Learning about Managing Plants, Predators and People at MRC

[NB: due to temporary camera issues photos are not yet available. Once the technical difficulties have been resolved, this post will be updated to include them.]

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[Source: Google Maps September 28, 2016).

Biodiversity Conservation requires a whole range of considerations:

For three days over the long weekend (23 – 25 Septmeber) I tagged along with Tom and Allen as side kick and apprentice ranger at Murrumbidgee River Corridor Depot (MRC).  Over the three days we collected camp fees, practiced (and philosophised over) comparative invasive species management systems whilst hiking over ex pine plantations with fire scaring, erosion and blackberry wounds. We talked about stakeholder involvement and influences whilst doing maintenance work on recreational areas and admiring the spillways on the damns, discussed methods of biodiversity conservation and reintroduction of threatened species while laying baits and consoling parents about swooping magpies.

The picture I got of the Ranger role, one that is arguably one of the most applied ‘conservation’ jobs in our society, is that it is incredibly diverse. Some rangers focusing on management, others on application, some on particular projects or grants (be it erosion or invertebrate pest management) or others on methods of contractor negotiation, public engagement, volunteer and service ‘extension’. The identities of these parks and other conservation places – and the roles they play in non-conservation based priorities – have massive implications for the kinds of conservation projects they are able to seek support to undertake. For example, one of the ongoing (and time consuming) jobs of the various rangers is simply factoring in compensation for human recreational-use impact: dealing with rubbish, with compliance and infringement, liaising with police to remove burnt-out cars, working with heritage interest groups on sites of significance, maintaining services, advising 4WD’ers whose cars are bogged to contact their insurance company, etc. Yet the popularity of the recreational activities hosted by the park (of which these time consuming consequences are a part) influence the public profile and ultimately the state, and federal funding they are able to secure: the security of which is essential to the practice of their biodiversity conservation priorities. In short: the days in the field working beside different rangers really brought to my attention just how subject to governance and broader ‘social management’ engagement conservation projects are – that the nature of these ‘engagements’ vary over scope, length, stakeholders and aims and that all of these variables have very real and immediate consequences on the tenability of their conservation projects.

 

Direct Conservation Activities:

Whist at MRC I had the fortune to assist directly with the following Biodiversity Conservation management areas:

Invasive Species Management

  • Invertebrate pest management
    • Laying down 1080 baits,
    • Seeing in practice the use of geographical features, such as rivers, as barriers to foxes, dogs and pigs,
    • Discussing the need for more invertebrate pest management research especially with fox management (EPD, 2016),
    • Considering the viability of research projects investigating the reintroduction of dingos as keystone predators (Glen et al, 2007) in the park.
  • Weed management: ‘cutting and dabbing’ the restricted invasive Small-leaf privet (Ligustrum sinese) (DAF, 2016) and discussing the practical methods of Blackberry poisoning and the limitations of spraying in catchment areas.
  • Maintenance of access routes to Pine Island which harbours the endemic Tuggeranong Lignum (Muehlenbeckia tuggeranong) (DoE, 2016).

Rehabilitation:

  • Learning about the rehabilitation of ex-state forest pine plantation – impacting upon the quality of water and harbouring massive amounts of invasive species most notable blackberry and wilding pines.
  • Looking at conservation priorities around mitigating erosion. Considering the role of the area as a catchment corridor and how the Audit of the MRC (post damn construction in 2003) has led to acknowledgement of the need for more funding allocation and the creating of a dedicated role to address issues of erosion and soil run off.
  • Conversations about extinctions and reintroduction programs – the ways in which state level conservation projects can facilitate larger scope projects – discussing neighbouring programs of the Eastern Bettong and

Public Engagement:

  • Visiting the mini arboretum in the conservation area, looking at the newly installed interpretive trail and tables, and considering the challenges of balancing this area with the issue of non-native seed introduction to the park that it presents.
  • Talking with people using the parks (ranging from conversations about Magpie avoidance to wombat habitats and burrows to graffiti and firewood).
  • Education / infringement considerations for people:
    • Walking their dogs in dog-excluded areas etc.

Fire Management:

  • Learning about asset protection and other fire methodologies used in the park – the effect they have on different components of ecosystem conservation (eg, if another fire comes through the impact it will have on the rehabilitation already taking place), (AES, 2004).
  • Discussing the impact of the 2003 fires on vegetation (and research project taking place assessing the biodiversity hotspots in the park: although still in research phase, looks as if areas where the fires didn’t go through have higher invertebrate biodiversity).

Maintenance:

Cultural Heritage:

  • Repairing toilets at the historical Mt Franklin Chalet (rebuilt after the fires)
  • Considering heritage grant for maintaining a KHA hut
  • Considering new signage at Bulls Head Shelter and the cost / benefit of repairing v rebuilding parts of heritage buildings on the site.

 

All in just three days! I’m fascinated to see what other experiences I might be able to pick up on if I am able to continue such volunteer work with Parks and Conservation depots around the ACT!

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References:

  • ACT Government (ACT), 2010. Summary of the Namadgi National Park Plan of Management.
    Available at: http://www.tccs.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/387934/WEB_Namadgi_National_Park_Summary.pdf
    [accessed September 28 2016].
  • ACT Emergency Services (AES), 2004. History of Bushfires.
    Available at:

    History of bushfires

    [accessed September 28 2016].

  • Department of Environment (DoE), 2016. Species Profile and Threats Database: Muehlenbeckia Tuggeranong – Tuggeranong Lignum.
    Available at:
    http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=64934
    [accessed September 28 2016].
  • Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), 2016. Small-leaf privet.
    Available at:
    https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/77420/IPA-Small-Leaf-Chinese-Privet-PP94.pdf
    [accessed September 28 2016]
  • Environment and Planning Directorate (EPD), 2016. Eastern Bettong Project.
    Available at:
    http://www.environment.act.gov.au/cpr/conservation-research/eastern_bettong_project
    [accessed Septmber 28 2016]
  • Glen, A.S., Dickman, C.R., Soule, M.E. and Mackey, B.G., 2007. Evaluating the role of the dingo as a trophic regulator in Australian ecosystems. Austral Ecology32(5), pp.492-501.
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About Biodiversity Conservation Blog

I am an Associate Professor at The Australian National University and convene a (very awesome) course called Biodiversity Conservation. Myself and students in the course contribute to this blog.
This entry was posted in biodiversity conservation, Volunteer work. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Learning about Managing Plants, Predators and People at MRC

  1. Thanks. Looking forward to the photos. Phil

  2. There’s not doubt: a ranger really does have a diverse job. Phil

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