunteers, scientific agencies, schools and businesses in a range of on-ground activities such as plantings, propagation, seed collection, weed control and monitoring.

Between May 2003 and June 2007, ACT Land Keepers volunteers attended 150 events focused on bushfire recovery. Events included 65 plantings of 70,200 native trees and shrubs, 15 seed propagation days with 160,340 plants propagated, as well as seed collecting, weed control, bird identification and training and educational tours of bushfire-affected areas. Over 7,760 volunteers have contributed 26,500 hours to the task of revegetating the bushfire-affected landscapes west of Canberra.

ACT River Rescue focused on recovering riparian habitat along priority streams in the ACT to address biodiversity and water quality issues. Works included building and repairing fences, controlling erosion, providing alternative stock water, controlling weeds and willows, and revegetating riparian sites. Between June 2005 and June 2007, 62 riparian sites were rehabilitated, 350 hectares of land revegetated, and 46 kilometres of river protected or stabilised.

Progress in planning and managing for conservation

Since the 2003 State of the Environment report the government has taken significant steps to protect the Territory's biodiversity. Between 2004 and 2007 a series of three conservation strategies for priority species and ecological communities was completed and published as Action Plans 27, 28 and 29 covering lowland woodlands, lowland native grasslands and aquatic and riparian communities (ACT Government 2004; 2005; 2007). Each Action Plan covers a major vegetation type and its constituent threatened species and ecological communities (Table 1) and sets out an integrated conservation plan with priority actions to guide government agencies and non-government interests towards achieving the strategy's aims. Progress in implementing these actions is summarised in Table 2.

Generally there has been solid progress towards implementing the priority actions nominated in each Action Plan. Completing the required administrative actions to ensure security for land intended to be protected primarily for conserving endangered ecological communities and habitat for threatened species is, however, slow largely due to the time that elapses between the government's announcement and the necessary amendment to the Territory Plan. For example, two nature reserves protecting native grasslands and Yellow Box–Red Gum Grassy Woodlands in the Jerrabomberra Valley, announced in 2004 to protect examples of the Territory's two endangered ecological communities, are yet to be formally recognised in the Territory Plan. It is the latter statutory instrument that formally establishes a nature reserve and provides management staff with the legal authority to enforce relevant legislation. However, parts of these areas have been managed as part of the Canberra Nature Park estate since 2006.

Establishing nature reserves or other mechanisms that protect natural areas is only the beginning of effective long-term conservation. Management of natural areas and the plants and animals that live there requires an understanding of many ecological processes, including the ways in which the biota respond to changing conditions, how recreational and other activities impact on natural processes, and the special requirements of plants and animals that are subject to threatening processes. In many cases the scientific knowledge that underlies this understanding is not available and it is necessary to undertake targeted research in order to improve the evidence for management decisions.

It is encouraging, therefore, that in 2004 the ACT Budget provided new resources to support the research necessary to inform management of the Territory's natural resources and particularly the species and communities that are listed as threatened with extinction. Environment ACT (2004–06) and its successor (Parks, Conservation and Lands), established partnerships with the Australian National University and the University of Canberra that will enable essential research to be carried out into the ecology of the most threatened communities and species in the Territory's woodlands and grasslands. This type of ecological research is, by its nature, a long-term project but it can be expected to yield dividends in terms of more informed management and recovery of the ecological condition of these communities. Continued commitment by all parties is essential or early work will be of limited value.

Increasing importance is being attached to the need to provide corridors and interconnections between areas of the conservation estate.  This is so that there are potential avenues for the movement of species but also to assist the ability of species to respond to the affects of climate change.  Such corridors may be necessary for the survival of some species.  Hence, attention needs to be paid to the provision of such corridors and their maintenance and enhancement between core nature conservation areas.  This needs to be given a high priority in planning Greenfield sites and urban renewal projects.

Table 1: Threatened species and ecological communities included in conservation strategies
Action Plan 27 Action Plan 28 Action Plan 29
Woodlands for Wildlife: ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy A Vision Splendid of the Grassy Plains Extended: ACT Lowland Conservation Strategy Ribbons of Life: Aquatic Species and Riparian Zone Conservation Strategy
Yellow Box–Red Gum Grassy Woodland Natural Temperate Grassland
Tarengo Orchid Button Wrinklewort Tuggeranong Lignum
Small Purple Pea Ginninderra Peppercress Two-spined Blackfish
Hooded Robin Striped Legless Lizard Trout Cod
Swift Parrot Golden Sun Moth Macquarie Perch
Superb Parrot Grassland Earless Dragon Murray River Crayfish
Brown Tree Creeper Perunga Grasshopper
Painted Honeyeater
Regent Honeyeater
Varied Sitella
White-winged Triller


Table 2: Progress in implementing priority actions in conservation strategies
Action Plan 27: Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy
Priority actions Implementation progress
Completing surveys of woodlands including data collection on ground layer and understorey vegetation and habitat characteristics Woodland surveys completed for Gungahlin, Molonglo Valley (excluding riparian), all of Canberra Nature Park, Urban Open Space, Horse Paddocks, agisted land, ACT Forests land, most Travelling Stock Reserves, selected high quality woodlands on leased land
Protecting key habitat areas in Hall–Kinlyside, Goorooyarroo, East Majura Valley and Callum Brae, and off-reserve areas such as Castle Hill (Tuggeranong–Naas complex) Nature reserves established at Goorooyarroo (701 ha) and announced for Callum Brae (100 ha); Mulligans Flat–Goorooyarroo nature reserves combined is the largest area of Yellow Box–Red Gum Grassy Woodland in public ownership in Australia (1500 ha)

Negotiations underway for conservation management of small parcel of Commonwealth land in New South Wales adjoining Goorooyarroo thus complementing Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve

Yellow Box–Red Gum Grassy Woodland subject to 20-year conservation lease (Kinlyside), and Conservator's Directions (Hall Cemetery, South Aranda)

Land Management Agreements for rural leases containing partially or moderately modified woodland include clauses to protect their conservation values

Woodland at Kama in Molonglo Valley identified as warranting protection – now subject to planning studies for the new Molonglo Valley urban development
Providing for improved habitat connectivity for wildlife movement The Canberra (Spatial) Plan includes a goal designed to address ecological connectivity between habitats; no outputs have been made public or progress reported
Protecting examples of Snow Gum lowland woodland, especially ecotones between woodland and grassland Example at Fairbairn Avenue, Campbell destroyed by housing development; example at Rob Roy identified as priority for protection from a new power line
Protecting lower elevation woodlands particularly in the Callum Brae–Jerrabomberra, Majura Valley–Kowen, and Gungahlin complexes ACT Government announced in 2004 its intention to protect woodland at Callum Brae
Implementing the Hall Master Plan and enlarging the Hall Cemetery so as to protect the Tarengo Leek Orchid Hall Master Plan (2001) outlines intention to enlarge cemetery, but no concrete action yet so threat to Tarengo orchid remains
Assessing woodlands for their potential for listing on the ACT Heritage Places Register as natural heritage places Four nominations prepared by Conservation Council of South East Region and Canberra are being considered by the ACT Heritage Council
Protecting a more complete altitudinal range of woodlands by including secondary grassland and lower elevation woodlands in reserves Secondary grassland included in the Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve
Establishing mechanisms to help apply best practice management (Conservation Management Plans, voluntary management agreements, guidelines) to facilitate conservation outcomes on reserve and off-reserve land Significant research partnership with ANU (Fenner School) established at Goorooyarroo and Mulligans Flat nature reserves, aimed at improving scientific knowledge for conservation management of biodiversity in woodlands

Conservator's directions were issued (following consultation) to leaseholders in the Jerrabomberra Valley to secure long-term sustainable management of high conservation value native grasslands including Natural Temperate Grassland and Grassland Earless Dragon habitat
Action Plan 28: ACT Lowland Native Grassland Conservation Strategy
Priority actions Implementation progress
Completing planning studies for parts of ACT where long-term land use is yet to be completed and where grasslands are located (Jerrabomberra and Majura valleys) The ACT Planning and Land Authority's Southern Broadacre Planning Study has been completed. It identifies two areas (Jerrabomberra East and West) for nature reserves and other land planning measures to protect grassland and habitat for the Grassland Earless Dragon

The Territory Plan has been amended to include Jerrabomberra West in the ACT's nature conservation estate.

Equivalent planning for the Majura Valley, the location of another important native grassland, is not yet available
Protecting all grasslands assessed as being core conservation areas, either as part of Territory's nature conservation estate or equivalent secure management Progress in protecting core conservation sites listed in Action Plan 28 can be summarised as follows:
  • Mulanggari, Gungaderra, Crace and Dunlop grassland reserves established
  • Proposals for nature reserves at Jerrabomberra East and West and Harmon Bonshaw (on Commonwealth land) announced in 2004 are not yet established under the Territory Plan
  • Majura Valley East subject to (non-binding or legally enforceable) memorandum of agreement with the Department of Defence, but Majura Valley West, Airport Services Beacon and Canberra International Airport not covered by conservation management agreement
  • Lawson grassland (Belconnen Naval Station) subject to conservation management pending completion of planning studies for new urban development
  • Small grasslands at:
  • Caswell Drive and Glenloch interchange identified for protection, but threatened by major road works
  • Isabella Pond, Monash managed as urban open space
  • Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, Barton, protected by lease and a conservation management plan
Including, in the protected area system, grassland habitat for threatened species not yet adequately protected; that is, Grassland Earless Dragon in Jerrabomberra Valley, Golden Sun Moth at Lawson, and Ginninderra Peppercress at Lawson Grassland Earless Dragon, government announced Jerrabomberra East and West nature reserves (2004), but required changes to Territory Plan yet to be set in place. No formal protection in Majura Valley.

Golden Sun Moth and Ginninderra Peppercress protected at Lawson (Belconnen Naval Station, Commonwealth land) pending resolution of planning for new urban development
Providing improved habitat connectivity between grassland and woodland. Important examples are between Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve and Campbell Park paddocks, woodland and grassland at Majura Military Training Area, Jerrabomberra Valley, Aranda Bushland and Caswell Drive grasslands, ACT–New South Wales border at Jerrabomberra East and Queanbeyan Examples of woodland/grassland interfaces identified but not all managed for conservation, except at Aranda Bushland where woodland/grassland boundary is subject to Conservator's Directions. Examples at Jerrabomberra West and Callum Brae nature reserves now in nature reserves following amendment to the Territory Plan.
Reviewing management of native grasslands in ACT nature reserves, particularly invasive weeds Ongoing and formally every three years. Invasive weed control requirements are reviewed every year as part of the annual weed report
Assessing grasslands and threatened species for their potential for listing on the ACT Heritage Places Register The ACT Heritage Council is considering five nominations prepared by the Conservation Council of South East Region and Canberra
Establishing mechanisms to help apply best-practice management on reserve and off-reserve land A significant research partnership between the ACT Government and the University of Canberra has been established to support several post-graduate students studying the Grassland Earless Dragon and grassland invertebrates. This research aims to provide scientific knowledge to assist conservation management of grasslands
Action Plan 29: Aquatic Species and Riparian Zone Conservation Strategy
Priority actions Implementation progress
Action Plan 29 was published in March 2007. Progress in implementing its priority actions will be reported in the next state of the environment report. Information on research being carried out on several aquatic species is reported in the Native species indicator.

Lower Cotter catchment

The immediate catchment of the Cotter reservoir outside Namadgi National Park (Lower Cotter catchment) was severely damaged in the 2003 bushfire, with nearly 5,000 hectares of pine plantation destroyed and over 2,000 hectares of native vegetation affected. As a consequence, water flowing into the reservoir was of poor quality, mainly due to increased turbidity (fine sediment) from the exposed, highly erodible soils. Revegetation of the former pine plantation estate, damaged land and native vegetation areas will require a long-term and sustained effort on an unprecedented scale for the ACT.

After the bushfire, the former ACT Forests began to reinstate pine plantations while reducing sediment movement into watercourses. The first area to be treated was the Pierces Creek section of the Lower Cotter catchment. This involved closing 35 kilometres of roads in the Pierces Creek area, increasing the size of native vegetation buffer zones between plantation areas and riparian zones and revegetating native areas on steeper slopes where plantation forestry was not appropriate. In all, around 1,200 hectares of the Lower Cotter catchment was planted to pines as part of this restoration work. Across the whole of the Lower Cotter catchment (and other parts of the pine plantation estate) dead, burnt pines posed a fire fuel and safety hazard and were therefore accorded priority in debris removal activities involving specialised machines felling and piling up the trees for burning. Finally, site preparation was undertaken in the form of weed control, ripping and mounding and spot cultivation.

The ACT Forests project ceased in 2005, with ACT Forests, as an entity, being merged into Environment ACT. However, significant progress was achieved, especially in Pierces Creek, and the foundation for the next phase was established. For example, debris removal and site preparation works carried out between 2003 and 2005 allowed weed control and revegetation works to proceed.

Restoration of the Lower Cotter catchment is now guided by a draft plan 'Clean Water, Healthy Landscapes' (ACT Government 2006). The plan emphasises water storage as the primary value of the Lower Cotter catchment and sets out strategic management actions designed to permit the reservoir to be used again (after 30 years) as part of Canberra's domestic water supply. The draft plan proposes that no new pine plantations be established and that areas not already planted to pines be progressively restored to native vegetation. Roads not needed for managing the catchment are to be closed and, where practicable, rehabilitated in order to reduce a source of sediment to the catchment's streams. Pines planted immediately after the fires will not be managed as a commercial crop and will be removed when appropriate. Control of weeds, particularly blackberries, will be a major management task especially along the watercourses. The plan acknowledges that restoration of the area to the naturally occurring ecological communities is unlikely to be achieved, but that an understanding of these communities may inform selection of species for planting.

The ACT Government has not formally adopted the final plan but implementation of key objectives and actions by Parks, Conservation and Lands is well under way in partnership with ACTEW, ActewAGL, Greening Australia and community groups. As well, some projects are supported by funding from the ACT Landkeepers, the Natural Heritage Trust and National Action Plan. In the reporting period:

Removal of pines planted in 2003 and 2005 commenced in 2006, albeit on a small scale. Sections of plantation were removed where they were located in sub catchments that were otherwise free of pines and pine wildlings. This strategy will be continued in 2007 and beyond.

A variety of works designed to improve drainage and minimise sediment movement into watercourses from over 50 kilometres of roads required for management purposes has been completed.

About 37 kilometres of roads no longer needed to manage the area were made inaccessible to vehicles and erosion control structures were installed. Road surfaces are being allowed to regenerate naturally.

Two major revegetation programs were undertaken in 2006–07. In spring 2006, 130,000 native seedlings were planted over about 250 hectares, but some replanting in spring 2007 is needed as the dry summer resulted in low survival rates. Greening Australia has commenced a large project and has so far planted 10,000 native plants over 25 hectares in strategically important riparian areas.

Weed control was undertaken over a substantial area in 2006, including removal of pine wildings from 1,500 hectares (which is about 50% of the area that requires such treatment). Blackberry plants were treated with herbicide by spot spraying on 150 hectares of land, mainly in areas that have not recovered well from previous disturbance and require intervention and revegetation.

At Blundells Flat (a montane, valley floor wetland complex of soaks, meadows, wet grasslands and riparian zones located adjacent to Namadgi National Park at the base of Mount Coree in the north-western corner of the ACT) Greening Australia commenced a major restoration program involving removal of dead standing willows along Condor Creek while maintaining the natural eucalypt and acacia regeneration occurring in the area, weed control including poplar and willow regrowth and blackberry, water spreading where the creek has become incised, and rehabilitation of the former picnic area and car park. In addition, numerous road and track closures in the surrounding area have served to discourage off-road vehicles and promote natural regeneration.

Planning is underway for a range of further actions in 2007–08 including planting 300,000 native tubestock, removing pine wildings from former pine plantation areas, closing another 60 kilometres of redundant roads, constructing sediment control dams, beginning the staged removal of pine plantations and expanding the water quality monitoring program.

Improving the ecological condition of ACT woodlands

In 2005 the ACT Government and the Australian National University succeeded in obtaining an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant to undertake a long-term, large-scale 'natural experiment' to provide critical new data, analyses, and scientific insights on the simultaneous effects of management regimes on temperate woodland biota. The research has been funded until 2010 but it is expected to provide the basis for collaboration for many years afterwards. The research includes CSIRO collaborators and university student projects and will assess:

  • the effects of major management treatments (fire, addition of dead timber, exclusion of kangaroo grazing) on selected woodland plants and animals
  • changes in populations in response to management practices through time
  • relationships between animal life history and response to management intervention
  • whether statistically significant effects relating to burning, dead timber, and combinations of exclusion fencing are of practical use as predictors of animal abundance
  • the effect of a planned predator-proof fence at Mulligans Flat and removal of feral animals and reintroduction of locally extinct species.

This research initiative is welcomed. It is an example of the long-term commitment essential to obtaining the scientific knowledge necessary for sound management of the Territory's natural resources. It has the potential to inform public and private managers of woodlands in the surrounding region of the New South Wales southern tablelands. Identifying new ways to better manage our woodlands is fundamental to sustainable resource management and critical for conserving woodland biodiversity.

The Mulligans Flat–Goorooyarroo Woodland experiment was established during the last 12 months of the reporting period. Initial results are expected during the next reporting period.

Protected areas

In 2007 the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) published a review of Australia's terrestrial protected area system for the period 1991–2004. To do this the WWF used a national database that contains information on all declared protected areas in Australia maintained by the Australian Government (through the Department of Environment and Water Resources) with the cooperation of state and territory governments and published biennially. Although the WWF review covers a longer period than this state of the environment report, it gives a valuable overview of the Territory's contribution to the National Reserve System and its achievements compared with other Australian jurisdictions.

Results for the ACT are summarised in Table 3. They show an increase in the area included in the protected area estate for the period 1991–2004 of 28,886 hectares or 12.28% of the Territory. This is the largest change, as a proportion of its total land area, for any Australian jurisdiction. The ACT also performed very well in respect to the total percentage of its land held in protected areas (54.73%).

The WWF also assessed management of Australia's protected areas using data provided by staff in each jurisdiction's conservation agency. This assessment gave the ACT a 'very good' rating; it was the only Australian jurisdiction to achieve the top rating.

An overall report card, based on benchmarks for comprehensiveness, extent and standard of management in each jurisdiction as of 2002, gave the ACT an 'A' ranking for each benchmark; it was the only jurisdiction to receive a triple A rating. The WWF overall summary of the Territory's contribution to the national protected area system is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Direct quote from WWF report

3.7 Jurisdictional Contributions to Developing Australia's Protected Area System
3.7.1 Australian Capital Territory

In terms of Comprehensiveness, the Australian Capital Territory has a Comprehensive protected area estate. In the principal bioregion, the South Eastern Highlands, that also extends into New South Wales and Victoria, the protected area estate samples 89% (IUCN I-IV) and 5% (IUCN V-VI) of ecosystems. Namadgi National Park and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve are partly within the Australian Alps bioregion that also extends into New South Wales and Victoria and overall, 93% (IUCN I-IV) and 4% (IUCN V-VI) of ecosystems of this bioregion are represented.

The protected area estate in the Australian Capital Territory is Extensive and as of 2004 totals 54.73% of the Territory. It consists almost entirely of IUCN protected area Categories I-IV with 1,300 hectares in IUCN protected area Categories V-VI.

The Standard of Management of protected areas in the Australian Capital Territory is Good to Very Good. Management plans are in place for all reserves, though the Namadgi Plan (90% of the estate) is currently in draft form. Monitoring regimes are in place to track changes since major bush fires, and to assess populations of rabbits, kangaroos and threatened species. Action plans for all threatened species have been prepared.

The WWF report also identified 10 of the outstanding protected area achievements across all governments and by a non-government organisation over the decade (1992–2002) and since formal inception of the National Reserve System. The criteria for the award included the contribution to addressing comprehensiveness, particularly in those regions where biodiversity is poorly conserved, and the national significance in conserving rare, threatened or at risk ecological communities, and centres of endemicity, refugia or areas of outstanding species richness.

The Territory's contribution to the award is the grassland nature reserves established in Gungahlin (1995) and Dunlop (1997). They cover an area of 640 hectares and contain habitat for several threatened species, including the Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar), Golden Sun Moth, (Synemon plana), the Perunga grasshopper, (Perunga ochracea) and the Button Wrinklewort daisy (Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides). Establishment of these reserves was reported in previous state of the environment reports, however this new recognition is worthy of record in the 2007 State of the Environment report.

During the reporting period the ACT Government continued to add to the Territory's protected area estate by establishing new nature reserves, most of which protect the endangered ecological community of Yellow Box–Red Gum Grassy Woodland (Table 3).

During the reporting period ACT Government ecologists made significant progress in surveying, mapping and describing the ecological communities found in the Territory and identifying those that still warrant protection. The ACT has an enviable record in developing the Territory's nature conservation estate, and a relatively small additional effort is needed to achieve a nature reserve system that includes representative samples of all ecological communities found in the Territory.

Construction of the Gungahlin Drive extension to link the Tuggeranong Parkway with the Barton Highway commenced in 2005 with site preparation along the entire route. The area of forested vegetation cleared north of Belconnen Way (mainly along the edge of Bruce Ridge and O'Connor Ridge nature reserves) was 10.8 hectares. Another 11.9 hectares of similar forest vegetation was cleared south of Belconnen Way (along Black Mountain and Aranda Bushland nature reserves). Native grassland near the Glenloch interchange was fenced out of the construction site to protect several remnants. The success of this measure will be assessed after construction works cease in 2008. Roadside fencing constructed along part of the new road between Ginninderra Drive and the Barton Highway is intended to address road safety concerns arising from kangaroos moving between North Lyneham ridge and the Kaleen horse paddocks. About 16,000 trees as well as about 80,000 grasses and shrubs have been planted along the route as part of landscape restoration.

Table 3: Changes to the Territory's protected areas estate (2003–07)
Nature Reserve Area (ha) Instrument Date
Mount Mugga Mugga +66 Territory Plan Variation 209 April 2005
Percival Hill +79 Territory Plan Variation 165 May 2006
Tuggeranong Hill +8 Territory Plan Variation 165 May 2006
Goorooyarroo +701 Territory Plan Variation 231 August 2006
Mulligans Flat +11 Territory Plan Variation 231 August 2006
Callum Brae +100 None as of 30 June 2007 Announced July 2004
Jerrabomberra West +190 None as of 30 June 2007 Announced July 2004
Jerrabomberra East +225 None as of 30 June 2007 Announced July 2004
Lawson (Commonwealth land
over which the ACT Government does not control of land use)
+100 None as of 30 June 2007 Announced 2005
Black Mountain and Aranda Bushland -12 Territory Plan Variation 138 July 2001
Bruce Ridge and O'Connor Ridge -11 Territory Plan Variation 138 July 2001

Construction of the Gungahlin Drive extension required incursions into established nature reserves between Ginninderra Drive and Glenloch interchange, an overall reduction of about 23 hectares, mostly of dry sclerophyll forest (Eucalyptus macrorhyncha and E. rossii).

The net result of these changes, including some minor boundary adjustments, for the Territory's protected area estate is that, subject to the necessary changes to the Territory Plan, it has increased by 1,457 hectares in the period 2004–07.

Australian Government authorities approved destruction of several small patches (about four hectares) of Natural Temperate Grassland (an endangered ecological community) at the Canberra International Airport in order to construct runway infrastructure, office and commercial buildings in the northwest sector. These patches were embedded in a larger area of native pasture (about 50 hectares) that contained habitat used by the endangered Golden Sun Moth. Long-term survival of Natural Temperate Grassland, the Grassland Earless Dragon and the Golden Sun Moth within the boundary of Canberra International Airport continues to be under threat from development (see also the Native species indicator). Claims that the grassland community can be moved to other locations are not supported by scientific experience.

Conservator's Directions

The Nature Conservation Act 1980 (ACT) provides for the Conservator of Flora and Fauna to issue directions to a landholder specifying measures that must be taken to conserve an element of the Territory's biodiversity. During the reporting period Conservator's Directions were issued in relation to parts of two rural leases; specifically, to protect Yellow Box–Red Gum Grassy Woodland and the small Purple Pea (Swainsona recta) and habitat for the Grassland Earless Dragon (Tympanocryptis pinguicolla), and to the ACT Public Cemeteries Authority to protect habitat of the Tarengo Leek Orchid (Prasophyllum petilum). These Directions are in addition to those issued in 2002 covering parts of four rural leases in the Jerrabomberra Valley.

References

ACT Government 2004, Woodlands for Wildlife: ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy, Action Plan No. 27, Environment ACT, Canberra available at <http://www.tams.act.gov.au/live/environment/native_plants_and_animals/ threatened_species_and_ecological_communities_in_the_act/woodlands_strategy>

ACT Government 2005, A Vision Splendid of the Grassy Plains Extended: ACT Lowland Native Grassland Conservation Strategy, Action Plan No. 28, Arts, Heritage and Environment, Canberra, available at <http://www.tams.act.gov.au/live/environment/native_plants_and_animals/ threatened_species_and_ecological_communities_in_the_act/grassland_conservation_strategy>

ACT Government, 2006, Clean Water, Healthy Landscapes: Lower Cotter Catchment Draft Strategy Management Plan, available at: <http://www.tams.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/27736/ LCC_Draft_Strategic_Plan_final_final.pdf>

ACT Government 2007, Ribbons of Life: ACT Aquatic Species and Riparian Zone Conservation Strategy, Action Plan No. 29, Department of Territory and Municipal Services, Canberra, available at <http://www.tams.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/20427/ Action_Plan_29_Vision_and_Contents.pdf>

Commissioner for the Environment 2007, Annual Report 2006–07, Office of the Commissioner for the Environment, Canberra, available at <http://www.envcomm.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/69202/AnnualReport2006-07.pdf>

Sharp S, Macdonald T, Kitchin M and Dunford M unpublished, Setting Conservation Targets for Vegetation Communities in the ACT, Final report to Natural Resource Management Council, June 2007, Parks, Conservation and Lands, Canberra

TAMS (Department of Territory and Municipal Services) 2007a, Draft ACT Weeds Strategy 2007–17, Environment and Recreation, Department of Territory and Municipal Services, Canberra, available at <http://www.tams.act.gov.au/live/environment/pestsandweeds/management>

TAMS (Department of Territory and Municipal Services) 2007b, Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve Draft Management Plan, Environment and Recreation, Department of Territory and Municipal Services, Canberra, available at <http://www.tams.act.gov.au/play/parks_forests_and_reserves/ policies_and_publications/strategies,plans_and_reviews/jerrabomberra_wetlands_draft_management_plan>

TAMS (Department of Territory and Municipal Services) 2007c, Namadgi National Park Revised Draft Plan of Management 2007, Environment and Recreation, Department of Territory and Municipal Services, Canberra, available at <http://www.tams.act.gov.au/play/parks_forests_and_reserves/ policies_and_publications/strategies,plans_and_reviews/namadgi_national_management_plan_review_2003>

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