Michelago and District Landcare Group
Michelago is an active financially viable Landcare Group which regularly gets up to 12 members for each of its working bees. There is usually a working bee or other activity held on average every month. The total list of membership for the group is around 25. The group provides good social networking opportunities and NRM information for newcomers and locals alike.
A long-standing project that has been the Group's main activity since the 1990s is the restoration of Michelago Creek and tributaries.
Revegetation work has been accompanied by invasive willow removal and bank stabilization (funded mostly by the Envirofund program). The work has been carried out mainly between the railway bridge and the Murrumbidgee River and, is a good example of what a Landcare Group can achieve. Some consolidation of the work in terms of monitoring and evaluation could enhance the whole project.
Another recent project activity, funded by Mobile Muster through Murrumbidgee Landcare Inc., has been native tree and understorey plantings along the ridges above the Murrumbidgee river to restore vegetation that was removed many years ago to increase land available for sheep grazing. Evaluation of the successful establishment of various plant species is leading to a good understanding of what species grow best according to these landscapes.
A future activity for the group is to re-institute bi-monthly meetings by guest speakers to raise awareness of NRM issues in the region. Some thought is also being applied to institute wildlife surveys as part of the Group's activities.
Michelago is an area which is being strongly influenced by its proximity to Canberra and its increasing population. There is a steady demand for lifestyle blocks and a number of larger properties formerly used for grazing are being subdivided to take advantage of this trend. Most of the lifestyle blocks in the area are made up of 100ac parcels, with the owners often working and living in Canberra. Owners of these properties make up the majority of the members of the Landcare group, but a few members are still farming. We would like to see more farmers as members of Landcare but for that to happen the Group’s activities need to be relevant to their needs. Currently Landcare in the Michelago area is more relevant to new landowners who are establishing their blocks and seeking information on things such as weed control and landscape restoration. The established farming community is generally well informed about these issues and their main concerns are maintaining financial viability in the face of drought and declining prices for their produce. Landcare can act as a conduit for information and support around these issues but is only one of a number of providers in this area.
A challenge at the organisational level is the changed arrangements instituted by government for delivery of NRM outcomes. Direct support for projects through Landcare and for administration has declined and in our area support is mainly for information dissemination. Without funding for on-ground projects and for the back-up administration required, many Landcare Groups have become defunct and others will follow.
Of interest to the Michelago group is the geology of the area and the influence this has on soil types and vegetation. A workshop on the topic was held in Michelago, and this received a lot of interest. Another workshop would be would be useful for imparting critical knowledge on the way the Monaro landscape functions.
Following on from the idea of more 'geology' based workshop/s could be the development of information resources according to geology type, i.e. like the Molonglo Catchment Group that has produced species lists per river and creek. Species lists further south on the Monaro could be developed and aligned with geology type (e.g. basalt, shale, granite). Other events which attracted interest in the Michelago area, mostly to new landholders, was information on weed identification and control facilitated by the Cooma Monaro Shire Council and information on fox and rabbit control, facilitated by the local Rural Lands Protection Board (now the Livestock Health and Pest Authority. Most new landholders on small blocks are interested in restoring native grassland and woodland on previously grazed land. Consequently, workshops on weeds, pests, native grasses and forbs are likely to continue to be of interest.