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The Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP
Federal Member for Murray
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister
for the Environment and Heritage

29 August 2000

NT's 'forgotten' natural wonder under the microscope in Katherine

The vast rolling grasslands of Northern Australia are the topic of a two-day think-tank at Katherine this week. Dr Sharman Stone MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage will open the conference this morning by highlighting their cultural, economic and environmental importance to the nation and urging Territorians to carefully manage the northern landscapes to preserve their iconic status.

"Northern Australians need to learn from the mistakes that southerners have made in intensively farming our grasslands", Sharman Stone said.

The Northern Grassy Landscapes Conference follows the successful conference on temperate landscapes held in Clare, South Australia in August last year. Both conferences have been funded by the Federal Government's $1.5 billion Natural Heritage Trust - Australia's largest ever environmental rescue package.

"In coming years, ecosystems in north Australia will face great pressures from weed invasion, wildfires, tourism and agricultural intensification, yet we still have the opportunity to safeguard them by putting sustainable management practices in place. This conference will focus on exchanging practical information that will lead to sustainable use and conservation of the northern grassy landscapes. Research is showing that even where the grasslands appear to have little sign of damage, many species are disappearing".

Dr Stone said that much could be learnt from Indigenous Australians about techniques to conserve and preserve these diverse areas, through their traditional knowledge and relationships with the land.

"Burning, for instance, is now recognised as an important way to retain natural biodiversity. Traditional mosaic patterns of burning practiced by Indigenous communities over thousands of years are now being adopted by government agencies as part of their natural resource management strategy".

Issues to be covered at the conference include managing conservation and production for a range of land users; integrated regional planning, community action and participation, management tools for tackling fire, weeds and feral animals and future prospects for the northern grasslands.

"With speakers and participants from right across the country, including pastoralists, Aboriginal communities, mining and conservation land managers, extension officers, researchers and planners, the conference presents an opportunity to debate and discuss the importance of preserving, conserving and sustainably managing our fragile natural environment".

For further information please contact:
Simon Frost 0419 495 468 or 02 6277 2016
August 29th 2000

Commonwealth of Australia