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Environmental Awards 2006

Background

The AEF Board agreed to inaugurate the following Environment Awards for 2006:
1. The AEF Julian Simon Award for the outstanding contribution to the public understanding of environmental issues and solutions;
2. The AEF Award for excellence in environmental management in the agricultural sector; and
3. The AEF Award for excellence in environmental management in the forestry sector.

Julian Simon Award

Michael Thompson is the winner of the Julian Simon Award. 

Michael is a journalist with the Rural Press Group.  Michael used to write for Queensland Country Life but now works in the Canberra Bureau. 

Since 2000 Michael has covered the public debates on:
• the management of vegetation cover in the pastoral zone;
• the adoption of genetically modified crops in agriculture; and
• the management of water resources. 

Michael’s articles in Queensland Country Life have contributed to a more sophisticated understanding of the environmental, social and economic implications of these issues and of the various solutions that have been proposed for them.  This is particularly true of his extensive coverage of the public policy proposals that have been put forward by environmental groups and governments to strictly regulate vegetation cover on pastoral properties. 

Michael has been prepared to invest the time to get to the nub of these issues and to do so without regard to the politics or the controversy that happens to surround them.  For example in covering the vegetation management issue, he has reported the political and bureaucratic attempts to suppress the publication of research results by government scientists.  In doing so, he has been complemented for the diligence and objectivity of his reportage, including by leading scientists in the area.

Agricultural Award

John Caven of Field and Game Australia (FGA) is the winner of the agricultural award.

Field and Game Australia Inc. (FGA) was established in 1958 by a number of hunters who were concerned about the loss of habitat and species of birds they loved to observe and hunt.  It is a leading volunteer organization in wetland conservation, hunting and shotgun target shooting.  John Caven is the Honorary Conservation Officer and Secretary of FGA’s Metropolitan Melbourne Branch.  He is also the Honorary Secretary of the Game Management Council of Victoria.  

Since European settlement land clearing in many areas has removed the tree hollows that some native birds use for nesting.  John Caven has organized and led teams of volunteers who build, install and monitor the use of nesting boxes in wildlife corridors and urban wetlands, such as the Morang and Tanunda Wetlands on the fringes of the Melbourne metropolitan area. 

John has also contributed to the development of practical game conservation management in Victoria.  His conservation activities have been recognized by the relevant State and Federal government agencies, the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands based in Switzerland, as well as in the local Melbourne media.  
 
Forestry Award

The North-West Resource Management Team at Gunns Ltd is the winner of the Forestry Award.

The Gunns management is based in Launceston and is led by Chris Davey.  It actively manages 5,000 ha of Montane grasslands in the Surrey Hills Estate so as to conserve threatened plant and animal species.  The latter include the Ptunarra Brown Butterfly (Oreixenica ptunarra). 

Montane grasslands have high conservation value and are generally poorly represented in the public reserve system.  The management plan for the Surrey Hills Estate is based upon highly selective, low intensity burning each Spring to control aggressive tussock grass and invasive woody weeds, such as broom and gorse.   The Spring burns aim to promote floral diversity and are prioritized by a formal risk assessment process. 

They seek to reproduce the fire management practice of the aboriginal communities prior to European settlement. 

To implement the management plan the Gunns team uses a GIS containing the location and distribution of the grassland communities, their conservation status, and the results of the annual burns and the butterfly monitoring program. 

This information is collected using the latest GPS technology as well as aerial and satellite imagery.  The conduct of the management plan is certificated against the Australian Forestry Standard as part of the overall certification of Gunns management of its forestry operations against that Standard.  The certification audit is conducted by Det Norske Veritas (DNV).