Grassroots support needed
What an extraordinary vista the grassy banks of the Molonglo River must have been in 1820. As Europeans first rode upon these limestone plains they would have been enchanted by a landscape of seemingly boundless opportunities.
Vast open grassy plains interspersed with majestic yellow-box red gum eucalypts, sentinels standing as they had done so for hundreds of years. Abundant native grasses gently swaying in the breeze, kangaroos darting about, strange calls emanating on dusk from long-legged ground-dwelling birds. Campfire smoke billowing, indicating that these Europeans were not the first humans to venture onto this landscape. The scene would have been one of a natural oasis.
For these men on horseback, this landscape spoke of opportunities; of planting wheat in fertile riverbank soil, feeding hungry sheep, fattening grazing cattle. Through these European eyes opportunities abounded to colonise, to tame, to establish a community.
Soon after these Europeans arrived, sharp axes felled the graceful eucalypts. Homesteads were constructed, firewood sourced for the bitterly cold winters. Ploughs turned the native grasses, introduced pastures were established, fat woolly sheep prospered. The native dog became the public enemy. Significant ecological changes were afoot.
In 1913, the new capital city for the nation was named. Once again the banks of the Molonglo River spoke of opportunity. The vast natural temperate grasslands a perfect landscape upon which to build roads, construct streets, establish our suburbs. The campfire smoke from an ancient people was long gone.
Under the influence of the European hand, natural temperate grasslands are now considered to be one of the most threatened ecosystems. As a critically endangered community, today less than 10% of grasslands remain in any ecological condition reminiscent of 1820.
As our once pristine grasslands have declined, so have those endemic species so reliant on calling a grassy haven home. The once abundant Golden Sun Moth, the endearing Grassland Earless Dragon and the charismatic Striped Legless Lizard are all teetering on the edge of extinction.
As community custodians, the Friends of Grasslands are a wonderful group of passionate volunteers dedicated to conserving what remains of a once rich and plentiful natural landscape. As a grassroots organisation the friends advocate, educate and get their collective hands dirty here in our beautiful bush capital. It’s through magnificent community-based groups such as the Friends of Grasslands that we all benefit, building ecological resilience for future generations.
To glean an insight how you can play a role visit Friends of Grasslands Home Page
Brett McNamara - Regional Manager with ACT Parks & Conservation Service
Brett loves our national parks almost as much as the Gang-gang on his uniform. He is prone to using the word 'majestic' when referring to the bush capital. He loves talking. A lot. His favourite animal is the playful platypus.
Article also appeared on 22 May in The Chronicle