Non-nativist progress.

Hi all,

This post represents a bit of a recap and update on where things are at.

Experienced participants/observers can skip the following background and overview if desired and go straight to the list of group/blog activity updates below.

Background and overview

Flood Creek Non-Nativist Landcare Group is a grassroots community of people who wish to improve the health, productivity and ecological well-being of Country. This is the mission of most Landcarers: ‘caring for the land‘. Our group is particularly focused upon the urban and peri-urban riparian zones within Braidwood, NSW (especially the existing plants and animals of the non-nativist forest along Flood Creek).

Dense vegetation at Flood Creek

Flood Creek riparian vegetation

Beyond this, we also have an interest in issues that emerge in association with caring for this very ‘altered’ environment. Broadly speaking, the group has a role in examining (and hopefully reformulating) presently-dominant nativist focuses and practices in Landcare and environmentalism in Australia.

One way to consider our current activity and discussion is to think of two main aspects of Landcare:

  1. the environmental and technical aspects, including: the on-ground outcomes (often seen as ‘the whole point’); and the dissemination of privileged ‘expert’ or officially-condoned Landcare knowledge.
  2. the social aspects, including: personal and community motivations; guiding philosophy or spirituality (if you like); and the distribution of authority and money (or ‘who decides and who gets paid’–the two are sometimes closely related).

For me personally (Ben speaking), and for many other non-nativists, it is only after attempting to question some counterproductive environmental outcomes and technical misinformation (and getting nowhere) that we find ourselves forced to examine and critique the existing social distribution of authority and money within our “movement” and within environmentalism in general.

An example of counterproductive environmental outcomes would be the wanton destruction shown below. At this location (in Crookwell) existing non-native trees were felled and poisoned and a trench was dug, apparently to drain released nutrients and sediment back into a nearby creek. Yes, it’s mind boggling, but it’s justified (some believe) by the fact that the trees that were destroyed were Salix fragilis (willow). What you see here is counted as an ‘environmental improvement’ by government and Natural Resource Management bureaucracies!

Willow management

Non-nativist Landcare has nothing against using, planting and enjoying the presence of native species. However, we do have a problem with the destructive environmental outcomes that flow from nativist ideals (natives good, non-natives bad) in Landcare. And we do have a problem with the domination of our grassroots movement (and environmentalism in general) by nativist perspectives, especially where this dominance flows from the influence of the many “environmental professionals” whose presence as paid ‘coordinators’, ‘facilitators’ and ‘support officers’ has an unrepresentative impact upon the direction of our community and our movement.

It is important to note that ‘Non-nativist’ Landcare is a far more inclusive and diverse form of Landcare because by making explicit and then dispensing with nativist ideology we have the capability of expanding Landcare beyond default programs based around ‘weeding’ activities and planting gum-trees. In particular, non-nativist Landcare perspectives open a range of restorative/regenerative options and allow the use of species and techniques which are often more effective, and far-better suited to existing realities than typically-prescribed poisons and native species.

We are happy to discuss these aspects of an expansive landcare approach  and we invite posts on various topics from interested contributors. Through this blog, Flood Creek Non-Nativist Landcare hopes to facilitate discussion of potential new formulations of Landcare: Landcare that is not constrained by the default perspectives and activities of nativism; Landcare that seeks to integrate agricultural and environmental realities from an ecological perspective; Landcare that facilitates volunteer participation through discussion and sharing of community perspectives, knowledge and techniques.

But Flood Creek Non-Nativist Landcare Group is more than just a blog, or an ‘online community’. Like any Landcare group, we also have an important on-ground mission. Our work at Flood Creek is intended as an illustrative praxis of non-nativist Landcare, and a demonstration of Landcare’s potential when unleashed from limited ideological constraints.

Update on present activities

The following is an update of the present state of play on a number of fronts:

  • Non-Destructive Revegetation Trial. This project aims to establish native and non-native overstorey species within the existing non-nativist forest on the crown land section of Flood Creek. In part, the point of this will be to show that natives can be added to existing riparian plant communities without bulldozing everything and returning our creeks and rivers to a degraded ecological ground zero first. Peter and Kate Marshall have very generously offered to provide planting material for this project. The first phase of planting will take place in mid-March and will have the participation of agriculture students from the local high school. We have the thumbs up from the agriculture teacher who sees significant benefits for his class from gaining experience in forestry and tree planting. Should be a great project. Good on you kids!
  • Formal affiliation with the Upper-Shoalhaven Landcare Council. Formal affiliation with the USLC is nearly complete and will provide us with insurance and other potential benefits for which the USLC is funded as part of its mission to support local Landcare. Because of intervening holidays we are still awaiting further acknowledgement and paperwork, but this should be finalised soon-ish.
  • Registration with the NSW Landcare Gateway. We were recently invited by Landcare NSW to register on their online ‘NSW Landcare Gateway’. Our page is relatively rudimentary at present but we have been given login access and will add further details and material to it over the next few weeks.
  • Fencing and tree-planting on Braidwood Common. As current leaseholders of this land, my partner and I have been working in association with Palerang Council to fence the riparian zone along the Braidwood Common using funds granted by the Sydney Catchment Authority. Once the fencing component of this project is complete, FCNNLG members and supporters will be invited to participate in major tree planting activities in this area. This project has numerous intended outcomes which locals and visitors will one day admire and enjoy. As part of this we hope to establish a world-class Arboretum and farm forestry demonstration. Fencing is presently around 1/4 complete. Again, Peter and Kate Marshall have generously offered to provide planting material for this project. It will no doubt prove to be something very special.
  • Creation of Landcare bulletin board online forum. It has been a longtime goal to set up an online bulletin board forum in association with this blog site. Being specifically designed for the purpose, this will provide a better discussion forum than the present ‘blog with comments’ format. The blog will remain but will be augmented by the forum. Hopefully this forum will be of use to the wider Landcare network as well as our own group. I recently arranged web-hosting services for this and, all going well, I’ll be setting things up over the next few weeks.
  • Registration with research blogging website. We have also recently registered this blog with ‘Research Blogging’ this is something I’ve been meaning to do for awhile. It will allow contributors of posts which make reference to scientific research like: ‘Novel forests maintain ecosystem processes after the decline of native tree species‘ or:’Management of novel ecosystems: are novel approaches required?‘ to link their posts and references to the research blogging site. This’ll only be for occasional posts which have a significant scientific research component. I expect having this facility will help to flag the significance and rigour of these posts and will raise our profile and direct more traffic to the FCNNLG site.

So that’s a summary of the current state of play at the Flood Creek Non-Nativist Landcare Group blog and of our impending on-ground activities. Others can let me know if I’ve forgotten to mention anything. Over to you for any further comments, clarifications or additional suggestions. How are we looking?

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