27 May 2020

ACT grasslands, woodlands classified as critically endangered

| Dominic Giannini
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Underside of native tree.

The ACT has reclassified two ecosystems to critically endangered to bring them into line with Commonwealth lists. Photo: Supplied.

Two threatened ecosystems in the ACT have been classified as critically endangered on the advice of the ACT Scientific Committee.

The Natural Temperate Grassland (NTG) and the Yellow Box, Red Gum Woodland (YBRGW) have been reclassified as critically endangered – a classification the ACT did not previously have – to bring it in line with Commonwealth lists.

The new listing will help provide more consistency between the two jurisdictions, said Dr Jasmyn Lynch, senior director of conservation planning and policy at the ACT Government’s Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD).

“This is a process following the memorandum of understanding between the ACT and state and territory governments to align the listings in the different jurisdictions to the Commonwealth list so we have one national list of species and ecosystems that are threatened,” she said.

“They were already protected under national … and state legislation, so the transfer on the ACT list does not require additional consideration by proponents or additional approvals.”

Agriculture, land clearing and development in the ACT had led to the endangered listing of both ecosystems previously, said Dr Lynch.

The Natural Temperate Grassland is home to three threatened plant species, two threatened lizards and two threatened invertebrates. In the Yellow Box, Red Gum Woodland there are 10 threatened birds, five threatened plants, two threatened invertebrates and one threatened reptile.

The recent bushfires burnt 60 per cent of the NTG – the biggest patch was in Namadgi National Park – but only one per cent of the YBRGW was burnt during the summer.

Classifying the grasslands and woodlands as critically endangered will help preserve their diverse ecosystems, said ACT Minister for the Environment and Heritage Mick Gentleman. It will also ensure a nationally consistent list and understanding about threatened ecological communities, he said, drawing attention to the woodland and grassland’s connectivity, diversity and condition.

Natural Temperate Grassland in the ACT.

The Natural Temperate Grassland is one of two new ecosystems that have been named on the critically endangered list in the ACT. Photo: Supplied.

“The Natural Temperate Grassland and the Yellow Box, Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland provide important habitat for several native and threatened species,” said Minister Gentleman.

“The ACT is home to the majority of the best Natural Temperate Grassland in south-eastern Australia so protecting our native grasslands is especially important.”

More than 70 per cent of the ACT’s woodlands – 79,000 hectares – are managed and protected by the ACT Parks and Conservation Service, including the newly listed Franklin Grasslands nature reserve.

The reserve was announced in mid-May to strengthen the conservation of critically endangered species such as the golden sun moth, as well as other animals including the pergunga grasshopper, superb parrot and striped legless lizard.

The addition of Franklin Grasslands to the ACT’s 37 other nature reserves forms a part of the government’s broader 10-year Native Woodland Conservation Strategy, which was released in 2019.

The conservation strategy, prepared by the ACT Conservator of Flora and Fauna, will guide the protection, management and restoration of native grasslands and woodlands and their species in the ACT during the next decade.

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