Friends of Grasslands
supporting native grassy ecosystems
PO Box 440
Macquarie ACT 2614
the Priorities Action Statement
Office of Environment and Heritage
PO Box A290, Sydney South NSW 1232
Reference: Proposed Priorities Action Statement amendments
Friends of Grasslands (FOG) is a community group dedicated to the conservation of natural temperate grassy ecosystems in south-eastern Australia, included related fauna species. FOG advocates, educates and advises on matters to do with the conservation of grassy ecosystems. It also carries out surveys and other on-ground work, including restoration of threatened ecological community and threatened species habitat. FOG is based in Canberra and its members include professional scientists, landowners, land managers and interested members of the public. They at times work closely with staff in government agencies in many jurisdictions (including OEH and LLS), and with land managers involved in the delivery of SOS and similar programs.
Our comments on the Proposed Priorities Action Statement amendments follow.
Four draft SoS strategies
FOG generally supports the four draft SOS strategies. During its over twenty years of existence, FOG has observed that there has been a great increase in knowledge of threatened and rare species and ecosystems, improvement in site and species management practices, and an increasing community awareness and participation in biodiversity conservation. It greatly appreciates the openness and enthusiasm of government staff employed in agencies such as OEH and LLS for our mutual shared biodiversity goals. These improvements, we believe, have been incorporated in the strategies.
Save our Species Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting
MER design and implementation checklist for SoS conservation projects
Groups such as FOG play an important education and advocacy role for our threatened species and communities. However, it can be very difficult to know what is happening to individual species and ecological communities. In particular, there is a lack of statistics that summarize key indicators for each threatened species and ecosystems, and likewise suitable statistics on threatening processes. Often it is the case that there is no time series statistics that indicate, for example, whether a particular species or ecosystem is declining, remaining stationary or recovering. We note that the MER design and implementation checklist for SoS conservation projects covers some of these concerns, including a conceptual model to identify how changes in the extent and severity of threats relate to changes in the target speciesí survival, reproduction and population growth.
In relation to point 6 in this section, attachment A suggests a few measures that might be useful, particularly in the context of grassy ecosystems.
While outside the ambit of the SoS program, it would be helpful if the measures used could be integrated with work that is taking place on environmental accounts. These provide accounts similar to those that have been available on economic and social accounts and facilitate better integration of economic, social and environment statistics and decision-making. In the longer term consistent measurement (national standards) across all jurisdictions would also be helpful.
Ensuring scientific rigor and best-practice governance
We note the aim in this section that all monitoring be scientifically rigorous, including consultation with relevant species experts and peer review of monitoring plans. While perhaps at a lower level of detail than covered by this document, FOG would like to draw to your attention problems with current report forms for most projects, including:
- not being pretested to ensure that their purpose is clear, questions are readily understood and answered, and resulting data collected are readily usable;
- too detailed and overly complex;
- contain questions that are poorly defined and often a mix of quantifiable and opened ended questions, and
- time consuming to complete.
Themeda grassland on seacliffs and coastal headlands in the NSW North Coast, Sydney Basin and South East Corner Bioregions
With regard to this action statement, FOG is concerned that the statement emphasises monitoring rather than actions to arrest the decline that is ongoing in those headlands in south east NSW. Without action in the near future, we run the risk of having nothing to monitor within a few years.
26 July 2017
Attachment A: Examples of possible measures for assessment of response to management actions
Grassland earless dragon - a threatened species
For the grassland earless dragon we would like to know, in the form of a time series:
- What is the number of animals in NSW and ACT;
- What are the sites at which they found, and the number of animals at each site (the time series would show sites from which they have disappeared);
- Information on each site such as area, condition category, ownership category and management category; categories for condition, ownership etc. would need to be simple categories but each defined.
Natural temperate grasslands of the Southern Tablelands - a threatened ecological community
We understand that a nomination for this community is being prepared, and would like to know, in a time series form:
- What is total area that falls within the definition of NTG of SH, classified by condition category. Similar data should be available for each site.
- The number (and names) of threatened species present within the community. Similar data should be available for each site.
Foxes - a threatening process
As an example of a threatening process, for foxes we would like to know in a time series form:
- total number of foxes in NSW, numbers in each population, and at each site.
African love grass
As an example of a weed as a threatening process, for ALG would like to know in a time series form:
- total area of ALG in NSW, numbers in each population, and at each site.
Population, regions and sites provide the complexity of area. Ideally it would be good to integrate these various measures. This may not be always practical in reality and judgement would be required.
Population - the strategy mentions extensive and confined populations; this is a useful concept.
Sites - small remnant sites could be combined as a single entity.