Ballarat Environment Network
The Illabarook Grasslands, a BEN Biodiversity Reserve Award winners at the 2002 Weaving the Web biodiversity conference. BEN operates the Greening Ballarat Community Nursery. Morrisons Racecourse BEN Biodiversity Reserve.BEN Hall of Fame members celebrating the network's tenth birthday in 2004.
BEN, the Ballarat Environment Network, represents environment groups within the broad Ballarat region — the area roughly bounded by Geelong, Ararat, and Warrnambool. An incorporated non-profit association, BEN's principal purpose is to act as an umbrella organization for all the groups and organisations in the region that have an interest in environmental and conservation issues.
BEN member groups are located in an area stretching from Ararat to Daylesford, Geelong, Colac, the Otways and Bacchus Marsh. Located on the Great Dividing Range, the district includes the headwaters of most of western Victoria's significant river basins: the Campaspe, Loddon, Avoca, Hopkins, Woady Yaloak, Yarrowee - Leigh. Moorabool, and Werribee.
BEN holds an AGM to elect an executive committee each July. The committee meets regularly, usually monthly. Meetings are open to the general membership and guests. The full membership typically meets quarterly, with these meetings often being promoted as special events.
The BEN charter
BEN was established with a number of specific purposes:
- To provide a single voice on environmental and conservation issues
- To provide access to member resources and expertise
- To develop a consistency of outlook on issues and avoid duplication of effort in dealing with particular issues
- To raise public awareness and promote wider understanding of environmental and conservation issues in the region through production of a regular newsletter, excursions, displays and other events
- To promote improvements in the local environment through coordinating and initiating particular activities and projects and lobbying for action on particular environmental issues
- To broaden interest in environmental issues in the community through assisting in expanding the involvement of people in member groups and developing networking between groups
In 1991 the Ballarat Regional Board, a planning body representing the various councils of the district, produced the first Ballarat Region Conservation Strategy. This identified a need to form an umbrella group to link together the many environment and conservation-focused groups of the region, leading to the formation of the Ballarat Environment Network in 1993.
By the turn of the century, BEN members had become acutely aware of an issue that was eventually to lead to a major expansion in BEN's role. The issue was the significant conservation value of a number of small parcels of crown land. At this time many of these were being sold off, and others were being degraded through inappropriate use or lack of management. Many of the sites contained endangered Ecological Vegetation Classes and provided important wildlife habitat. From about this time, BEN began working to develp ways to preserve and restore these sites.
The organisation was becoming more focussed on biodiversity conservation. In 2002 BEN hosted a a major conference on that theme, and followed up with the employment of Tim D'Ombrain as a part-time Biodiversity Reserves Project Officer in 2003. Tim and his team began an active program to assess, secure and manage the important but fragile remnants which, over time, became the BEN Biodiversity Reserves network.
BEN now manages 45 reserves covering about 800 hectares in total. To deal with this heavy workload, in 2004 BEN established BEN Biodiversity Services P/L as its operational arm. Biodiversity Services is wholly owned by BEN: the Program Coordinator is appointed by and responsible to a board of directors nominated by the BEN Executive Committee.
The primary role of Biodiversity Services is to maintain and improve the reserves network as contracted by BEN, but the company undertakes outside work on a commercial basis. The income generated by outside work helps pay for the staff, equipment, and materials needed to manage the reserves. Biodiversity Services operates as a commercial business and generates a surplus which is donated to BEN and used to fund additional biodiversity work, focussing on critical activities for which funding is difficult to obtain through other means.
Achievements in the past decade
- Provision of on-ground implementation of environmental strategies through BEN Biodiversity Services
- Support for the Ballarat Region Seedbank
- Support for the LINCS Program and Leigh Catchment Group Ballarat-Barwon and InVest Programs
- Grant-funded programs for woody weed control on Crown land in the Leigh and Woady Yaloak catchments
- BEN Ballarat Environment Awards. These are held biennially to recognize environmental achievements by individuals, community groups, landcare groups and businesses. The Gold Award perpetual trophy is given for outstanding achievement.
- Forum on Native Grasses (1994)
- Weaving the Web Biodiversity Conference (2002)
- A revegetation conference (jointly with DPI) to coincide with World Environment Day — 5 June 2004.
- Rare Trees Project (1996). A joint project with the University of Ballarat to map the location of rare trees in the region (particularly Snow Gums), record the health of trees and to provide fencing to protect remnant trees from grazing.
- Development of the Wild Plants of the Ballarat Area CD-ROM (1997)
- The Right Environment Program (BEN 3BBB Radio Program)
- In partnership with the City of Ballarat and the University of Ballarat, BEN operates the Greening Ballarat Community Nursery to provide indidenous seedlings for revegetation projects around the district.
BEN is an open organisation which welcomes new members. If you care about biodiversity, come along to a meeting and put your shoulder to the wheel. There is always more useful work to do.
- Particpate right here on BIRD
- Write an article for the Running Postman, BEN's quarterly newsletter.
- Help plan the next biodiversity conference and the BEN Environment Awards
- Come along and help out at the Greening Ballarat Community Nursery
- Photograph wildlife and plants for the Corangamite Biogeographica database
- Adopt a reserve!