David Phelps, ARS President and Director.  Email: president@austrangesoc.com.au

Welcome to the last President’s column of the Range Management Newsletter for 2016. I would like to take this opportunity to wish all members of the Australian Rangeland Society a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope that you are all able to share the holiday season with those closest to you, are able to share experiences that you enjoy and travel safely.

With 2017 nearly upon us, the next Conference will roll around faster than we expect. The next Conference is in Port Augusta, South Australia from 25 to 28 September 2017– mark it in your diary and spread the word.

The conference theme is ‘Transition to Transformation’ and there is a packed schedule of field trips, posters, talks and plenary sessions. With sub-themes like regional development in the rangelands, the changing face of Indigenous managed rangelands and coping with drought the program promises to be relevant to a wide audience of rangeland scientists, extension officers, indigenous corporations and managers, local government, policy makers, NRM groups and graziers to just name a few. The more diversity we have amongst delegates, the better our discussions, ideas and knowledge will be in helping address the challenges and opportunities facing our rangeland environments, industries and communities during this time of significant change. The organising committee is working hard to make this happen, and you can help by promoting the conference across your networks.

The South Australians tell me in glowing terms how glorious Port Augusta is in September: Spring has sprung with the sparkling gulf waters, warmer weather and changing colours of the Flinders Ranges as a magnificent backdrop to the conference. Keep your eye on the ARS website, Facebook and Twitter for updates, and to sign up to the conference mailing list.

The ARS Council continues to work towards ensuring the ARS is relevant into the future, provides services that are highly regarded by the Australian and international rangeland community and increases membership. For example, Council is looking at ways to encourage interaction with and relevance to, land-holders and students. At the recent IRC in Canada, the best 8 student posters were awarded ARS membership for 2017. We are exploring interest in similar awards across leading Australian universities delivering rangeland related degrees and post-graduate studies. We are looking at the potential for the ARS to hold information days for graziers, based on the skill, experience and expertise of our members.

The ARS Council is supporting a bid from the international rangelands community to designate 2021 as the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists. We are working with the President of the International Rangelands Continuing Committee to lobby the Australian and State Governments to provide support at United Nations meetings to achieve this.

There will be a small increase in membership fees to ensure the ARS is financially sustainable, which is an equally important aspect of maintaining the Society as a relevant body and providing services into the future. We have introduced new membership categories to enhance value for, and reward, our members for joining for more than one year at a time.

We acknowledge there have been issues for some people paying membership through the website. This has mainly resulted from entering incorrect passwords—which we know can be challenging to remember! To overcome this issue we will be emailing log-on details, including passwords, to every member. We highly recommend changing your password once you have renewed your membership, to avoid the possibility for others to access your account.

Membership renewals are now due, and only current members will have access to the member’s area of the website after 1 January 2017.

Once again, on behalf of Council I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and safe travels for those touring our wonderful rangelands (and the other bits) of Australia.