David Phelps, ARS President and Director, DAF Office Landsborough Hwy Longreach Qld 4730.  Email: president@austrangesoc.com.au

Never has it been so crucial for us to collaborate, cooperate and advocate for the future of the rangelands. The vulnerabilities of communities, natural resources, conservation and pastoralism have been particularly exposed over this last summer. In the north-west of Queensland a monsoonal trough delivered two years of rainfall between Australia Day and the first week of February. Initially it brought hope of drought-breaking rains but quickly became an unprecedented natural disaster through flooding and chill factors. Instead of drought relief, there was wide-scale erosion, land degradation and massive wildlife and livestock losses.

Drought has gripped the Barkly Tablelands and anticipated rains from TC Trevor brought little relief to the Northern Territory beef producing region. It did deliver relieving rains to central-western Queensland after 7 years of drought, but little relief to the south-west or parched western New South Wales. In the top end of Western Australia, poor management procedures were exposed through unacceptably avoidable cattle losses during heat waves and dry conditions.

Across much of the continent, hundreds of fires have impacted both remote rangelands and more urban areas within Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.

The importance of addressing rangeland resilience has never been more timely. The theme ‘Resilient future rangelands: integrating environment and livelihoods’ is being addressed at the 20th Australian Rangelands Conference in Canberra over 2-5 September.

We aim to clearly showcase to decision makers in our Nation’s capital that:

  • Rangelands have diverse and unique landscapes, ecosystems, communities and production systems worthy of investment
  • It is crucial to deliver policies that allow rangeland communities to thrive
  • There are many talented and skilled people and organisations within the rangelands who can contribute to successful policy settings.

I encourage all members to attend and bring your friends and colleagues so that we have broad participation ranging from policy, science, extension and on-ground management.

There will be many new organisations, policies, tools and on-ground application of science to discuss e.g. the Southern Gulf NRM e-beef smart farms in northern Australia project, Desert Channels use of drones to continue their success in controlling prickly acacia, the University of Southern Queensland led partnership between Qld and Australian agencies in the North Australian Climate Program, the Queensland and New South Wales Drought and Climate Adaptation initiatives, New South Wales biodiversity grants and the newly announced Australian Government funded biodiversity labelling program, Western Australian rebuilding of rangelands RD&E, increased not-for-profit investment in conservation, and many more.

This is our opportunity to:

  • Showcase and advocate solutions to build rangeland resilience
  • Ensure Australia’s rangelands are on the political agenda
  • Clearly articulate the issues and showcase solutions within each of our fields of expertise to our nation’s policy makers
  • Impress the importance of improving investment into RD&E, socioeconomic services and development, the environment, agriculture, technology and more
  • Demonstrate that solutions can come from within the rangelands, and that there is good evidence to inform policy and intelligent considered approaches being applied locally
  • Come together to forge new—and renew existing—bonds of friendship, collaboration and cooperation.

Let’s make a difference and build resilient rangelands for the future by coming together in the Nation’s capital in September.

I hope to see you there.