Range Management Newsletter 10/1

March 2010 – Range Management Newsletter 10/1


Noelene Duckett, 10 Villa Canyon Place, The Woodlands  Texas  USA  77382.  Email: aduckett7@msn.com

Thanks for reading the first newsletter for 2010.  I would like to begin this issue by highlighting an exciting opportunity for someone with an interest in the rangelands.  The Society is currently looking for a manager for the fabulous new ARS website.  What sort of person are we looking for?  We need a dynamic person who can lead, look after a team and acquire information useful to members.  The person should also be able to show responsible creativity rather than just maintaining a website – to be successful the website needs to be constantly changing and always interesting!  The Society wants the website to be THE trusted source of information on Australia’s rangelands.  To do the job well is quite challenging but would certainly be rewarding.  The person would play a key role for the Society and would be a member of the Publications Committee.

A number of important Society events are coming up in the next few months.  Firstly the Annual General Meeting is on 20th May 2010 – further details including the meeting Agenda is included later in the newsletter.  Following this is the 16th ARS Biennial Conference which is being held in Bourke, NSW, from 26-30 September this year.  Updated information from the conference organising committee has been included along with the Preliminary Program which highlights the themes for the 8 conference sessions– it looks like a great line-up!  Expressions of interest for conference papers are now due – please contact David Eldridge (d.eldridge@unsw.edu.au) as soon as possible if you intended to submit a paper or poster.

Can having an article published in this newsletter have an impact – you decide!  In March 2009, David Wilcox and Fitzgerald submitted an article for RMN 09/1 entitled “Unintended Consequences of an Early Mining Boom” – this report focused on investigations of weedy cacti that had escaped from old settlements in the Leonora district of Western Australia.  It was found that a number of species of cacti had become established as weeds and had spread considerable distances from the original point of introduction.  Consequently, Wilcox and Fitzgerald expressed their concerns about the potential threat posed by weedy cacti and wondered if others had similar observations.  Mike Chuk’s article in this newsletter (see page 6) details how Wilcox and Fitzgerald’s original article aroused interest from a number of organisations and ultimately led to the formation of a national body, known as the Australian Invasive Cacti Network, to raise awareness of cacti as a significant threat to biodiversity and production along with providing a forum for exchange of information on the taxonomy, biology and control of invasive cacti.  Well done guys – articles in this publication do not go un-noticed!!

I would love to hear from others of you with a story to tell.  The next newsletter is due out in July so please have your contributions to me by late May/early June.

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Peter Johnston, ARS President and Science Leader – Beef  Sheep, Dept of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, Locked Mail Bag 4, Moorooka  QLD  4105.  
Email:  Peter.Johnston@deedi.qld.gov.au

In the closing stages of the Society’s 2006 conference in Renmark, I took over the role of President of the Australian Rangeland Society from David Wilcox.  At the next AGM of the Society in May 2010 I will step down from the role of President (my fourth AGM) and nominate as a General Member.

In taking on the role in 2006, I sought to build on four key strengths of the Society that I thought made it an organisation worth belonging to.  These strengths are the conference, the journal, the newsletter and the networks.

In my time as President, the Society held a successful conference in Charters Towers, increased the number of volumes of the journal from two per year to three per year, continued to publish a topical newsletter, moved to electronic publishing of both the journal and newsletter and established a bright new website to enhance networking among members.

These achievements are not due to the President, they are the products of an enthusiastic and dedicated team of volunteers that have a vision and drive to see the Society prosper and move forward.  As President, I have merely kept the business ticking over while others have put in the hard yards to improve the Society for its members.  Thank you for your untiring work.

I have enjoyed my term as President and firmly believe that the Society is in good shape.  I am keen to support a new President as a General Member on Council.

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The 2010 Annual General Meeting of the Australian Rangeland Society will be held on

20 May 2010
at 5 pm (Qld time)

A Block Conference Room, Animal Research Institute
665 Fairfield Rd, Yeerongpilly
Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Brisbane, Queensland

The agenda will include:

  • Minutes of the 2009 Annual General Meeting
  • Receive the President’s report
  • Receive the Financial Reports
  • Election of office bearers
  • Motions on notice
  • General business

Election of Office Bearers
Section 16 of the Articles of Association of the Society provide for elections in each alternate year beginning in 1983 commencing at the end of the next Annual General Meeting. Positions are held for 4 years.  The officers of the Society are President, Finance and Audit Officer, Secretary and up to five General Council Members.  Accordingly nominations are called for these positions.

The name of the present holder is shown along with an expression of their intention to nominate.

President                                 Peter Johnston – will nominate as a General Council Member
Secretary                                 Carolyn Ireland 
Finance and Audit Officer     Peter Marin – will nominate as Finance and Audit Officer
General Council Members  Annabel Walsh
Graeme Tupper – will nominate as a General Council Member
John Taylor – will nominate as President
Kate Masters
Larissa Lauder 

Any financial member wishing to nominate for a position on Council must ensure their nomination form is lodged with the Secretary by post, fax or email by April 10 2010.  Nomination forms are available from the website https://https://www.austrangesoc.com.au

Motions on Notice
Any financial member wishing to place a motion on notice before the Annual General Meeting must ensure that the signed motion is lodged with the Secretary by 6 April 2010.

Nominations and Motions should be emailed, faxed or posted to:
Dr Carolyn Ireland, Secretary of the ARS
Ireland Resource Management Pty Ltd
13 Woodland Close, ALDGATE, SA, 5154
Ph: (08) 8370 9207
Fax (08) 8370 9207
Email: cireland@irmpl.com.au

The AGM will be followed by light refreshments.  Please let Carolyn Ireland know if you will be attending.

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The Publications Committee of Council are looking for a suitable committed person to manage the content of the new ARS Website and coordinate a team to edit and add specific material independently to the Website.

This important and responsible position will be of interest to somebody who knows the needs of Members and at the same time understands how to make the internet-face of the Society attractive to potential members in Australia and globally and people in general.

Details of the Position

  1. The roles of the Website Manager will be to:
    • provide creative direction for the Website,
    • oversee the team responsible for set Website content,
    • ensure the Website is relevant for and provides appropriate electronic services to Members,
    • ensure the Website is informative, dynamic and professional,
    • advertise the Website (e.g. ‘what’s new’) in the Newsletter to encourage Website use; and
    • ensure the Website appeals to non-members and encourages growth in membership.
  2. The Website Manager will be appointed by Council and report annually to Council.
  3. The Website Manager will be a member of the Publications Committee.
  4. Changes to the content of the Website will be made by those authorised, because of their roles, to edit/add material.  These would include; ‘Wiki’ coordinator, Discussion Forum coordinator, TRJ Editor, Newsletter Editor, Membership Officer and any others with specified and authorised roles.
  5. Changes to the structure of the Website will be arranged using the services of Link Web Services, Canberra or equivalent.
  6. Given the global nature of the Website and international membership of the Society, the Website Manager will need to have, or be able to acquire by finding contacts, both national and international perspectives. The position is not seen to be a technical one but rather one which acquires and manages information of interest to members, such as cross-border (eg LEB and M-DB) and national issues.
  7. ARS will provide suitable hardware and software to the Website Manager to enable services to be delivered, or negotiate a rental charge if the Website Manager provides their own equipment.
  8. ARS will meet internet access costs for the Website Manager

For further information talk with Ken Hodgkinson, Chairman of the Publications Committee (phone: 02 6242 1601, email: ken.hodgkinson@csiro.au).

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Russell Grant, Western Catchment Management Authority, PO Box 307, Cobar  NSW  2835. 
Email: russell.grant@cma.nsw.gov.au

The town of Bourke inspired poet Henry Lawson to achieve great literary feats.  He wrote “if you know Bourke, you know Australia”, in 1893.  We’re hoping that Bourke will do the same for you in preparation of a paper or poster for the 16th Biennial Conference of the Australian Rangeland Society in Bourke from 26th-30th September 2010.

Organisers of the conference invite you to submit an expression of interest for the presentation of oral and poster papers broadly addressing the conference theme of “Rain on the Rangelands”.  Papers for oral presentation will be selected on a competitive basis, but all papers will be eligible for presentation during poster sessions.  We encourage landholders and tertiary students to participate.

The editorial committee has decided to change the process from previous years.  At this stage you are not required to send an abstract.  The abstract will be required with final papers due in May 2010.

Please send an expression of interest via email to David Eldridge (d.eldridge@unsw.edu.au) clearly marking in the ‘Subject’ field the words ‘ARS Bourke’.  In the body of the message indicate the following details, each on a separate line:

  • Title of presentation
  • Authors
  • Affiliation of FIRST author only
  • Email address of FIRST author only
  • Preferred session (up to two choices)
  • Whether you prefer an ORAL or POSTER presentation
  • Three (3) keywords

Expressions of interest are due on Friday, 9th April 2010.  Authors will be advised of acceptance shortly after this date and completed papers will be due on Friday 14th May 2010.  At least one author of papers is expected to attend the Conference.  All papers will be available in the conference proceedings, which will be produced in electronic format.  A selection of papers from the conference will be reviewed by an editorial panel for inclusion in a conference-themed issue of The Rangeland Journal.

The full pre-registration brochure providing preliminary details of the Conference can be accessed from the Australian Rangeland Society website at https://www.austrangesoc.com.au/.  A final brochure will be released in April detailing registration fees and the final program.  We expect to maintain a fee structure similar to the previous Charters Towers event.

In September, head for “Bourke, the metropolis of the great pastoral scrubs and plains” (Henry Lawson, 1907).


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26th September 2010  –  Arrive and Register

27th September 2010  –  Field Tours

28th September 2010  –  Day 1: Rain on the Rangelands: A Practitioners View

  • Session 1:  Rain-driven Production Systems – Presentations will  focus on innovative actions landholders are taking to address climatic variability to improve production and biodiversity outcomes on rangelands.
  • Session 2:  Aboriginal Land Management – We seek to attract papers showcasing the diversity of projects to manage Aboriginal land for pastoral, traditional and other land-uses.
  • Structured Poster Viewing

29th September 2010  –  Day 2: The Rangeland Basins:  Wetlands and Drylands

  • Session 3:  Issues of the Murray Darling Basin – Landholders, communities and water-dependent ecosystems across the Murray Darling Basin rangelands are suffering as river flows dwindle. Speakers will discuss the impacts and way forward during this session.
  • Session 4:  The Big Picture:  Basin Issues across the Rangelands – The water resource is a critical issue across the rangelands. This session will discuss  ‘Rain on the Rangelands’  in the context of broad regions such as the Lake Eyre Basin and Great Artesian Basin.
  • Session 5:  Young Scientist / Student Presentations
  • Structured Poster Viewing

30th September 2010  –  Day 3: Rain on the Rangelands: An Unpredictable Resource

  • Session 6:  Managing the Trade-offs – This session examines approaches to maintaining the balance between managing for production and biodiversity across various land-uses.  How achievable is the ‘triple bottom line”?
  • Session 7:  Rangeland Resilience and Tipping Points – Speakers will address resilience and thresholds in the management of rangelands in the context of rain-driven systems and the communities dependent upon them.
  • Session 8:  Plenary/Conference Summation and Close

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Mike Chuk, Desert Channels Queensland Inc., PO Box 601,  Longreach  QLD  4730  
Email: mike.chuk@dcq.org.au

In the article “Unintended Consequences of an Early Mining Boom” (Range Management Newsletter 09/1) authors David Wilcox and David Fitzgerald reported on their investigations of weedy cacti that had escaped from old settlements in the Leonora district of Western Australia.  The authors found that a number of species of cacti had become established as weeds, spreading considerable distances from the original point of introduction.  These included coral cactus (Cylindropuntia fulgida), Hudson pear (C. rosea) and one of the prickly pears (opuntias).  The authors expressed their concerns about the potential threat posed by weedy cacti and made several recommendations including further survey of the area.

At the close of the article Wilcox and Fitzgerald asked “we are interested in knowing of other, and current, invasions of cactus in the rangelands in Australia; what is the origin of such invasions; and what control measures, if any, are being implemented and how?”  Not long after the article was published, David Wilcox was contacted by regions with invasive cacti problems in South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Following on from this, the Rangelands NRM Alliance, which represents the regional NRM groups of the rangelands, decided to survey its member groups to ascertain the situation with invasive cacti across the rangelands of Australia.  The response showed that invasive cacti, in particular the Opuntioids (principally species of Opuntia and Cylindropuntia (Photo 1)), posed real challenges to primary production and biodiversity at sites in all mainland states.  In several regions where there were extensive infestations the costs of chemical control often exceeded the value of the land.  It also showed that for most species of cacti in the rangelands there was limited or no currently effective biocontrols, though there may be potential for cochineal insects (Dactylopius spp.) to be useful with further research.  The very successful biocontrol of prickly pears in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales by Cactoblastis caterpillars has not translated to drier or cooler climates.


Photo 1:  Snake cactus (Cylindropuntia spinosoir) on a rocky outcrop near Longreach, Queensland


For most of these cactus species, control by conventional chemical and mechanical control techniques required repeated treatment over a number of years.  Chemical control was by injection of herbicide such as glyphosate which worked well in some opuntias, whilst cylindropuntias typically required overall spraying with either an Access/diesel mix or water based chemicals such as Garlon.

Opuntias spread vegetatively and by seeds which can remain viable for long periods.  In other species which rarely flower, such as coral cactus, it is detached segments which are the main means of spread.  Even quite small plants produce grape sized segments which can be transported by livestock, wildlife or are spread by water and on vehicle tyres.  To make things worse these segments easily blend into stone scatter or are concealed in leaf litter under trees and shrubs making complete eradication very difficult in all but small areas.

The response to the survey also highlighted animal welfare issues with livestock, birds, bats and even large macropods being affected by cacti spines.  Hudson pear, which infests an area of some 60,000 ha around Lightning Ridge is one of the most offensive in this regard.

The rangelands are vulnerable to invasion by such pests, particularly where land values are low, numbers of people working the land are few and resources at their disposal are limited.  There are large tracts of land that are rarely visited due to thick scrub or difficult terrain where cacti can spread unnoticed.  Old homestead dumps and mine sites are common places where cacti flourish.

Concerned that there was no coordinated approach to the cacti problem across the rangelands, the Rangelands NRM Alliance contacted the South Australian State Opuntia Taskforce and it was agreed that a national meeting should be convened.  The first National Invasive Cacti Forum was held in Adelaide in early December 2009.  Representatives from the pest management community, scientists and biosecurity agency staff heard presentations on invasive cacti from most states of Australia along with information on taxonomy and biocontrol research both within Australia and South Africa.  The South Australian State Opuntioid Cacti Management Plan consultation draft (2009) was released at the forum.

One of the outcomes of the forum was the agreement to form a national body, the Australian Invasive Cacti Network, to raise awareness of cacti as a significant threat to biodiversity and production along with providing a forum for exchange of information on the taxonomy, biology and control of invasive cacti. The network will work closely with biosecurity agencies, research institutions, natural resource management groups and land managers.

The network is open to all people or organisations with an interest in ridding Australia of weedy cacti. Inaugural chair of the network is Mike Chuk – who can be contacted on 0427 427 695 or mike.chuk@dcq.org.au.

Thank you to David Wilcox and David Fitzgerald for raising your concerns about cacti as a threat to our rangelands. Hopefully a common voice against invasive cacti will help make the battle a little easier.

A final plea to all lovers of the rangelands:  if you see an escaped cactus please report it!

Wilcox, D. and Fitzgerald, D. (2009).  Unintended Consequences of an Early Mining Boom.  Range Management Newsletter 09/1, 3-4.

Government of South Australia, Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation (2009).  State Opuntioid Cacti Management Plan, Consultation Draft, December 2009



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Noel Preece, Senior Ecologist, Biome5 Pty Ltd, PO Box 1200 Atherton  Qld  4883.  Email: noel@biome5.com.au

During the wet season of 2009 some 95,029 km2 (9,502,900 hectares) of the lower Gulf of Carpentaria catchments of the Norman, Flinders, Staaten, Gilbert, Mitchell and Leichhardt Rivers experienced significant flooding for several months.  Combined losses of stock, infrastructure and livelihoods ran into the tens of millions of dollars.

The floods covered extensive areas of the country south of Normanton and west of Croydon.  Around 1,000,000 hectares of the Norman River and its tributaries were subjected to serious long-term flooding.  According to reports and satellite images, a large proportion of the catchment was under water for two to three months or more.  The last time such major flooding occurred was in 1974 and before that in 1869-70, a century before.  But, according to the records, the earlier flooding did not last as long as the 2009 floods.  The 1974 floods, for instance, inundated the land for only a period of weeks, not months.

The floods persisted for so long that over large areas the grass and herbs were killed.  Since then, over 100,000 hectares has failed to respond at all.  Surveys undertaken before the floods of range condition showed that most of the country was in A or B condition, meaning that it was grazed conservatively and that the land had been managed well.  A survey after the floods showed that widespread pasture damage had occurred as a result of long-term inundation.  The wet season of 2010 is still in full swing, so what happens to the pasture recovery in the coming dry season will be watched with interest.

Before the floods, there had been no systematic surveys of fauna of the Norman River catchment and its tributaries in the areas inundated by these floods, although some studies had been done in adjacent areas in the past couple of years.  There was concern from the pastoralists and the Northern Gulf Resource Management Group that the fauna which should be on the plains had been affected also, so they commissioned a rapid study of the fauna, in part to examine just how badly the savanna had been affected by the floods.  Due to the lateness of the season (Nov 2009) and the very limited budget, the only option for survey was to do rapid active searches, normally a part of systematic fauna survey methods used across northern Australia, but not usually done alone.

Rapid surveys of the terrestrial fauna of 37 sites within the flooded areas were conducted.  Sites were selected by choosing, in advance, samples of each of the vegetation types of the plains, and these vegetation types were overlaid in a GIS with the flood mapping for the area to select sites which had been flooded for different periods.

Active searches for terrestrial fauna were conducted by a small team, lead by an expert ecologist, over timed periods.  We searched for the small reptiles and mammals which are normally common in the type of country which was surveyed.  They include both tree-dwelling species and ground-dwelling species.  The expected species were determined from the surveys undertaken in nearby catchments, within 50 to 100 kms of the survey area.

The surveys produced some very interesting results, which I have summarised.  I have used scientific names because most of the lizards have no common names.

  • Species which were present in these 37 sites were nearly all tree-dwelling species, although few in numbers.  They include small tree-skinks Cryptoblepharus plagiocephalus and geckoes of the Gehyra genus.  Most sites contained Cryptoblepharus.
  • Other commonly found arboreal and semi-arboreal species included tree-dragons of Amphibolurus and Diporiphora genera, the gecko Heteronotia binoei and the Spotted Tree-monitor Varanus scalaris.  We also found one Stimson’s Python in a tree, again, a tree-dweller.  At least some of these species were found in most of the sites.  This is normally expected in fauna surveys, and they would be normally as common and abundant as the ground fauna. In the surveys conducted here, however, in the Norman and Yappar River flooded areas, these tree-dwelling species were almost the only species found.
  • None of the expected common ground-dwelling lizards (skinks, geckoes and dragons) were found on most sites which had been flooded for extended periods.  Only 8% of the sites had one of the common species (Carlia munda, a very common skink which should be on many or all sites), and only one of these 3 sites was subject to any extended flooding.
  • The only two sites in which the Carlia munda skink was found were on elevated levee banks adjacent to large waterholes in denser vegetation which provided some temporary habitat for these lizards.
  • The expected common genera of lizards, including species of Carlia (3-4 other species), Ctenotus, Menetia, Morethia, Ctenophorus, Oedura, Diplodactylus and Strophurus, were not found on any of the sites surveyed.  This is highly unusual in fauna surveys, in which active searches usually reveal the common species which often don’t fall into traps.
  • The only site in which we found a species of Ctenotus (Ctenotus inornatus) was one site which was not flooded.  Normally, this genus of skink would be common to abundant in these vegetation types.

Conclusion & recommendations
The floods appear to have killed most of the ground-dwelling fauna. Only those species which can survive in trees have been able to survive, perhaps because of their ability to climb above the flood-waters and survive for weeks on the minimal amount of food available to them on the trees.  Ground-dwelling fauna, even if they can climb to some extent, are unable to survive for any length of time due to starvation or predation.  As they do not normally live in trees, they are particularly vulnerable to predation because they have no skill at surviving in trees.

Ground fauna should include both the reptiles and small mammals normally found in these vegetation types in this landscape.  Given that almost all of the ground-dwelling reptiles have failed to survive the long flooding, it is almost certain that the small mammals which live in holes in the ground, or under cover on the ground have also disappeared from the flooded areas.

Recovery to pre-flood levels may take at least 4 to 5 years as it did after the 1974 floods, depending on a number of factors including grass and herb recovery.

A few recommendations arise from these studies.

  • Spelling of the country from grazing might help to accelerate the recovery of the fauna to pre-flood levels.  Spelling should be enabled until the grasses and other plants have a chance to recover.
  • Systematic fauna and habitat studies of a selection of habitats across the region are needed in order to produce a baseline for future impact monitoring.  The number of studies should reflect the major vegetation units of the region, and be replicated in each of them.
  • A follow-up rapid fauna study of the sites identified in this study should be conducted in November or December 2010 to provide a comparison between years before and after the wet season, when some species may have a chance to recover.  It would also provide a greater level of confidence about the efficacy of a rapid fauna survey such as the one conducted, and provide a better indication of the usefulness of similar rapid surveys for the future.
  • Long-term monitoring of the fauna and habitat sites should be conducted, with repeat systematic fauna surveys conducted every 3-5 years.

I would like to thank all the people, pastoralists, scientists and NRM staff, for their willing assistance and hospitality, despite the traumatic events of 2009.



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Gary Bastin, ACRIS Coordinator, CSIRO, PO Box 2111, Alice Springs NT 0871.  Email: Gary.Bastin@csiro.au

Rangelands 2008 – Taking the pulse reported change in the rangelands for a number of environmental, social and economic themes.  The report (book and CD) was produced by the Australian Collaborative Rangelands Information System (ACRIS) and released in late 2008.  In mid 2009, the ACRIS Management Committee commissioned V. Sapin Consulting Pty Ltd (Valerie Sapin, Dana Kelly and Erin Lawless) to undertake an evaluation of the report’s impact and effectiveness.  This article summarises the consultant’s report and provides a brief update on current ACRIS activity.

Purpose of evaluation
The consultant’s first task was to establish levels of awareness and knowledge of ACRIS within key target groups, and then assess levels of understanding as to the purpose of the 2008 report.  They then moved to a set of questions that would evaluate the 2008 report in terms of:

  1. value of its information content;
  2. effectiveness of delivery (e.g. structure, clarity of content, means of distribution etc.);
  3. scientific credibility of content;
  4. value of content for informing rangelands policy and management decisions on the part of the key target groups;
  5. shortcomings failings in the report (within the context of point 2 above); and
  6. suggestions/recommendations for improved information delivery about change in the rangelands by ACRIS.

During August and September 2009, the consultants surveyed 41 people known to have received the report.  They used semi-structured interviews based around questions that had initially been developed in consultation with a subset of the ACRIS Management Committee and then trialled these with the first set of interviewees.  Based on the results from this pilot survey, some questions were modified to complete the evaluation.

Questions were both closed (typically, a ‘yes’/‘no’ answer) and open-ended (looking for new knowledge acquisition, use, impact, unexpected positive and negative outcomes or learnings and potential use of the document).  Convergent interviewing allowed interviewees to focus on themes or issues that emerged through these open questions.

Interview transcripts were tabulated and analysed using quantitative and qualitative techniques.

Key findings

Audience and communication
The ACRIS report has a large audience that the consultants grouped into three broad categories for the purpose of the review:

  • Policy informers (scientists, consultants, agencies, policy analysts, advisory panels, senior government officers, pastoral boards).
  • Policy influencers (lobbyists, the Rangelands Alliance, community groups, conservation groups).  The Rangelands Alliance is a forum for NRM Boards that have a focus on rangeland management and it seeks to ensure that issues are dealt with across regional and state boundaries.
  • Information users (National park managers, NRM regional bodies or catchment management authorities (CMAs), graziers, other landholders such as Aboriginal land councils, pastoral or mining companies, local governments, students and educators).

Each audience has very distinct information needs and communication preferences which ranged from access to detailed data sets and data collection methods (researchers), to concise summaries of key findings and recommendations for policy advisers.

Respondents were very positive about the report.  About half (51%) of all respondents had a high awareness of ACRIS.  Almost half had expressed either a high level of interest in the report when they received it or had skimmed through it.  Nearly all respondents (92%) said they could see use for the report after a quick read of the content.

Dissemination of findings and data accessibility
The consultant concluded that this is an area where ACRIS needs to improve its performance.

  • The current file of the complete report on the web site is unusable, being far too large to download.
  • Over 40% of all respondents want web-based searchable applications, and 20% of all respondents specifically asked that the separate chapters be split on a theme or geographical basis (multiple answers allowed).
  • Researchers want access to the data sets and suggested that a live repository that is constantly updated would be more useful than a hard-copy document that rapidly becomes out of date.
  • One third of respondents suggested improving the executive summary; adding an index; and having a stronger recommendation section.  This is a significant finding as 67% of respondents only skimmed through the report to read the executive summary and key sections.

Use, relevance and impact
Half of the respondents had not yet used the report, with 28% having used it essentially as a reference document.  However most respondents valued the document as a key resource and 92% could see how they could use it in the future.  Some respondents gave very specific examples of how they would use the information in the future.

Respondents believed impact would increase with heightened awareness and better dissemination of results, including face-to-face presentations to pastoral boards, state agencies and Aboriginal land councils.

Scientific credibility and rigour were adequate for a large majority of respondents (41% rated the credibility of the ACRIS report as very high and 28% as good).  This positive response was, however, tempered by 74% of respondents saying the report had some shortcomings.

  • A little over two-thirds of respondents believed ACRIS had achieved its goal of reporting change.  A larger majority (85%) believed that this is an acceptable goal for ACRIS to follow in the future.
  • 18% of respondents felt there were some weak sections and gave specific examples.  This response came mainly from technical people, contributors of data and researchers (who knew some of the issues related to data paucity or diversity of monitoring methods).
  • Almost half the respondents (46%) felt the report was a valuable resource and congratulated the ACRIS team on their efforts, encouraging them to continue, and to streamline and standardise monitoring methods across the nation.

Is the report informing policy?
Yes – to some extent.  Key policy advisers mentioned they had already used some of the report’s information including one who intended to report some of the trends in the national or international arena.  Two conservation group representatives mentioned they intended to use sections of the document to lobby for more reserves or long term monitoring activities.

“Policy” however means different things to different people.  For some it may mean guiding new resources and investments into the rangelands, while for others it means using the information to review the effectiveness of current monitoring efforts – including ACRIS itself and how it fits in future national information systems.

Where to from here?
ACRIS is currently updating (for 2006-2008) a number of the information products reported in Rangelands 2008 – Taking the pulse.  These updates, and an integrating synthesis, will be published on the ACRIS web site (www.environment.gov.au/land/rangelands/acris/index.html).  Recommendations from the consultant’s evaluation of the 2008 report will be considered by the ACRIS Management Committee for improving access to, and relevance and credibility of, this updated information.


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Kay Matthias, General Manager, Rural Financial Counselling Service SA Inc, 555 The Parade, Magill SA  5072.  Email:  kay.matthias@rfcssa.org.au

Rural Financial Counselling Service SA Inc (RFCSSA) has been providing an enhanced level of assistance into the Rangelands and Pastoral districts of the South Australia over the past 12 months.  Rural Financial Counsellor, John White, saw 101 clients in the far northern area of the state in 2008-09 and this number is expected to be seen again in the current financial year.

A key initiative to provide services to this area has been a partnership between RFCSSA, Centrelink and Country Health SA.  Staff from each of these Services made several trips together along the Strzelecki and Birdsville tracks, visiting pastoralists and their families along the way.  The ability for clients to have their questions answered immediately and their applications prepared ‘on the spot’ made the process relatively painless.  We look to continue this practice as we understand that pastoralists can often miss out on opportunities because of a lack of services in their area.

Assistance with Exceptional Circumstance applications (Income Support and Interest Rate Subsidies) are just one part of the service offered by rural financial counselling.  Rural financial counsellors follow a process to review all areas of a farming business’s operations.

Beginning with an analysis of the financials, production and marketing strategies are reviewed, followed by an assessment of the risk management and succession plans of the enterprise.  This approach ensures that all areas of the business are regularly assessed and puts in place a framework for the client to make decisions about their business – with the aim of achieving the farmer’s goals for their business.

If you would like to make an appointment to meet with John White, he can be contacted on 0419 825 440, or alternatively you may contact our head office on 1800 836 211 (a free call) and we’ll get John to contact you.

The Rural Financial Counselling Service SA is supported by the Australian and South Australian Governments.  More information is available from their website – www.rfcssa.org.au.

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John Holmes, 73 Ironside St, St Lucia  QLD  4067.  Email:  j.holmes@uq.edu.au

John Holmes has been redirecting his research interests and no longer needs to retain three sets of research files, of which the first two could be valuable resources in major research projects.  Keep in mind that these files have not been adequately updated since 1995.

Reseach files on pastoral lease tenure administration
For each of the five main administrations (N.S.W., Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Northern Territory), substantial original and photocopied documents covering:

  • Current tenure policy (at 1995);
  • Selected earlier policy documents;
  • Relevant parliamentary debates (from Hansard);
  • Major legislation;
  • Tenure inquiries and reviews (including consideration of tenure changes towards freeholding).

Also available are a number of published monographs and reports from tenure inquiries.

Research files on grazing permits and range administration in the American West
These include:

  • Photocopied extracts from major monographs, authored or edited by: Clawson, Culhane, Dysart and Clawson, Brubaker, Loomis, Limerick, Foss, Culhane and Friesema, Francis and Ganzel, Nelson, Hess, Fairfax and Yale, Rowley.
  • Original and photocopied reports, commentaries, articles and newspaper cuttings.
  • Detailed files on reviews of grazing permit fees.

Originals and photocopies of articles and selected excerpts from monographs on resource economics, property rights and property regimes.
These include:

  • Publications on property theory authored by Demsetz, Randall, Bromley, Pearse, Boer, Libecap, Pejovich, Neiderbach, Baden, Field and others.
  • Publications on common property authored by Orstrom, Berkes, Bromley, Runge, Blaikie, Field, McCabe and others.

If interested, contact me at j.holmes@uq.edu.au

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John Holmes, 73 Ironside St, St Lucia  QLD  4067.  Email: j.holmes@uq.edu.au

Readers of this Newsletter may be interested in the two articles now published online in the journal Geographical Research available through Wiley Interscience.  The first article includes maps of 1976 and 2006 land tenures across the savannas.  In the second article regional trajectories are portrayed for the core pastoral regions (Queensland Gulf, Barkly, Victoria River and East/South Kimberley), and contrasted with the ‘frontier’ regions (Cape York Peninsula, Northern Territory Gulf and North Kimberley).  Divergent trajectories for Darwin and Arnhem are also depicted.  Land tenure changes are used as one indicator of regional trajectory.  Titles and abstract are shown below.

The Multifunctional Transition in Australia’s Tropical Savannas:  The Emergence of Consumption, Protection and Indigenous Values

As elsewhere in affluent, western nations, the direction, complexity and pace of rural change in Australia can be conceptualised as a multifunctional transition in which a variable mix of consumption and protection values has emerged, contesting the former dominance of production values, and leading to greater complexity and heterogeneity in rural occupance at all scales. This transition has been explored in accessible, high-amenity landscapes driven by enhanced consumption values. Less attention has been directed to remote, marginal lands where a flimsy mode of productivist occupance can, in part, be displaced by alternative modes with the transitions being facilitated by low transfer costs. Such is the case in Australia’s northern tropical savannas where an extensive mode of pastoral occupance is selectively displaced by alternative consumption, protection and Indigenous values. This transition towards multifunctional occupance is most readily documented by mapping changes in land tenure and ownership over the last three decades. Tenure changes have been accompanied by new regimes of property rights and land ownership, including: native titles derived from common law; non-transferable, common-property Aboriginal freehold tenures; transfers of pastoral leases to Indigenous and conservation interests; expansion of conservation lands under public tenures; and revisions of the rights and duties of pastoral lessees. Future occupance scenarios remain unclear, given the sensitivity of this frontier zone to national and global driving forces.

Divergent Regional Trajectories in Australia’s Tropical Savannas: Indicators of a Multifunctional Rural Transition

Abstract (abbreviated) 
Within Australia’s tropical savannas the multifunctional transition is contributing to increased complexity and diversity within and between regions.  Divergent regional functional trajectories, evident over the three decades from 1976 to 2006, can be identified and depicted within the triangular relativities between production, consumption and protection values.  Core pastoral regions have experienced discernible, if variable, functional trajectories while retaining a modified productivist orientation.  In marginal, ‘frontier’ regions limited scope for capital accumulation has created an expansive space for both market and non-market interests and ideologies to propel functional transitions towards more complex, contested occupance modes.  Lack of success in pursuit of productivist goals enhances capability in satisfying emerging national aspirations in recognising Indigenous land rights, in preserving unique biota and valued semi-natural landscapes, in fostering sustainable resource use and in promoting distinctive styles of tourism and recreation.  The Darwin region has experienced a transition towards urban amenity occupance shaped by consumption and protection values. Tenure changes recognising Aboriginal ownership in the Arnhem region have facilitated regionwide self-managed Indigenous occupance.  Divergent regional functional trajectories are starkly revealed in a comparison of driving forces, decision processes and functional trajectories between the Barkly Tableland and the adjoining Gulf Country.

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CSIRO Publishing extends a 15% discount on CSIRO Publishing book titles, personal journal subscriptions and personal ECOS subscriptions to all Australian Rangeland Society members.

  • The 15% discount will apply to the RRP of all book titles (no further discount for titles already on sale).
  • The 15% discount will apply to personal print subscriptions to ECOS, Australia’s sustainability magazine http://www.ecosmagazine.com/
  • Discounted journal subscriptions are for personal use only; the discount does not apply to institutional journal subscriptions.
  • To receive the 15% discount, members need to identify themselves as belonging to the Australian Rangeland Society at the time of purchasing CSIRO Publishing products. For online purchases members should add ‘Australian Rangeland Society Member’ to the Special Instructions field when completing the Delivery & Payment Details.
  • Members must claim their discount at the time of purchase; no refunds will be applied after the subscription or book order has been processed.
  • Members can contact the Customer Service team via publishing.sales@csiro.au, phone 1300 788 000 or place their order via www.publish.csiro.au

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Miss Rebecca Hall
Caragabal West
Caragabal  NSW  2810

Mr Carlos Alfonso Munoz
Building W55 Ecosystem Management
University of New England
Armidale  NSW  2351

Miss Pam Kretzschmar
PO Box 275
Croydon  Vic  3136

Dr Piet Filet
16 Marral St.
The Gap  Qld  4061

Tahnee Thompson
Nathan River Ranger Stn
Katherine  NT  0852

Mr Peter Klem
40 Wompoo Rd.
Longreach  Qld  4730

Mr Andrew Schmidt
Cunnamulla  Qld  4490

Dr Julia Mattner
PO Box 426
Leederville  WA  6903

Rural Financial Counselling Service SA
c/- Kay Matthias
555 The Parade
Magill  SA  5072

Ms Miranda Kerr
PO Box 1989
Dubbo  NSW  2830

Mrs Gina Mace
845 Bimble Road
Thallon  Qld  4497

Peter Cunningham
18 Mandela Crescent
Bateman  WA  6150

Gayle Keys
PO Box 6051
Broome  WA  6725

Joshua Bell
28 Ferny Ave
Bundaberg  QLD  4670

Toni Willmott
PO Box 410
Winton  Qld  4735

Cindy McCartney
PO Box 1391
Yeppoon  Qld  4703

Bernie English
PO Box 27
KAIRI  Qld  4872

Philip Brownsey
1951 Hartnell Ave Apt 17
Redding  California  USA  96002

Marie Vitelli
PO Box 6262
Fairfield Qld  4103

Michael Quirk
85 Northgate Rd
Northgate  Qld 4013

Leanne Corker
Red Hill Station
via Pannawonica  WA  6716

John Rodgers
PO Box 1404
Rockhampton  QLD  4700

Helen Waudby
18 Dover St
Royal Park  SA  5014

Adam Kilpatrick
4/258 Ward St
North Adelaide  SA  5006

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