Range Management Newsletter 12/2


June 2012 – Range Management Newsletter 12/2


Noelene Duckett, 5 Amery Street, Ashburton  VIC  3147.  Email: aduckett7@msn.com

Welcome to the July issue of the Range Management Newsletter.  This issue includes the latest news on the upcoming Biennial ARS Conference which is being held in Kununurra from 23 – 27 September 2012.  The organising committee has put together an interesting, broad-ranging program and an array of excellent field trips, and with less than 3 months to go, now is the time to settle those bookings. Accommodation and flights are filling fast!  Also, a reminder to those of you that are preparing oral presentations and poster papers – the due date for completed papers is 30 July 2012.

It was great to receive an article from Gary Bastin and Grant Allan which follows up from Grant’s 2011 Rangeland Journal Lecture Series talk given in Alice Springs last November.  This current submission reports on regional fire activity during 2011 in central Australia relative to other rangeland regions and to previous years.

This issue also includes an exciting new initiative for the RMN.  We are hoping to regularly include profiles of long-standing ARS members particularly looking at why they joined the Society, why they have stayed members and what they see as the major rangeland issues at the moment.  Don Blesing is the focus of our first profile.

Do you have an active interest in the ARS and would like to help promote active communications within the Society?  If you do, perhaps you would like to take-over the role of Chair of the Publications Committee.  It is a great time to join this fabulous group of people – we have a new Editor-in-Chief of The Rangeland Journal, an enthusiastic Newsletter Editor (of course!) and a terrific new website.  Why not give it a go?  Details of the position can be found later in this issue.

Other Society news can be found at the end of the newsletter, where I have included highlights from the May 2012 ARS AGM, the new members list, details about the ARS Awards and membership information.

The next newsletter is out in November so please send me your contributions by mid-October.  For those of you going to Kununurra – I’ll see you there!

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John Taylor, ARS President and Director, 37 Pioneer Crescent, Bellbowrie QLD  4070.  Email: taylamob@tpg.com.au

Since the last edition of RMN, your Council has met once by teleconference and convened the Annual General Meeting.  Extracts from the Director’s report, Publications report, Membership report and an overview of our Financial position are provided elsewhere in this edition. We have initiated a search for a Chair of the Publications Committee to replace Ken Hodgkinson, and will be reviewing and clarifying the guidelines for Travel Grants and Scholarships.

We have had a reasonable response to the recent Members Survey, receiving 58 responses without a reminder notice (~20% of current members).  Ninety-seven percent of the respondents were current members, with the majority of those classifying themselves as scientists, extension officers or advisors, and around half of them listing Queensland or NSW as their home state.  Fifteen percent of the respondents were pastoralists.  Eighty-eight percent of the respondents believe that the Society’s objectives are still relevant, and 86% believe that the ARS is making a useful contribution.  There are some valuable suggestions on ways to better meet our members’ needs, and these and other suggestions will be distilled for an article in the RMN and a short presentation at the Kununurra Conference.

Some of you will have heard that the teaching centre at UQ Gatton known as Rangelands Australia (RA) is to close.  This initiative has been focused on the needs of the most educationally disadvantaged region of Australia, and has responded positively to the challenges to ‘do things differently’ and provide accessible, relevant and practical educational offerings.  There have been many achievements of which RA staff are very proud; from the 60 Rangeland Management graduates to date who are now directly or indirectly influencing the management of 45% of our rangelands, to the two national awards for programs that enhance learning.  Although we have had 2-10 times the number of domestic graduates (ie. Australians) over the past 3 years and still have 2-6 times the number of domestic students of any other program in the NRAVS Faculty/School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, we are unable to meet the School’s expectations and ‘cover all expenditure costs including University, Faculty and School overheads, all human resource entitlements, equipment and infrastructure, travel, marketing, consumables, etc’.  Given that University, Faculty and School overheads take almost 90% of student fees, we would need around 250 students to fund a ‘minimalist’ operation from teaching income or 450 students to fund a ‘quality learning experience’ type operation.  At most the Rangeland Management program has had 85 students.  More importantly, there are almost 50 students who are yet to complete the program, and RA staff have been endeavouring to assist them in planning their studies.

I have booked accommodation in Kununurra and will register for the conference this week, and I hope that many of you are also planning to attend.  I look forward to meeting up with many of you in September.

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Paul Novelly, Organizing Committee Chairman, Dept of Agriculture and Food WA, Locked Bag 4, Bentley Delivery Centre  WA  6983.  Email: paul.novelly@agric.wa.gov.au

Conference arrangements are moving along and, with the ‘Early Bird’ registrations now closed, we had (as of June 19) a total of 83 registered participants, including 5 students and 5 producers.  Participants to date appear to be a broad and lively mix of individuals, all interested in discussing rangeland use and management. Accommodation and flights into and out of Kununurra are starting to fill, so if you are planning on attending then please make your arrangements sooner rather than later.  A range of accommodation options exist including hotels/motels, backpacker and caravan park venues.  However, as the date of the Conference approaches, the choice will decline substantially, so book early. While individuals are free to do their own thing, remember the Kununurra Visitors’ Centre is able to assist, and can achieve special accommodation rates.  Details on contacting the KVC are on the conference website.

Interestingly, over a third of the registrations that were neither producer nor student came from non-ARS members.  This always intrigues me, and makes me wonder why so many individuals with an interest in the rangelands continue to attend the biennial conference, but never get around to actually joining the Society.  It’s something for all of us to think about, and, if you are attending the Conference, get to talking to one of these folk and find out why they don’t join, please pass your findings on to one of the ARS Council members.

While the oral presentations are now finalized, the Committee is still accepting poster presentation applications until July 30.  However, if you are planning on presenting a poster, we would appreciate knowing as soon as possible.  Additionally, you will note from the Conference program that there will be concurrent sessions on the Thursday morning.  This is a first for an ARS conference in my experience (although I am a novice compared to some), and a situation that clearly demonstrates the wide range of interests in rangelands and the difficulties of encompassing this wide range in a relatively short time.  The two venues, while within walking distance, will not really allow for people to skip from one to the other to pick up individual papers.

For further Conference information check the ARS website at www.austrangesoc.com.au.  The Organizing Committee looks forward to seeing you in Kununurra.

Conference Program Highlights

The program provides attendees with a mix of community perspectives, landholder involvement, technical and scientific input and an important opportunity to share knowledge, bring different perspectives to current management challenges and discuss shared futures.

Global trends and impacts

Keynote presentation by Professor Jerry Holechek, New Mexico State University.

Invited papers on impacts of global trends on Australian rangeland and rangeland use including:

  • Carbon sequestration – opportunities or pipe dreams.
  • Opportunities for low-input production.
  • Climate change and cycles.
  • Biodiversity trends and responses

Land use planning for multiple users and uses

Keynote presentations – WA Department of Planning and Department of Environment and Conservation.

Invited papers on:

  • Development issues and projects in the Kimberley recognising its huge variety of landscapes and habitats.
  • Opportunities for pastoral, agricultural, tourism and mineral development in the Kimberley and the role of Indigenous people in the management and development of the region.
  • Case studies on multiple land use planning and implementation.

Livestock production in Australian rangeland

Keynote presentations by Meat and Livestock Australia’s northern production research manager, Wayne Hall and also Dr Steve Petty.

Invited papers on:

  • Impacts of climate and grazing pressure on livestock production systems
  • Case studies on innovative livestock production systems.

Fire management in a carbon economy

Invited papers on:

  • Managing fire for conservation, carbon capture and pastoral production.
  • Case studies on optimal fire management.

Understanding rangeland ecosystems and assessing impacts

Invited papers on developments in understanding of:

  • Functioning of rangeland ecosystems from site to landscape and beyond including water and nutrient flows
  • Assessment and monitoring of impacts on rangeland ecosystems

Policy development and implementation in rangeland

Keynote presentation on the rangeland reform process in Western Australia.

Invited papers and presentations on:

  • Developments in rangeland administrative process at regional, state/ territory and national levels.
  • Addressing public concerns relating to animal welfare, land conservation, safe food and others.
  • Resolving water use conflicts

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Gary Bastin, ACRIS Coordinator, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, PO Box 2111, Alice Springs NT 087.  Email: Gary.Bastin@csiro.au

Grant Allan, Bushfires NT, PO Box 2533, Alice Springs NT 0871.  Email: Grant.Allan@nt.gov.au

Last November, one of us (Grant) reported to an Alice Springs audience on fire activity and emerging lessons in central Australia during the latter part of 2011.  That talk was part of the 2011 Rangeland Journal Lecture Series and is available to Australian Rangeland Society members (along with those of other guest lecturers) through the Society’s web site.

The fire threat has now eased, at least for the time being, and ACRIS can now report regional fire activity during 2011 in central Australia relative to other rangeland regions and to previous years.  For those not familiar with ACRIS, it is the Australian Collaborative Rangelands Information System.  Thematic biophysical and socio-economic data and information about change in the rangelands can be found at our web site, http://www.environment.gov.au/land/rangelands/acris/index.html.

Data source

Fires are monitored using satellite data.  Two web sites are commonly accessed for current fire activity:

  1.  the North Australian Fire Information, NAFI (http://www.firenorth.org.au/nafi2/), and
  2. Sentinel (http://sentinel.ga.gov.au/acres/sentinel/index.shtml).

After the smoke has cleared, fire scars are mapped to determine burnt area, return time or frequency of fire, and other spatial statistics related to burnt area.

The WA Land Information Authority (Landgate) has mapped fire scars across Australia on a monthly basis since 1997.  Landgate uses data generated by the NOAA AVHRR series of satellites which has a pixel resolution of 1.1 km x 1.1 km.  These large pixels are suitable for mapping extensive fire but are less sensitive where fires are small or the burn is patchy.  The AVHRR-sourced data are well suited to the rangelands-wide reporting that ACRIS undertakes.

Wildfire follows big rains

This is an obvious statement for most of the northern savannas, with fires returning each year during the dry season.  Wildfire is more episodic in the arid zone but is related to successive years of above-average rainfall.  The rainfall and burnt-area maps in Figure 1 show remarkably close spatial coupling between two-year antecedent rainfall and fire extent for the two most recent big wildfire events in central Australia.

Figure 1.  Rangeland area burnt in 2001-02 and 2011 (bottom) and cumulative rainfall between April and March of the two preceding years (top).

Fires in central Australia

ACRIS reports most biophysical data by bioregion or sub-region.  There are 52 bioregions wholly or partly in the rangelands (using the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia, IBRA v6.1).  For the six bioregions in central Australia that experienced extensive fire in 2011, fire was more common between 1997 and 2011 in the two northern IBRAs (Tanami and Davenport Murchison Ranges, Figure 2) and infrequent in the more arid interior (Finke and Simpson Strzelecki Dunefields).  The location of bioregions is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 2.  Percentage of IBRA area burnt each calendar year and decile summer rainfall (November-April) for six bioregions in central Australia

Figure 3.  Location of central Australian bioregions used for reporting 2011 fire statistics.

Fire was more extensive in the Simpson Strzelecki Dunefields in 2011 compared to other years since 1997. Lightning was the primary source of ignitions during both 2001-02 and 2011, but the 2001-02 fires were restricted to the northern portion of the bioregion.

Similar areas of the Finke bioregion were burnt in 2002 and 2011, but the spatial patterning was different.  Extensive areas of pastoral land south of Alice Springs were not burnt last year and have a high fire potential in 2012.  Fire was mostly absent in the Finke bioregion in other years.

Further north in the southern NT, similar proportions of the MacDonnell Ranges and Burt Plain IBRAs burnt in 2011 compared with the combined extent of fires in 2001-02.  In both bioregions, the previous big fire season extended over two calendar years, i.e. a considerable proportion of the Burt Plain burnt in 2001 (less so in 2002) and parts of the MacDonnell Ranges also burnt in 2001.  This pattern continued further north in the Tanami and Davenport Murchison Ranges IBRAs with a proportionally large area burnt in 2011, considerable portions burnt between 2000 and 2002, and >15% of IBRA area burnt in some of the intervening years.  The fires during 2006-07 were associated with two-years of above-average rainfall in these northern bioregions of central Australia but the rainfall did not extend as far south as Alice Springs and influence the fire potential of the four southern bioregions.

Fire activity in 2011 was concentrated between August and November (Figure 4) although the fire season started a little earlier in the northern bioregions.  With the exception of several fires started by lightning in late January, the majority of the fire activity between March and July was prescribed burning undertaken to reduce fuel loads and protect assets ahead of the expected high fire potential across central Australia later in the year.

Figure 4. Percentage of IBRA area burnt each month throughout 2011 for six bioregions in central Australia.


After the fires

It is difficult to directly compare the 2001-02 fire season with that of 2011, although the combined spatial extent of the fires was similar.  The fires in 2001 were primarily north of Alice Springs and persisting soil moisture and post-fire rainfall helped pasture recovery.  In contrast, the 2002 fires occurred at the end of the period of above-average rainfall.  In general, many of the 2002 fires had a greater impact on the woody vegetation communities and pasture recovery was restricted by the dry conditions that followed (indicated by decile rainfall values for bioregions in Figure 2).  At a particular location, Alice Springs received below-average rainfall for the seven-year period from July 2003 to June 2009.

It is too early to determine the ecological implications of the 2011 fire season and further fires that are anticipated in 2012.  To date, the direct effect of the 2011 fires on the pastoral industry appears to be more subdued than those of 2002, although the cost of fire response in both years was significant.  Above-average rainfall this past summer appears to have promoted good ground cover across much of the country burnt last year and allowed affected pastoralists to maintain their grazing enterprises without enforced destocking.  However there is potential in many areas for a second, short-interval, fire season.  In contrast to 2011, these follow-up fires should be more localised and primarily in run-on areas, areas that have received higher localised rainfall and areas of dense buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris).  The impact of these short-return fires on pastoral enterprises and landscape ecology is uncertain.

More generally, fires are anticipated on pastoral land unburnt in 2011.  The likely return to more ‘normal’ conditions of highly variable rainfall could mean reduced pasture recovery post these fires.  Beyond the pastoral country, fires are also anticipated on Aboriginal-held land in the south western NT (Great Sandy Desert and Central Ranges bioregions) following above-average rainfall between 2010 and 2012 and the recent absence of extensive fire in 2011.  Fortunately this tri-state border region recently received funding assistance through the Australian Government Caring for Our Country program to help Aboriginal land managers to collaboratively manage fire to reduce the risk of large scale wildfires, retain and improve biodiversity, protect threatened species habitat and protect significant cultural assets.

Last word

Fire activity in central Australia in 2011 demonstrated the positive outcomes of research conducted by the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre in the mid ‘noughties’ (Turner et al. 2008, Edwards et al. 2008).  In particular, the data confirm that extensive wildfire follows successive years of high summer rainfall.  The largest areas were burnt between August and November with fire activity abating in December with the return of moderate rainfall (>10 mm falling over much of inland Australia, see:
http://www.bom.gov.au/jsp/awap/rain/archive.jsp?colour=colour&map=totals&year=2011&month=12&period=month&area=nat, accessed 28 May 2011).

Despite the extensive area burnt in 2011, the future remains bright. The capacity for prescription fire management increased substantially between 2002 and 2011.  The greatest increase was associated with the extensive areas of Aboriginal Land Trusts through the Indigenous Ranger program of the Central Land Council.

The prescriptive fire program on NT parks and reserves has been maintained over the past decade.  Both groups undertook aerial burning in 2011.  Although staff struggled to match the scale of prescriptive programs to the anticipated fire potential across the extensive area of central Australia, the continued expansion of the ranger programs will provide significantly more capacity to deal with future fire events.


ACRIS purchased rangelands-wide fire data from the WA Land Information Authority (Landgate) with funding from the Australian Government through its Caring for our Country program.  This funding is managed by Ninti One Ltd.


Turner, D., Ostendorf, B. and Lewis, M. (2008).  An introduction to patterns of fire in arid and semi-arid Australia, 1998-2004.  The Rangeland Journal, 30, 95-107.

Edwards, G.P., Allan, G.E., Brock, C., Duguid, A., Gabrys. K. and Vaarzon-Morel, P. (2008).  Fire and its management in central Australia.  The Rangeland Journal, 30, 109-121.

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Don Blesing from Tusmore, South Australia was recently named in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours List where he was awarded an OAM in the General Division for service to the primary industry sector in South Australia, and to the community.  Congratulations Don!  He has been a member of the Australian Rangeland Society since 1984.

Personal background

I was born and raised on a sheep and cropping farm in South Australia. I enjoyed school and life outside of school was always interesting with horses to ride and feed, dogs to care for, rabbits to shoot and yabbies to catch.

My primary schooling began at home for a couple of years and then I attended the two-teacher school in the village of Caltowie with about 40 students.  Urrbrae Agricultural High School in Adelaide was a shock to me with about 600 students. I flourished in class but succumbed to the farm-kid culture of returning to the home farm after four years of excellent academic performance. I had no tertiary experience and within a few years I was realising the barriers this caused. Fifteen years later I bought the text books for university economics and read them all in between work.

Work history

Although I was always a sheep person, this was reinforced by several months working on sheep farms in New Zealand when I was 20. Soon after I was farming on my own account and I taught myself lots about sheep management and later about pasture management. I became involved in a series of partnerships and syndicates including a cropping plant, a sheep stud, a pastoral property in the Flinders Ranges, and a large commercial sheep business on leased and owned land.

A part time career writing for rural journals and weeklies led to my involvement in conferences and organisations to give me something to write about.  This required plenty of background reading and was a great introduction to a whole range of new and exciting people and ideas across Australia and New Zealand.

For the next three decades my work life involved in a mix of supervising the sheep enterprise and sheep stud, writing a day a week, consulting in the sheep industry including the rangelands and with Aboriginal pastoral properties, and later working as a company director.  During this time I also took on other positions including chairing national level companies in mining, sheep breeding and genetics, farm management, grains research with GRDC, rangelands education with Rangelands Australia, and rangelands strategy with the Lake Eyre Basin group. Other roles included membership of advisory committees to Australian governments covering research management, science and technology, environmental policy and reporting, and advisory roles with CSIRO and universities.

The last ten years have been very satisfying professionally and personally as I worked behind the scenes as senior pastoral consultant to Aboriginal native title groups in SA as they negotiated Indigenous Land Use Agreements with pastoralists and other rangeland stakeholders, in parallel with my continuing work as an agribusiness consultant.

Other interests/hobbies

My interests include lots of reading, an early interest in running early mornings with each child in turn which morphed into bushwalking, playing strongly competitive lawn bowls, and listening to music as my tastes have grown through Mozart, Glass, Gorecki, Bach, Wagner and Mahler.

What spurned your interest in the rangelands?

Membership of a soil conservation council in SA exposed me to pastoral leases and the tension pastoralists face in caring for their country and making a profit.  Later I was challenged by Brian Powell of Quorn to build a list of 100 plants on our nearby lease as I was mustering on foot. It took me two months to identify the first 20 plants, until Brian’s guidance and access to his library led me in a rush to my target. I still have those early notebooks!

When and why did you join the ARS?

It was Brian Powell again who introduced me to The Rangeland Journal and encouraged me to join the Society in the early 80s. In an earlier role as national president of the Australian Farm Management Society I had come across groups of rangeland scientists at places like Charleville, Katherine and Fowler’s Gap and was interested in their work with sheep and kangaroos.  After a few years I was attending ARS conferences, enjoyed assisting in organising a couple, and became a member of the national executive.

How has the ARS helped you?

The ARS was a difficult organisation for me to get to grips with in earlier years. I was neither a proper pastoralist nor a researcher. Conference programs were daunting compared to national and international Farm Management Association meetings and conferences where I was a long-standing member and regular attendee. It was Martin Andrew who enthused me when he asked me in 1994 to help plan and run the 1996 Port Augusta ARS Conference and draw on my interest in foresighting. ARS has much changed and I have had the privilege of attending most national conferences since then, knowing many of the members, and being able to pick up a stream of papers and sessions to match my developed interests in rangelands geography and governance, landscape ecology and conservation.

Over the decades I have learned much from rangeland people:  Brian Powell showed me how to identify plants; Bruce Rosier taught me to sit in silence and listen to the wind in an eagle’s wings; Brendan Lay taught me to identify plants at 100 km/hr; Parry Agius taught me respect for Aboriginal knowledge; Andrew Nicolson taught me and many others the essence of sheep pastoralism; David and Nell Brook showed how strong families can become world class beef producers; Tony Smith and Bob Starkey taught me how wombat poo is a great indicator of sheep condition; Mick Roche showed me that mining at Cannington was nearly sustainable; Wal Whalley impressed me by the rigour he always applied to rangeland issues and the underpinning science; Uki took me into the mountains where his pastoral clan went to survive harsh Mongolian winters and hungry wolves, and where his body would be left when he died; Knut Heie told me expressively that the herds of sheep grazing in Norway’s almost vertical far northern mountains are security because people never want to watch their children die of hunger as they did during the 1940s occupation; and John Taylor showed me how an impossible dream of further education for rangeland people could become reality.

What do think are the major issues relating to the rangelands today?

There are three major issues that I believe are important in the rangelands today:

  • Governance is a major issue in rangelands globally. Good governance for multi-use landscapes is hard to identify and hard to maintain in the face of external pressures and powerful stakeholders within that landscape.
  • Climate change impacting on southern rangelands in Australia by reducing winter rainfall.
  • The need for better policies enabling stronger community involvement and support in these southern rangelands where one and half centuries of grazing has removed the resilience and sustainability of many landscapes and made them uneconomic in their present structure.

Nevertheless I am greatly encouraged in Australia at changing grazing cultures epitomised by the EMU (Ecosystem Management Understanding) model; by some mining and oil and gas companies who take advice readily from other stakeholders including native title holders, conservation companies and rangeland scientists; and by the growing number of well-educated Aboriginal people working for a range of stakeholders in the rangelands.

This is the first of what we hope will be a continuing series profiling long-term members of the Australian Rangeland Society.  If you have any suggestions for members to profile please contact the Newsletter Editor, Noelene Duckett at aduckett7@msn.com.

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Ken Hodgkinson, Chair, ARS Publications Committee, C/- CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences,GPO Box 1700, Canberra  ACT  2601.  Email:  ken.hodgkinson@csiro.au

The Impact Factors for scientific journals have just been released and for The Rangeland Journal the 2011 Impact Factor is 1.405.  The year before it was 1.04 so there has been a substantial rise.  This means that more people are reading the Journal and citing recently published papers.  A value of 1.405 indicates that TRJ papers published in 2009 and 2010 were cited 1.405 times on average by other authors publishing in any journal in 2011.  This is an excellent result and indicates growth in the quality of papers and readership of the journal.  The result reflects the high quality of Editors-in-Chief (Dr ‘Wal’ Whalley and now Professor John Milne), the hard work and calibre of Associate Editors, the quality of referees and the professional work of CSIRO Publishing.

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30 July 2012 – Due date for completed papers (oral presentations and paper posters) for the 17th Biennial ARS Conference.

13 August 2012 – Registration bookings close for the ARS Conference.  See the conference website for details (http://www.meetings.com.au/ars/).

23-27 September 2012 – 17th ARS Biennial Conference, Kununurra, Western Australia

14 October 2012 – Closing date for articles for the November issue of the Range Management Newsletter

30 November 2012 – Closing date for this year’s Australian Rangeland Society Awards.  See page 14 for further information.

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Communications are the lifeblood of any organisation and the Australian Rangeland Society is no exception. When communications among its members and other stakeholders are healthy, then ARS is strong and if the communications fail, then the Society will weaken and perhaps become extinct. The ARS Publications Committee has a critical role to play in ensuring that the communications of the Society are effective within and respected outside the Society. The main channels of communication are the Biennial Conference and its Proceedings, the Range Management Newsletter, The Rangeland Journal and last and of increasing importance, the ARS Website. The Publications Committee has the brief of managing these channels of communication under the direction of the ARS Council.

If you are passionate about the future of ARS and would like to make an important contribution to that future, would you be interested in taking on the job of Chair of the Publications Committee?

Ken Hodgkinson has been Chair since late 2004 when he took over from Leigh Hunt. He originally took on the position for three years and is stepping down at the end of 2012. This means that he will have been eight years in the position and, during this time, has made a major contribution to the steadily increasing quality, profile and effectiveness of communications within and outside the Society. We have now set up a Search Committee to find a suitable person to take over from Ken. This Search Committee will bring before the Publications Committee (in confidence) the names and backgrounds of people who are willing to take on the job and the Publications Committee will then make a recommendation to Council for approval of the person considered the most suitable for the position. The Council will then make the appointment.

The Search Committee comprises Peter Johnson (peter.johnston@daff.qld.gov.au), Don Burnside, (don.burnside@urs.com) and me (rwhalley@une.edu.au) – so if you are at all interested in taking on this very important and satisfying position, then please contact one of us and we’ll take it from there.

Some General Comments about the position, the Detailed Responsibilities and the Terms of Reference are below.

Wouldn’t it be great if we were swamped with replies!

Wal Whalley
Chair, Search Committee for the Chair of the ARS Publications Committee.

Chair of the Publications Committee


The Chair will lead the Publications Committee in development and promotion of the Society’s publications for members. Overall measures of success include the number and quality of content in printed and electronic media, the use and acquisition of published material by members and others, and the income from and cost effectiveness of the publications.

Currently there are three publications of the Australian Rangeland Society (ARS); The Rangeland Journal, the Range Management Newsletter (RMN) and the ARS Website which electronically publishes the RMN, proceedings of the Society’s Biennial Conferences and other material. The policies for the three publications are determined by the Publications Committee, in consultation with the Publishers, and approved by Council. The Editors of the publications are members of the Publications Committee and each take the leading role in determining and applying specific publishing strategies.

An appropriate honorarium will be provided each year by the Society.

Detailed Responsibilities

  1. Ensure that the ARS publications meet members’ needs and aspirations and are aligned to the relevant markets.
  2. Grow national and global support and recognition for the ARS publications.
  3. Lead the development and implementation of appropriate strategies for increasing the quality and impact of ARS publications in association with the respective Editors.
  4. Regularly evaluate publication standards and indicators of publication performance.
  5. Communicate with publishers and seek professional advice as required to ensure that the ARS publications meet industry standards and are commercially competitive.
  6. Regularly communicate with the respective Editors to identify emerging issues and problems.
  7. Arbitrate on any disputes between Editors and Associate Editors or equivalent.
  8. Lead the evaluation of Editors, Associate Editors and others as required.
  9. Establish and maintain links with partners and relevant scientific societies.
  10. Represent, where appropriate, the ARS publications at national and international meetings and during visits to key institutions.
  11. Report regularly and as requested to Council and others in a formal, timely and efficient manner.

Terms of Reference

  1. In consultation with the ARS Council and the Publications Committee, the Chair is responsible for ensuring the outcomes of any review of ARS publications are implemented. Currently this is the 2005 review of ARS publications. The Chair needs to ensure that publication matters are dealt with in accord with the Articles and Memorandum of Association of the Society under Australian Company Law.
  2. The Chair should have a good general knowledge of national and global rangelands, an awareness of movements in publication content and procedures and a network of key people who are leading important community, scientific, Government and business initiatives in both and southern and northern hemispheres.
  3. The Chair should oversee the job descriptions of, the search for, and selection of, new Editors and members of the Publications Committee on behalf of Council, as well as any Associate Editors and Advisory Editors for the publications. The Publications Committee will make recommendations to Council on these appointments.
  4. The Chair with the Publications Committee should arbitrate where there is a major disagreement between an Editor and one or more Associate Editors or authors over the acceptability of a manuscript or submitted work for publishing.
  5. The Chair should ensure regular evaluation of each of the publications by the Publications Committee.
  6. The Chair should organise and promote Rangeland Journal Lectures each year.
  7. The Chair will provide a report on publications when requested by Council and to the General Meeting at Biennial Conferences of the Society.

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The Society has two awards to assist members with either:

  • travel expenses associated with attending a conference or some other activity, or
  • studies related to the rangelands.

Applications for each award will be considered on a yearly basis and close in November of each year. Any member of the Society interested in either award is invited to apply.

Australian Rangeland Society Travel Grant

This grant is intended to assist eligible persons to attend a meeting, conference or congress related to the rangelands; or to assist eligible persons with travel or transport costs to investigate a topic connected with range management or to implement a program of rangeland investigation not already being undertaken. The grant is available for overseas travel and/or travel within Australia. It is not intended for subsistence expenses.

Australian Rangeland Society Scholarship

This scholarship is for assisting eligible members with formal study of a subject or course related to the rangelands and which will further the aims of the Australian Rangeland Society. The scholarship is available for study assistance either overseas or within Australia. It is not intended to defray travel expenses.

How to Apply

Members interested in either award should submit a written outline of their proposed activity. Applications should clearly address how the intended activity (ie. travel or study) meets the aims of the Society. Applications should be brief (less than 1000 words) and should be submitted to the Secretary, Carolyn Ireland, before 30 November. An application form can be downloaded from the ARS website at www.austrangesoc.com.au. For further information contact Carolyn by phone on (08) 8370 9207 or email at cireland@irmpl.com.au.


Applications for the Travel Grant should include details of the costs and describe how the grant is to be spent. Applications for the Scholarship should include details of the program of study or course being undertaken and the institution under which it will be conducted, and information on how the scholarship money will be spent. For both awards details of any other sources of funding should be given.

Applications for either award should include the names of two referees.

Finally, on completing the travel or study, recipients are required to fully acquit their award. They are also expected to write an article on their activities suitable for publication in the Range Management Newsletter or The Rangeland Journal as appropriate, and for the Australian Rangeland Society website, within six months of completion of their travel or study.


No formal qualifications are required for either award. There are no age restrictions and all members of the Society are eligible to apply. Applications are encouraged from persons who do not have organisational support.

There is a restriction on both awards for overseas travel or study assistance in that the applicants must have been members of the Society for at least 12 months. The awards can be for Australian members to travel to or study overseas or for overseas members to travel to or study in Australia.

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Review of operations – John Taylor, President

2011 was another busy and productive year for the Society.

  • In February, the Society had a booth at the 64th Society for Rangeland Management’s annual meeting in Billings, Montana.  Over 120 flyers, with information about the ARS, the Kununurra Conference and The Rangeland Journal, were taken over the two days of the Trade Show.  This has been a minimal cost to the Society, with the ARS representatives’ travel costs borne by other sources and the cost of the booth shared by CSIRO Publishing, the ARS and Rangelands Australia.
  • In March, Council considered a report on membership structure and fees, and resolved: i) some minor changes to simplify the categories of membership and ii) to retain fees at the 2010 rates.
  • Using the new guidelines, Council sought nominations for the award of Fellow of the Australian Rangeland Society.  The cases for Dr Ken Hodgkinson and A/Prof ‘Wal’ Whalley were unanimously endorsed, and their Fellowships will be formally conferred in September 2012 at the Kununurra Conference.
  • Council also approved the role descriptions for the Chair of the Publications Committee and the Editor in Chief, The Rangeland Journal (TRJ), and endorsed the process for recruitment of a new Editor-in-Chief.
  • Council considered and accepted the Final Report of the Organizing Committee for the Bourke Conference (2010), and recorded its appreciation of the efforts of the Bourke Organizing Committee.  This, and reports of earlier conferences, have been forwarded to the Kununurra Organizing Committee for information and guidance.
  • Council extended the contract with CSIRO Publishing for 12 months, and endorsed the Publications Committee’s plans to seek Expressions of Interest in publishing The Rangeland Journal from a range of publishers, and to critically assess all submissions.
  • Mr Ben Forsyth nominated for the vacancy on Council created by the resignation of Mr Peter Johnston. This nomination was unanimously accepted at the 2011 AGM.
  • Council noted the need to change the Articles of Association to accommodate electronic communication tools, and developed proposals for consideration at the 2012 AGM.
  • Finally in March, Mr Russell Grant accepted the role as Website Manager.  Further improvements were made to the website in 2011.
  • With assistance from ARS Travel Grants, Bob Karfs, Bob Shepherd and Dr Carolyn Ireland attended the International Rangeland Congress (IRC) in Argentina in April 2011.  Reports of their travel have been published in the Range Management Newsletter.
  • The Society had a stand at the IRC, and a roster of members served to provide information and handouts on the ARS, The Rangeland Journal and other relevant products from CSIRO Publishing.
  • The AGM was held on 16 May 2011, with the major agenda items being the Director’s and Financial Reports and election of Office Bearers.
  • In June, Council confirmed its willingness to contribute to the Global Rangeland Repository’s (GRR) goal of building global access to rangeland management resources for research, teaching and extension.  The Society’s contributions will include abstracts of all past articles from The Rangelands Journal (and its’ previous incarnations), and full articles from our Biennial Conference Proceedings and past issues of the Range Management Newsletter.  This has begun with hard copies of the proceedings of recent conferences being sent to the US to be scanned and ultimately uploaded onto the GRR and ARS websites. In July, Council endorsed and ratified the Publication Committee’s recommendation to accept CSIRO Publishing’s submission to publish The Rangeland Journal (in print and on-line versions) and oversight advertising in the Society’s publications.  A 5-year agreement was subsequently completed with CSIRO Publishing in October 2011.
  • In July, Council were advised of the impending resignation of Dr Ken Hodgkinson, Chair of the Publications Committee, and endorsed a process to identify and select a suitable replacement.
  • Also in July, A/Prof ‘Wal’ Whalley stood down as Editor-in-Chief of The Rangeland Journal, Council appointed Professor John Milne (Scotland) as his replacement.  Prof Milne visited Australia in November to meet with CSIRO Publishing, members of the Publications Committee, Australian-based Associate Editors of The Rangeland Journal, and some members of Council.  A/Prof Wal Whalley was appointed an Associate Editor for a 3 year term.
  • In August, Council endorsed the appointment of Mr Don Heylen as a ‘book-keeper’ to maintain the Society’s financial records.  This appointment provides a separation of the ‘treasurer’ and Audit Officer roles.  Mr Heylen is to be paid an honorarium and provided with a complementary membership of the Society.
  • In late 2011 Council developed a draft of a survey of Member’s needs, fees and potential uses of the Society’s cash reserves.  This survey will be distributed to present and recent past members in early 2012, with a report on the findings to be presented at the Kununurra Conference and in the Range Management Newsletter.
  • Dr Peter O’Reagain attended the International Symposium on the Nutrition of Herbivores Conference in September with the assistance of an ARS Travel Grant, and his report has also been published in the Range Management Newsletter.
  • In November, the inaugural Rangeland Journal Lecture series was held to draw attention to research on Australia’s rangelands, promote the ARS and The Rangeland Journal, and to introduce Prof Milne to members.  Lectures were given by Dr Mark Stafford-Smith (Canberra), Grant Allen (Alice Springs), Dr Andrew Ash (Brisbane) and Prof Milne (Townsville), and were well attended in all locations.  Council would like to express its thanks to Dr Ken Hodgkinson for organizing this series, and to members who assisted in the local organization of these events and hosted Prof Milne and his wife on their travels.
  • Dr Ron Hacker was appointed as an Associate Editor of The Rangeland Journal following the resignation of Dr E Mwangi.
  • In December, Council considered applications for Travel Grants and awarded grants to the following – Dr Noelene Duckett and Helene Aubalt.
  • Throughout the year, Council has been informed of the progress of the Kununurra Conference Organizing Committee through the minutes of Organizing Committee meetings and the participation of a Council Member, Larissa Lauder, on the Organizing Committee.  The second brochure for the conference was produced and distributed widely in December 2011.

Council met seven times during 2011, and also held an Annual General Meeting on 16 May 2011. Of these meetings, two were ‘out-of-session’ meetings.  All meetings were held via teleconference.

In addition to Council, the Society continues to rely heavily on volunteers who fulfill vital roles.  These are:

Dr K.C. Hodgkinson  – Chair, Publication Committee
Dr R.D.B. Whalley  – Editor in Chief (TRJ) until July and Publication Committee
Dr N. Duckett  – Editor (RMN) and Publication Committee
Mr R. Grant – Editor Website and Publications Committee
Dr A.J. Ash – Associate Editor
Prof. R. Long  – Associate Editor
Dr B. Cooke  – Associate Editor
Dr R. Hacker  – A ssociate Editor
Mr N.D. Macleod   – Associate Editor
Dr M Stafford-Smith  – Associate Editor
Prof M. Fernández-Giménez  – Associate Editor
Dr B. Bestelmeyer  – Associate Editor
Dr E Mwangi  – Associate Editor (until December 2011)
Professor B Hubert  – Associate Editor
Professor J. Milne  – Editor-in-Chief (TRJ) (from August) and Publications Committee
Dr A. Pressland  – Associate Editor
Dr D.G. Burnside  – Publications Committee
Dr D.J. Eldridge   – Publications Committee
Dr P.W. Johnston   – Publications Committee
Prof. M. McGregor  – Publications Committee
Dr J. Davies –  Publications Committee

Publications Report – Ken Hodgkinson, Chair of the Publications Committee

The publishing and circulation of professional and highly regarded publications in the form of three newsletters and four journal issues per year to members and the Societies website continued under the guidance of the Publications Committee and their respective Editors and Associate Editors.

In 2010, the Society was in the final year of its second 3-year Publication Agreement with CSIRO Publishing to have The Rangeland Journal (TRJ) published both electronically and in hard-copy for the years 2008 – 2010 (Volumes 30, 31 and 32).  A one-year extension to the contract (to publish Volume 33) was negotiated for 2011.  In 2011 the Publications Committee explored options for the publishing of the journal, and in December 2011 Council accepted a recommendation from the Publications Committee to form a new Publications Agreement with CSIRO Publishing to publish the Journal until 2015.  The TRJ continued to be made available in hard copy and electronic form to members in categories other than Libraries and kindred institutions.  The latter two categories may receive TRJ in electronic form only, or, at a premium subscription rate, electronic form plus print.  The Range Management Newsletter continues to be published in hard copy form and has recently commenced in electronic form via the Society’s new website.  CSIRO Publishing specifically promoted TRJ at six national and nine international conferences in 2010, and in various mail-outs and inserts as part of their regular renewal campaigns.
Although the cost of electronic publication is greater than that by conventional means, Council is still of the opinion that this change was necessary if the Society is to persist as a vital body capable of providing impartial advice and opinion for policy makers and the community generally on rangelands and their use.  It is pleasing to note the number of high quality papers submitted to TRJ continues to increase following the publication of the first Issue by CSIRO Publications in 2005.

In 2011, 94 manuscripts were received (49% from Australia).  This is an increase in number of papers received compared with 2010 (83 manuscripts).  The continued high submission rate in 2011 indicates increased confidence / interest in the journal.

The Journal has a significant web presence on the CSIRO publishing site. Archival back content (all Volumes to date) has been made available to all subscribers.  The back content has been downloaded at an increasing rate with the ‘most read’ papers and Special Issues attracting the highest number of downloads.  In 2011 the TRJ web site was well utilised with a continued increase in the number of subscribers accessing the site. Individual TRJ papers have been downloaded 27,947 times in 2011 (this is similar to the number of paper downloads recorded for 2010), at a rate of approximately 77 individual papers per day.  The most read paper in 2011 with 325 downloads was “Measure it to better manage it: a biodiversity monitoring framework for the Australian rangelands” by Teresa J. Eyre, Alaric Fisher, Leigh P. Hunt and Alex S. Kutt, published in Volume 33 (3) on 9 September 2011.

The ISI Citation Impact Factor is based on a narrow window of citation and is reported in June each year. The Impact Factor for a given year is based on the ratio of citations to papers published in the previous 2 years. The Citation Impact Factor for 2010 was 1.040, compared with 1.164 for 2009.  To date TRJ has about 115 citations and 79 papers published which gives an “indicative 2011 impact factor” of about 1.450.  This means that the Journal has maintained its strong profile in the research community while consolidating the content to 4 regular issues over the citation periods.  The ‘indicative 2011’ Citation Impact Factor places the Journal in rank 80th out of 130 journals listed in the Ecology category — this rank is an improvement on that achieved in the previous year. The steady rise in the Impact Factor (from 2009 to 2011) is directly related to publication of ‘high impact’ papers, rigorous reviewing and ‘active encouragement’ for readers to cite papers. The most cited paper (21 citations) over this 4-year period is “Climate change impacts on northern Australian rangeland livestock carrying capacity: a review of issues” by McKeon G. M.; Stone G. S.; Syktus J. I.; et al. published in Volume 31 (1) on 1 March 2009.

Other highlights for the journal included two special issues published in 2011. The first (Volume 33, Issue 2) contained a selection of papers from the ARS 16th Biennial Conference, Bourke, NSW and was entitled “Rain of the Rangelands”.  It comprised 6 papers as well as a Guest Editorial by Tony Pressland, the Guest Editor.  The second special issue (Volume 33, Issue 4) contained a selection of papers from the Desert CRC “Livelihoods in Desert Australia”.  Drs Murray McGregor and Craig James acted as the guest editors.  These Special Issues have attracted considerable interest from ‘rangeland’ ecologists worldwide who may not be familiar with the Journal.  Two special issues are also planned for 2012.

Council would like to thank Dr Ken Hodgkinson and the Publications Committee for driving the changes to the Society’s publications.  These changes commenced with a major focus on The Rangeland Journal.  Ken has subsequently focused on the web site which is also now complete and a major communication tool for the Society.  Looking ahead, the Range Management Newsletter is to be reviewed in early 2012.

Biennial Conference

The biennial conference is a significant event in the Society’s calendar and provides the main mechanism for members and guests to interact and exchange ideas about the use and management of Australia’s rangelands. There was no conference held in 2011.  Organization is well underway for the next conference, in Kununurra WA in September 2012.  The theme “Celebrating Diversity: People, Places, Purpose” is attracting strong interest.

Membership Report – Graeme Tupper, Subscription Manager

Membership of the Society has remained more or less stable at around 350-400 members since 2002.

In December 2011 there were 297 members managed by the Society with CSIRO Publishing managing another 94, giving a total of 391.  The corresponding figures for December 2010 were 306 plus 79 (=385), December 2009 were 273 plus 83 (=356), December 2008 were 302 plus 83 (=385), December 2007, 303 plus 84 (=387), December 2006, 351 plus 75 (=426) and for December 2005, 321 plus 61 (=382).  This compares with 438 in 2004, 434 in 2003 and 427 in December 2002.

The addition of new members fluctuates between conference and non-conference years. There were 23 new members in 2011 (a non-conference year), 84 new members in 2010 (a conference year), 19 new members in 2009, 70 new members in 2008 (a conference year), 23 new members in 2007, 41 new members in 2006 (a conference year) and 30 new members in 2005. However, the trend in new memberships is negated by losses through retirements, a trend which will only intensify as the population of rangeland advisers and scientists who formed the backbone of the Society in earlier years, ages and retires, and through non-renewals, in spite of rigorous efforts by the Subscription Manager to encourage all members to renew.

While the system of renewing via the ARS website was intended to make it easier to renew memberships, many members have not been able, or in a few cases not willing, to use the system.  Common problems are that some members do not keep a record of their password, and when their email address changes they do not update their contact details in the on-line membership database.  The email address recorded in the database is needed as the member’s username.  The Subscription Manager is making every effort possible to assist members to renew, whether on-line, by using the traditional postal system, or orally per the telephone.

Council has supported a presence at major international range-related events in an effort to grow the membership, but up to date this has not shown any fruit in the way of new members from overseas.

The majority (86%) of members and subscribers come from Australia, with 48% of members coming from Queensland and New South Wales.  There were 13 international members (plus 42 international subscribers), compared to 23 at the same time in 2010, 20 at the same time in 2009, 15 at the same time in 2008 and 7 at the same time in 2007.

The membership figures include six ARS Fellows and fourteen “ex-officio” non-paying members such as the ARS archive, the National Library of Australia, and Associate Editors for The Rangeland Journal.  It is also noted that the Society has about 33 landholder addresses amongst its members.

Subscription rates for those subscribers managed by the Society remained unchanged for 2011 (e.g. $100 for Full Members resident in Australia).

In addition to publishing The Rangeland Journal, CSIRO Publishing manages subscriptions for the Society’s “Library” subscribers as well as some of its “Institutional / Corporate” subscribers.  Mailing labels were prepared for 94 CSIRO subscribers for the last Newsletter of 2011, up from 79 in 2010.

Financial Report – Peter Marin, Finance and Audit Officer/Company Secretary

The financial affairs of the Society remain on a strong footing despite a loss from ordinary activities of $64,742 (2010: loss of $32,792) and total equity/accumulated surplus of $217,682 (2010:$282,424).  The Society’s total equity is $217,682 which is considered adequate to cover any liabilities.  The Society continued to work on improvements to programs and protocols to allow it to complete its commitments to standard reporting of its financial position as required under law.


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Tiffany Carroll-MacDonald – Narromine  NSW

Dixie Nott – Rockhampton  Qld

Peter Di Donna- Bunbury  WA

Tim Clancy – St Lucia  Qld

David Setchell – Loxton  SA

Zoe Hall – Parkville  Vic

Mei Bai – Townsville  Qld

Megan Harper – Adelaide  SA

Catherine Whitehead – Darwin  NT

Scott Laidler – Munduberra  Qld

Elizabeth Tierney – Winnellie  NT

Dave Whitelaw – Melbourne  Vic

Meg Jessie Humphrys – Old Reynella  SA

Tim Bloomfield – Sunbury  Vic

Gina Mace – Thallon  Qld

Rodney Safstrom – Perth  WA

James Wright – Katherine  NT

Mr Guillaume Bouteloup, Phoenix Environmental Sciences – Balcatta  WA

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2012 Membership Rates; GST inclusive, if paid by 31st March*

Australia Overseas Airmail

Individual or Family

  • Full (Journal + Newsletter)/Student $100/$80 $125/$100
  • Part (Newsletter only)/Student $60/$45 $70/$50


  • Full (Journal + Newsletter) $135 $165
  • Part (Newsletter only) $75 $90

* Please note that the RMN will only be available electronically to members except those who pay an additional $15 membership subscription to receive a printed copy of each issue – see note below under the heading Membership Subscription Rates for 2012

New members are encouraged to join the Society via the ARS website (www.austrangesoc.com.au) and renewing members should also pay their 2012 dues through the website, if possible. A renewing member should logon using their Username, which is their email address as in the ARS database, and their Password, which is “new login xxxx”, xxxx being the member’s membership number. If you do not know your membership number, please contact Graeme Tupper by email, grmtupper@yahoo.com.au. Some members may have changed their Password in the database, in which case, Graeme Tupper will not know it. If you encounter problems in logging on, contact Graeme Tupper.

  • Membership Fees paid after 31st March incur a penalty of an additional $15.00 per subscription.
  • All rates are quoted in AUSTRALIAN currency and must be paid in AUSTRALIAN currency.
  • Membership is for the calendar year 1st January to 31st December. New member subscriptions paid after 1st October are deemed as payment for the following year.

Any member who has not paid his/her subscription by 31st March of the financial year for which it is payable shall be deemed unfinancial, and all his/her rights and privileges as a member of the Society are suspended until the subscription is paid.

Membership Subscription Rates for 2012

The 2012 Subscription Rates remain as for 2011.  For members who wish to receive a printed copy of the RMN, an additional $15 membership subscription will be required, except for members who do not have an email address, who will continue to receive a printed copy as part of their standard membership fee. The new system will be implemented as from the publication of the second RMN for 2012. Any enquiries relating to this should be directed to Graeme Tupper, Subscription Manager, grmtupper@yahoo.com.au

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