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Celebrating Diversity: People, Place and Purpose

Posted by Bestprac on Oct 30 2012

Report on Australian Rangelands Conference at Kununurra, Western Australia September 23-27, 2012
Kevin Ingram

This was a truly applicable theme for the 17th Biennial Australian Rangelands Society Conference held at the Kununurra Leisure Centre, Western Australia. I saw the range of landscape diversity from the East Kimberley Ranges, involving the Durack Family “Kings in Grass Castles” history, to the wildlife activity of the scenic waterways of Lake Argyle and the Ord River. Business diversity was evident in agriculture, horticulture, tourism and mining developments. From indigenous culture and art to future beef production programs, I had a truly extraordinary experience.

Kevin Ingram at the 2012 Kununurra Rangeland ConferenceWith the human population expected to increase by 40% by 2050, and fossil fuels and fresh water reserves to drastically reduce, the health and productivity of rangelands will need far greater emphasis as they are the primary sources of vital ecosystem services and products essential to human life. Australian rangelands have low risk management opportunities and the climate for happy people to produce biological energy and food, if we can harness the finance and political will to promote programs such as ‘Royalties for Regions’. For example, a diverse Kimberley Region can be envisaged with land use planning, joint management and the training of multiple users to result in improved transport infrastructure, water distribution, fencing and the control of fire, weeds and ferals.

I learned (as is true in all holistic planning), the importance of planning and communication between all stakeholders for optimal fire management. There were presentations and posters on balancing ecological and environmental objectives in controlled burns; on smoke management; on planning for prescribed cool spring burns and the art of creating mosaic scapes in some range areas. However the major concerns of all stakeholders arise from the number of fires lit by arsonists. These lead to erosion and dust problems created by hot fires.

The recently formed National Rangeland Alliance is a collaboration of fourteen rangeland ‘National Resource Management’ (NRM) bodies. Its initiative is to highlight the importance of productive and resilient rangelands. It aims to demonstrate the importance of targeting ground cover percentages as a key driver of organic soil carbon storage. Increased soil carbon leads to improved landscape biodiversity and may be achieved by strategic rest.

The development and implementation of a Field Based Data Entry System (FDE), used in land condition monitoring, will greatly enhance the time and accuracy of programs such as Ausplots and the Rangeland Assessment Program (RAP). The system comprises specifically designed software and field-rugged hardware which reduces time for both recording and reporting and increases accuracy. These standardised record and report surveys, on permanent plots, are essential across Australian Rangelands to maintain baseline data on vegetation and soils; as well as noting biomass changes, species mix and organic soil carbon data. Can be found at Aussie GRASS.

Several speakers emphasised the ability of rangelands to adapt to rest and recovery, by pastoralists incorporating short stocking periods combined with long rest periods; so promoting higher growth rates and deep rooted pastures. This equates to a fully charged battery, rather than an overused, depleted one. An ability to adapt to change creates resilience in people and businesses.

Sustainable natural resource management requires planning and research to be complemented by strong community engagement and input. Such progressive collaboration has the capacity to monitor and manage water resources across regions, and to develop a broad approach to landscape management for conservation and production. This can enhance future initiatives and programs focusing on the impacts of weeds, ferals and fire regimes.

Below are summarised additional thoughts and perceptions which I formed from the posters, presentations and from networking with varied participants:
• Time management is crucial in all relationships
• Short term animal impact increases soil fertility
• A diversity of plants increases animal choice
• Increasing standing dry matter reduces wind and dust impact
• Remote monitoring reduces fossil fuel consumption
• Keep your business simple 3Ps: people, productivity and profitability
• The rangeland environment is complex: consider plants, birds, ants, reptiles, small mammals and macropods
• Adapt to climate variability by having a flexible stocking rate
• Future Rangeland Resilience needs 3Ps: purpose, people and priority

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Last changed: Oct 31 2012

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Comments

mr By Angus Whyte on Nov 01 2012
Well done Kevin you pulled out some really important observations, I think that has added to the learning.
Great Overview By Joanne Robinson on Nov 05 2012
Well done Kevin, you have provided a great overview of the Conference. Some great information that I can take away and use as a CMA Officer on new intiatives in the Rangelands.
NSW DPI, Hay By Sally Ware on Nov 26 2012
A very well written and thought provoking wrap up of the Conference Kevin.

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