Range Management Newsletter 12/3

December 2012 – Range Management Newsletter 12/3



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

Welcome to the November issue of the Range Management Newsletter.

Feedback from the 17th Biennial ARS Conference held in Kununurra, WA this past September dominates this issue. A variety of delegates responded to my call for conference reports; the overwhelming feeling from these reports is that the conference was very enjoyable with great opportunities for networking and catching up on the current focuses and issues in the rangelands. I also attended the conference (my first in 16 years) and really enjoyed the experience. I believe the success of this year’s conference can be seen in the following delegate quotes:

“I relish the opportunity of meeting passionate people from rangeland regions to continue my lifetime learning” – Kevin Ingram, Aston Station, Pooncarie

“The ARS conference is now my only indulgence in the vast array of conferences and workshops that are so aggressively marketed through our networks these days. I attend and support it as it is very relevant to my work and brings together a great blend of experience, practical knowledge and science from a range of participants both old and new from across rangeland, government, science, education and community backgrounds. Sessions are diverse and cover all aspects of rangeland management from buffel grass to sandalwood, Gouldian finches to camels and fine wool merinos in Tassie to Brahmans in the Top End” – Ian Hopton, Program Coordinator, Musgrave Province, Geological Survey South Australia

Following on from the Conference discussions, I have included a number of other articles. Peter Walker reports on a recent reunion tour of the Western Division of NSW by former members of the Soil Conservation Service of NSW. They spent some time driving around reminiscing and observing the current state of the country – certainly would have been a lot of knowledge in those cars! The focus of our second ARS member profile, Daryl Green, was one of the participants. In a similar historical vein, Richard Silcock has contributed an article looking at vegetation changes in an sandplain mulga exclosure in south-west Queensland.

Later in this issue, you will find an obituary for Bill Bolton Smith, a Fellow of the Australian Rangeland Society who recently passed away; an article about the newly formed National Bellyache Bush Management Group; the list of new members as well as information about the 2013 Membership Rates for the Society. Don’t forget that subscription renewals paid before April 1st receive a $15 discount!

The next issue of the newsletter is due out in March, so please have your contributions to me by early February.

I hope you all have a fabulous summer break. See you in 2013!

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

Kununurra turned on a warm welcome for almost 200 delegates at the 17th Biennial Conference. A survey conducted by Council revealed that people came for many reasons, with the most common being the networking and updates on issues, research and ‘best practice’ in the rangelands. The presentations and field trips were valued, as were the opportunities for out-of-session discussions. There was a good representation of the ‘locals’ from the north-west, and I spoke to many who saw this meeting as a unique opportunity to visit this special region of Australia. On behalf of Council I would like to thank the Organizing Committee and the team behind them for their efforts in making this a very successful conference. 

While in Kununurra, your Council held a General Meeting of the Society, a joint meeting with the Publications Committee, and our only face-to-face meeting every second year. In the joint Council-Publications Committee meeting we discussed the changing composition of our membership, the survey of members’ needs, and strategies to attract and retain members.

Since then Council has held an ‘out-of-session’ meeting to discuss the results of the two surveys we’ve conducted over the past 4-5 months, and to develop a response to the motion from the General Meeting regarding unanimous support for the Rangelands Australia initiative and the continuation of the Rangeland Management program. A Committee of Council and Ordinary members, chaired by Ben Forsyth, has been established to progress this.

Our next meeting is in early December. At this, we will be considering applications for travel grants/scholarships and strategies to meet members’ changing needs. Many of the suggestions we’ve received are resonating with Council and we’ll outline some of our responses in the next newsletter.

Finally, on behalf of Council I would like to wish you all a happy and restful Christmas break, and all the very best for 2013. And that includes an appropriate amount of rain for your part of the rangelands.

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Some views from the Organising Committee and participants (via the participants’ survey) – Paul Novelly and Don Burnside, Organising Committee

The Kununurra conference in September attracted 194 delegates to the sessions and field trips, and the available data suggest all States and Territories were represented.  The majority came from Western Australia (the host state generally has the highest turn-out), closely followed by Queensland, New South Wales and then the Northern Territory.  Two came from the USA, with one from the UK. Given Kununurra’s relative isolation and the associated travel costs, together with what appears to be declining support from government agencies involved in rangeland management, we consider that attendance was quite satisfactory.  It was pleasing to us that many people said they enjoyed the Kununurra and Kimberley experience, in spite of the warm weather!

Many survey responses suggested more input by ‘students’, ‘pastoralists’, and ‘Indigenous representatives’ etc would be useful.  It’s a common theme in the feedback after ARS conferences, and one that we suggest is the responsibility of all ARS members, not merely the Organizing Committee for each conference.  We will be making some recommendations to the ARS Council about broadening the representation at future conferences – but keep in mind over the next two years that if you get the chance – tell individuals about the conference, and, once you know who is organizing the next one, give them any tips you feel may be useful in achieving a broader participation

The conference had the theme of “Celebrating diversity: people, place and purpose”, with the Committee feeling that the diversity of rangeland uses and rangeland users was an important aspect of the Society’s values, and of particular relevance in the Kimberley.  The “diversity” of course meant a need for a broad range of sessions (and we even had a concurrent session), and this range, and the range of presentations and posters, has generated some discussion and feedback.  Is the ARS becoming too diverse?  Is the standard “presentation followed by questions” the ideal process?  Should there be small group discussions for “case studies” and other less scientific topics? Some people are looking for more “robust debate” about aspects of the science and practice of rangeland management being put on show.  Are we being too nice to each other, and failing to ask the necessary questions?  If you went to Kununurra or have been to an ARS conference in the last few years, please give some thought as to how you perceived the information you received through the presentations and the posters, and what you thought of the discussion and questions following the presentations, and put those views into the Newsletter.

The Committee had the normal issues associated with getting papers in, determining who was presenting and so on.  There were several examples where the person submitting the paper or poster EOI was not the actual author (or the person nominated to present), and this aspect did cause some confusion and frustration with both the nominee and members of the Program Committee. Also, there were a number of late withdrawals as presenters, causing changes to the program content and sequence.  We did find out (albeit too late) that there are some software packages around to deal with this aspect.  We will be suggesting to Council that the ARS consider purchasing something along these lines.  If anyone has any specific experience with such packages, please let Council know.

There was some also survey feedback and a feeling amongst some Committee Members that the last afternoon of the conference (the Policy session, and the Final Summary Session on the Thursday) was “flat”.  This was attributed entirely to the decision by some delegates to leave the conference at lunchtime on the Thursday in order to catch mid-afternoon flights, with the result that numbers in the auditorium were reduced.  This has also been an issue at past conferences, where the lack of a full day’s program on the last day encourages some loss of participation on the last afternoon.  The Organising Committee has discussed this, and will recommend to Council that future conferences organise a full day’s program for the last day of the conference, and perhaps consider shifting the conference Dinner to the last night of the conference in order to retain full participation.  Feedback to the Council on this recommendation would be welcomed.

Finally, thanks to all those who took the plunge and made it to Kununurra for the conference.  Like all such events, the success of the conference and the value one receives from attending comes from the participants as much, if not more, than from the organizers.  We hope to see you all at the next conference.


Perceptions of the ARS conference in Kununurra – Ian Hopton, Program Coordinator, Musgrave Province, Geological Survey South Australia

Hi to fellow ARS members and others reading this personal summary of the recent ARS conference at Kununurra WA.

My background is all South Australian, 5th generation, born in the mid north, grew up in the Adelaide hills, schooled in Adelaide, on through Roseworthy Agricultural College and working for the SA Government in the former Dept of AG and its many aliases since 1984. I have worked in Animal and Plant control, Livestock, Landcare, Environmental Management and now working on consultation with indigenous communities and organisations in the rangelands of SA over government geoscience programs and mineral and energy industry activities. I am also a member of the Alinytjara Wilurara NRM board as a government representative and run a small farm in the Adelaide hills in my spare time!

Kununurra (now fondly remembered and referred to as ‘smoke on the water’) was a fantastic venue for the ARS conference and congratulations to all those who made it possible. I arrived early which allowed me to have a good look around the area and get an idea of how the place functions prior to the main event and my initial findings were hot, burnt but plenty of water and lots of green stuff between the burnt stuff. This was a bit different to down home where at the time of writing this I am still contemplating the right time to cut meadow hay following a cold snap that put snow on the Adelaide hills in October. Having seen all the recently burnt ground and exposed rocks I felt for our geological mapping team who were currently mapping in a sea of buffel grass and other good seasonal growth whilst dodging wildfires, punctures and snakes in far north SA (this was my alternative to Kununurra!)

The ARS conference is now my only indulgence in the vast array of conferences and  workshops that are so aggressively marketed through our networks these days. I  attend and support it as it is very relevant to my work and brings together a great blend of experience, practical knowledge and science from a range of participants both old and new from across rangeland, government, science, education and community backgrounds. Sessions are diverse and cover all aspects of rangeland management from buffel grass to sandalwood, Gouldian finches to camels and fine wool merinos in Tassie to Brahmans in the Top End.

The conference is also casual (I only spotted one tie on the conference floor) whilst still proceeding at a determined and well managed pace and fosters a great degree of networking between all of those mentioned above.

Having the field trips on day one was great (although you couldn’t go to all of them) as it broke the ice for many and got everyone used to seeing each other in shorts and thongs for the next few days. The daily sessions were well paced, interesting and well attended and enticed a good array of questions and feedback from the floor.

Highlights for me from this week were many but especially seeing the passionate presentations by local indigenous rangers about their work in environmental rangeland management in their own traditional lands. The ‘no holds barred’ plenary discussions and land users Q&A forum were also excellent and in my opinion should be further developed for future events.

Social events as usual were excellent and again congratulations to the organisers and locals who made them happen.

Looking forward to the next ARS conference.


Photo 1.  Smoky sunset just north of Kununurra, September 2012


Reflections on a few fantastic days in the Kimberley – Angus Whyte, Wyndham Station via Wentworth

I flew into Darwin very early on Saturday (22nd) morning, spent a few hours going around the Parap markets and getting some supplies for the trip to Kununurra (850km).  I had to wait as Annabel Walsh and Becky Kossler flew in to Darwin at 2pm, then we all drove to Katherine then on to Kununurra on Sunday arriving in Kununurra at about 3pm local time (to register) after some detours and sightseeing on the drive from Katherine (another story!).

On the first Sunday evening we all met up at the “Grande” in Kununurra for drinks, nibbles and meet & greet etc.  So good to see some faces that I unfortunately only ever see every 2 years at these conferences.  We caught up and prepared ourselves for the next few days of listening to all the great things that are happening in the rangelands.  I must admit I was home fairly early as I never really adjusted to the time zone there, so most nights about 9-9.30pm saw me in bed, flip side was out of bed at 5.30am so I had no trouble being up in time to catch the bus for the “Kings in Grass Castles” tour to Newry Stn (and beyond!).

Newry Station is owned by Consolidated Pastoral Co. (CPC) and is managed by Tom & Camellia Shephard.  The property is situated about 70km East of Kununurra just in N.T. – we arrived at the homestead just in time for a cuppa.  Matt Bolam started the talks off by explaining the management strategy used on Newry and some of the challenges that they have, i.e. flood gates being washed away in the wet so stock making their own arrangements, large paddocks and labour issues. We didn’t spend any time looking through the pasture which I would have liked to have done, however we did spend a while talking about the production systems that are managed across the rangelands. This was very important because sometimes rangeland scientists seem to forget that people live out here and need to make money!

We then moved on to Dingo Springs, which is a beautiful spot on a lovely creek that is part of “Keep River Site of Conservation Significance”; it certainly is important to Matt Bolam who spoke passionately about his love of the area and the Gouldian Finches, who from time to time call this home.  We also heard about the work the WA government is doing on controlling donkeys and the innovative ways they are using to cull the animals.

The next stop was the Zebra rock mine for lunch and a look at the beautiful colours that occur in the rocks.  We had a very nice meal of “silver cobbler” (catfish) for lunch, before back on the bus and to the WA border.

At the WA-NT border we heard how important biosecurity was to the WA people, how much they valued it and also how it was enforced.  They make sure that not only fruit and vegies are left at the border, but also that stock are dipped and trucks washed out to reduce weed infestations.  We arrived back at Kununurra at about 3pm, in time to get ready for a great Kimberley BBQ at the Country Club, again lots of chat, drinks and great food.

Tuesday morning was the start of formal proceedings in the Leisure Centre.  The day started with a quick welcome followed by an opening, then into the papers which is what we came for. We started with Professor Jerry Holechek from New Mexico USA who helped outline where he thought our finite energy supplies, land degradation, population growth and urbanisation may take our food production systems.  Out of that it all seemed to show some great opportunities for the rangelands in the healthy production of food/fibre and that people would need to shift closer to their food sources as energy supplies dropped.

We then moved on to some papers about the impact climate change may have on our production systems and also the cost of dust storms.  To me these all had similar conclusions in that we had to encourage and retain more ground cover, perennial plants and reduce run off.

After lunch the papers presented seemed to get very complex and certainly much more scientific that practical, so I must admit I zoned out for a bit.  Unfortunately there seemed to be a theme of either production or conservation, both can’t happen together.  This suggested that in the 200 odd years we have been here we have actually learnt nothing about our environment, let alone how to harvest produce from our environment while enhancing ecological health.  When Tim Wiley came on as the last speaker and actually spoke about asking and respecting the values of the landholders as well as the local community my ears shot up. Tim is working with Peedamulla Station out from Port Hedland,WA looking for a new way to plan for agricultural production across a diverse landscape while maintaining or enhancing environmental and cultural values.  What Tim did differently was that he actually asked the owners what they wanted/needed and the values they would like respected, then he overlayed this with the production options for land types so the owners could find a unique production system that met all of their needs, while respecting their values.

Then “D day” arrived.  I had to give a presentation on Wednesday morning so I had to be sharp and on time for kick off.  The focus on the day was production systems in the rangelands, this series of talks had the only two farming landholder talks on the conference including mine.  I won’t mention my talk as more will be published in rangeland publications in the future.  We heard from MLA about the fact that costs for the northern pastoral industry are rising at 2.5%/yr and production increases are around at 1.2%/yr – if we are going to stay profitable something needs to change.  We also heard a couple of talks about future direction of beef industry and grazing management.

Photo 2:  Angus Whyte presenting his talk at the Kununurra Leisure Centre

The next session started with a talk on the risks versus the rewards of intensifying grazing through more waters and fences.  This combined with a couple of other talks in the session went a fair way towards explaining the divide between scientists and practitioners.  While scientists can put together projects that will test various parameters, evaluation systems and ways of monitoring, they have no concept of managing the land or the livestock.  I think that if the skills of rangeland managers were respected more then that would be reciprocated.  We also heard from Nan Bray (the other landholder) from Tasmania talking about the value of leaving family groups of livestock intact (not weaning) so that the mother could adequately train their offspring about the plants in the ecosystem and their roles in the diet.  This may also be valuable for the protection of newborns if the whole family are able to assist warding off predators rather than just the mother.

After lunch on Wednesday Ben Forsyth facilitated a panel session and asked the floor for some questions.  There was some very good discussion around food production, live export and landscape management – issues that are important to us all.

That night we all went out to “The Hoochery” for a fantastic dinner.  This is the local rum distillery and obviously an institution.  We had a beautiful dinner and as advertised the power at Kununurra is very good for 23 hours a day.  We had a blackout for most of the dinner.  I’m sure all went home bellies full of lovely food and also some of the local brew.  I know I tested some of the different varieties.

The last day of the conference saw two concurrent sessions, one on “Fire management in a carbon economy”, the other on “Understanding rangeland ecosystems and assessing impacts”.  I chose to go to the rangeland one which was sponsored by the Western CMA.  The major point that I took out of this session were that in order to monitor and reduce impact scientists and agency staff need to work with the land managers so they can see the issues developing in the landscape, such as erosion, weeds etc. and then assist them in finding ways to deal with them in a targeted efficient approach.

In the afternoon we heard about weeds and goats in western NSW as well as the need for a new approach to land management in the southern rangelands of WA (this area is as big as NSW!)  This reinforced that our rangelands are decreasing in productivity and that this decline needs to be turned around.  However, as there are so few people living in parts of the rangelands this will be very difficult.

The Conference was summed up by Ron Hacker who did a great job of producing an “executive summary”.  Ron pointed out that each conference there seemed to be fewer rangeland scientists; this was starting to get to a “tipping point” and he felt their input wasn’t being respected by the broader community.  This could equally be said for farmers and agency people involved in the rangelands as all feel very under-respected in the current climate.  Maybe if we all feel we aren’t being respected then we need to all work together more to make sure that the science is relevant and that is used on ground.  I think that agency staff need to broker outcomes between scientists and rangeland managers to make sure the outcomes are used in the field and there is constant feedback both ways.

I know when I walked out of the conference I did wonder “what’s next?”  What outcomes had we decided upon?  What areas do we need to improve on? I  can only hope that everyone walks away with a bit more knowledge to do a better job in their role in the rangelands.  It will be very interesting to see what happens when the next conference comes along in 2014.

I would especially like to thank Bestprac and the Lower Murray-Darling CMA for their support so that I was able to travel up there and not just attend the conference, also experience the beautiful area known as “The Kimberley.”



Reflections on the ARS Conference – Kevin Ingram, Aston Station, Pooncarie

I’m Kevin Ingram from Aston Station, Pooncarie, which is situated in the Lower Western Division of NSW.  Our business partnership, which includes my wife Robyn and son Bryan, run a controlled grazing enterprise over semi-arid rangelands on slightly undulating, sandy loam country.  I have previously attended Australian Rangeland Conferences in Broken Hill,  Renmark and Bourke and an International Rangeland Conference in Durban, South Africa.  Having never visited the Kimberley Region, the Kununurra Conference was a great incentive to me to attend.  I am grateful to Bestprac (Rangeland Best Practice and Innovation) for sponsorship to attend.

“Celebrating diversity: people, place and purpose” was a truly applicable theme for the conference.   I saw the range of landscape diversity from the East Kimberley Ranges involving the Durack Family “Kings in Grass Castles” history, to the wildlife activity of the scenic waterways of Lake Argyle and the Ord River.  Business diversity was evident in agriculture, horticulture, tourism and mining developments.  From indigenous culture and art to future beef production programs, I had a truly extraordinary experience.

I relish the opportunity of meeting passionate people from rangeland regions to continue my lifetime learning.  I must say I enjoyed the social aspects of the Conference from the Civic Reception at the Pinctada Kimberley Grande, the Kimberley BBQ at the Kununurra Country Club and the Gala Dinner by moonlight at Hoochery Distillery.  My second choice field bus trip to Lake Argyle and the return 55km cruise along the stunning Ord River was inspiring, educational and certainly the highlight of my first trip to this region of WA.

I would like to highlight a couple of points from the conference:

  • I learned (as is true in all holistic planning), the importance of planning and communication between all stakeholders for optimal fire management.  There were presentations and posters on balancing ecological and environmental objectives in controlled burns; on smoke management; on planning for prescribed cool spring burns, to the art of creating mosaic landscapes in some range areas.  However the major concern of all stakeholders arises from the number of fires lit by arsonists. These lead to erosion and dust problems created by hot fires.
  • The recently formed National Rangeland Alliance is a collaboration of fourteen rangeland ‘National Resource Management’ (NRM) bodies. Its initiative is to highlight the importance of productive and resilient rangelands. It aims to demonstrate the importance of targeting ground cover percentages as a key driver of organic soil carbon storage. Increased soil carbon leads to improved landscape biodiversity and may be achieved by strategic rest.
  • The development and implementation of a Field Based Data Entry System (FDE), used in land condition monitoring, will greatly enhance the time and accuracy of programs such as Ausplots and the Rangeland Assessment Program (RAP). The system comprises specifically designed software and field-rugged hardware which reduces time for both recording and reporting and increases accuracy. These standardized record and report surveys on permanent plots are essential across Australian Rangelands to maintain baseline data on vegetation and soils; as well as noting biomass changes, species mix and organic soil carbon data.(Aussie GRASS at www.longpaddock.qld.gov.au/)
  • Several speakers emphasised the ability of rangelands to adapt to rest and recovery, by pastoralists incorporating short stocking periods combined with long rest periods; so promoting higher growth rates and deep rooted pastures. This equates to a fully charged battery, rather than an overused, depleted one. An ability to adapt to change creates resilience in people and businesses.
  • Sustainable natural resource management requires planning and research to be complemented by strong community engagement and input. Such progressive collaboration has the capacity to monitor and manage water resources across regions, and to develop a broad approach to landscape management for conservation and production. This can enhance future initiatives and programs focusing on the impacts of weeds, ferals and fire regimes

Below are summarised additional thoughts and perceptions I formed from the posters, presentations and from networking with varied participants:

  • Time management is crucial in all relationships
  • Short term animal impact increases soil fertility
  • A diversity of plants increases animal choice
  • Increasing standing dry matter reduces wind and dust impact
  • Remote monitoring reduces fossil fuel consumption
  • Keep your business simple – 3Ps: people, productivity and profitability
  • The rangeland environment is complex: consider plants, birds, ants, reptiles, small mammals and macropods
  • Adapt to climate variability by having a flexible stocking rate
  • Future Rangeland Resilience needs 3Ps: purpose, people and priority

I believe the Conference itself lacked some enthusiasm and could have had more participation from delegates. Also the poster presenters could have designated speaking times, say 2-5 minutes; or alternately give a short presentation to the complete Conference audience so all delegates have the opportunity to hear their ideas.


A Student’s Perspective – Meg Humphrys, Charles Sturt University


My name is Meg Humphrys and I am a student in Albury, New South Wales at Charles Sturt University. I recently returned to Australia from studying in the Oregon in the United States for a year. While abroad I studied some courses in the Rangeland Department at Oregon State University.  On a class field trip a few of the professors were talking about the International Rangeland Conference that was held in Australia and told me about the up and coming Australian one to be held in Kununurra. I decided if the American’s knew about it, then I certainly should too! I looked it up as soon as I could and booked my place. As a student the price was very reasonable. However, Kununurra is fairly remote therefore expensive to get to so the associated travel costs were high but I had never been to WA before which was an added incentive to make the trip.


I caught a bus, a train, another bus and three planes to get there. The haze from the smoke on the way there made the flight less aesthetically pleasing than I had anticipated but the company on the plane was great as most people were flying to the conference. The hospitality in remote places never seems to amaze me and at the airport I was met by the man I had organized to stay with on recommendation from a good friend. He takes couch surfers although I was not one of them I was warmly welcomed. Later that afternoon he took a couch surfer also staying at his house and myself to a Hash House Harriers hike up some of the ranges about 20kms from Kununurra. It was a great hike despite being very hot and the scenery was amazing, a fantastic way to be welcomed to the Kimberleys.



Photo 3. Meg Humphrys enjoying the Hash House Harriers hike in the ranges near Kununurra prior to the Conference





Photo 4.  The view from the top!



On Monday morning I arrived at the Leisure Center, checked in and was given a splendid bag, drink bottle and other goodies then ushered on a bus and taken out to one of the local parks. I was on the “Caring for Country” field trip, which I thought was the most appropriate to my degree, which is in Environmental Science and Management but it was a tough decision.


The field trip was a fantastic introduction to the area and gave a good overview of the types of issues that are faced, how they are managed and what work still needs to be done in the region. It was really good to hear about different park management strategies that they use to mitigate visitors through improve access, facilities and hopefully as a result enjoyment. The trip helped me appreciate how much thought goes into the creation of National Parks. I also enjoyed listening to the way that the local Indigenous people were working with the parks to gain mutual benefit and understanding. I was impressed with the amount of work that is going into engaging Aboriginal people.


The evening barbeque event was a great networking opportunity in a relaxed setting. Almost everyone wore their nametags and that was useful because it help to identify people with organisations that I may have wanted to approach. It was a great to talk to people and hear about the different places they worked for and what they were doing.


The following few days presentation’s gave a great overview of the current major focuses in the rangelands such as projects and issues that are emerging, new research findings, different models that are used and a general interactions to be aware of. It was nice hear people speak that I had met or seen and what they were working on. I also enjoyed seeing the different structure of government bodies and industry related organisations so I know what types of places I may look to for employment when I finish my degree.


As an enthusiastic person about most things, I found the conference helped channel my thoughts into what I found I was really interested in. While listening to the presentations some topics had my complete attention while others I thought were good but I wasn’t really interested in. That is really useful because as I come to the end of my degree it definitely helps if there is a specific direction that I know I want to go in.


The final dinner at the Hoochery was fantastic and a great way to wrap up the conference. The settling was beautiful and the food was incredible!  I was lucky enough to receive a spare ticket from a very nice man (whom I am unsure if I should name), which I met at the barbeque on Monday night. I would not have attended it otherwise due to the price.


The presentation’s I found most enjoyable from the entire conference were on Thursday both in the morning and afternoon. The topics covered were very relevant to my interests and the speakers were great. The ‘Understanding rangeland ecosystems and assessing impacts’ talked about the functionality of the landscape and how it can be assessed and monitored. I think that functionality is really important because without knowing a bit about that it is impossible to manage it. The morning’s presentations were nicely complimented with the afternoon’s presentations on policy development and implementation.


In summary as a student I would defiantly recommend attending the conference, or any conference as a way of learning about the industry you are trying to get into.  I met a lot of great people, learnt more than I could have learnt in the week I missed of university and gained a much better understanding of working in the rangelands. The rangelands in Australia may cover a huge area but it is a relatively small place population-wise and hopefully through the attending the conference I got my foot in the door.


A Consultant’s Perspective – Catherine Whitehead, Environmental Scientist, GHD Darwin

I found the Australian Rangeland Society 17th biennial conference in Kununurra to be very informative.  I attended the conference with the hope of hearing about what research and management practices are being undertaken in the rangelands, particularly in northern Australia.

I particularly enjoyed the fire management session and the field day. It was extremely relevant and demonstrated just how much work is still to be done.  It was great to see the involvement of indigenous rangers in fire management around the area with DEC.

I hope to take what I learnt at the conference to my work in the rangelands of northern Australia.   I am relatively new to the rangelands and I enjoyed meeting many interesting people and hearing about their work.


Interview with Jerry Holecheck (Department of Animal and Range Sciences, New Mexico State University) – Rod Safstrom, Department of Agriculture and Food WA


Jerry Holechek gave the Keynote address at the conference.   I asked Jerry three questions after the Conference and also asked him to describe his favourite rangeland place:


What are three messages you may have for rangeland producers?


The first question needs some background. At the conference Jerry shared in his keynote address, and in his discussions with many at the Conference, his concern that the relatively stable economic conditions we have experienced in Australia may not last very much longer. He pointed to the real potential for rapidly increasing fuel prices, production costs, interest rates and volatile world economic conditions from the outfall of extreme debt and chronic trade deficits in the United States and European Union countries. Australia’s narrow resources export focus and simplified economy that is highly reliant on China may not be sustainable as China’s demand for these resources may not be maintained. He also pointed to increasing human populations, the need to avoid food shortages and famine, and increasing demand and prices for meat.


Given this background Jerry had the following key messages for livestock producers:

  • De-leverage and clear all or part of debt
  • Contain costs, particularly energy and supplementary feed costs because these costs are likely to increase steeply in the next few years
  • Diversify operations and portfolio of investments where possible. He recommended that range producers invest about 25% of their profits back into their ranch or station, keep at least 25% in cash, and invest the remainder in diversified assets.

What were three highlights of the Conference for you?

  1. The producers field tour. Jerry really appreciated seeing real Australian operations in action and meeting and hearing from the Australian characters, the workers, foreman and station manager, particularly as this was coupled with forage, strategic grazing and economic research and conservation considerations.
  2. Jerry attended all the proceedings, perhaps the first time he had not skipped out of a conference for a while. He appreciated the diversified approaches and felt that there was a greater emphasis on a landscape approach including: integration of sustainability; feral animals; weeds; carbon sequestration opportunities, the concerns of and for Indigenous people, aesthetics and wildlife, than in the US.
  3. The number of discussion on the role and distorting economic impact of mining on the Australian economy and potential for loss of high quality agricultural land to mining.

What will you tell your friends in America about Australia when you get back home?

  • Australians like to have a good time and not get too serious about things
  • He enjoyed seeing more of Australia and was struck by the relative homogeneity of our landscapes compared with the US
  • Reinforcement of his view that Australia is in a precarious situation and reaching a point of probable crisis with real estate prices over-valued, our high dependency on China, and the very high level of private sector debt with no Plan B in place.
  • Australia needs to focus on export-orientated value adding industries.

Favourite rangeland place?


My favourite rangeland place is the base of Mount Kilimanjaro at the Amboseli Reserve in Kenya. I love this place because of its beauty, wildlife, history, and uniqueness. I have enclosed a picture taken in June 2009 at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro.


Jerry asked me to pass on his appreciation to the Conference organisers and all the participants who had helped make his time so rich. Jeremy was a very generous contributor to the Conference. “I very much appreciate the opportunity and enjoyed seeing the countryside and meeting so many friendly, interesting people.”




Interview with John Milne (Editor- in-Chief, The Rangelands Journal) – Rod Safstrom, Department of Agriculture and Food WA


I also asked John for three highlights, some messages for us Aussie rangelanders, what he will tell his friends about us and about his favourite rangeland place:


What were three highlights of the Conference for you?

  1. A good balance of papers and people at the conference with pastoralists, government agencies, research agencies and students present as the rangelands are about the environment and the people
  2. The venue worked very well in enabling good interaction with a nice atmosphere created by having the proceedings, the poster papers and meals all in the one space
  3. The quality of most of the papers was as good as equivalent conferences anywhere in the world.

What are messages do you have for Australian rangelanders?

  • Social scientists feature strongly in The Rangeland Journal but did not feature in this conference.  It would be good to address this.
  • Biodiversity did not feature in the papers presented giving an unbalanced perspective. It would be good to address this too.
  • The rangelands of Australia are very diverse. This results in some papers being pertinent to one region and not relevant to some of the participants. Presenters may need to be aware of this in their presentations so that the regional subtleties are explained.
  • We need the ‘big rangeland science players’ at conferences to give leadership and academic perspective.
  • Concurrent sessions could be considered for the conferences as a way of creating space for robust plenary discussions after presentations. Plenary discussions require strong leadership with key issues identified.

Photo:  John Milne, Editor-in-Chief of The Rangelands Journal (pictured right) is interviewed by Rod Saftstrom during the conference.



What will you tell your friends in the UK about Australia when you get back home?

  • Australia still has an active pool of rangeland scientists compared with other developed countries.
  • Australia has gone down a carbon-trading route unlike other countries and it will be interesting to see how successful this is, given the distortions that can arise from such market mechanisms.
  • Australia lacks a multi-benefit objective policy for its rangelands, it does not have the mechanisms to achieve the current objectives and the big players can distort things and create an uneven playing field.

Favourite rangeland place?


John’s favourite rangeland place is Causse du Larzac, France.   The Causse du Larzac is a limestone plateau which lies in the Aveyron Department in the south of France. It is part of a regional park and the milk of the sheep that are found on the plateau is used in the production of the Roquefort cheese. The land is clothed in rocks, sparse box and oak scrub, grasses and bare ground. It is cold and wet in the winter, and hot and dry in the summer.


I enthuse about this area because of its wildness and the diversity of flowers, birds and mammals as a result of the Causse having a mixture of Mediterranean and temperate climates.  In the spring and early summer the flowers are magical with 60 species of orchids and in the autumn the flowers of the Carline thistle, which is the emblem of the Causse, are outstanding.  Above all, I respect its long pastoral history and the determination of its people to eke out a living from such an inhospitable environment.”

ARS Travel Grant Report – Noelene Duckett, Editor, Range Management Newsletter

The 17th Biennial Conference in Kununurra was the first ARS Conference I had attended since the Port Augusta Conference in 1996. As in the past, it provided a great opportunity to catch up with many old colleagues and friends and also gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of new people, including both rangeland ‘newbies’ and ‘old-timers’.

I attended the conference with the primary aim of raising the awareness of the Range Management Newsletter and to encourage a wide variety of conference attendees to think about contributing articles for future issues. As the Editor of the RMN I have found that the newsletter is not always considered as a place to publish despite our widespread readership and frequent publication. I spoke to many delegates about writing articles and was definitely encouraged by the positive responses I received. I was also pleased to garner some positive feedback about the RMN – it is nice to know that some people are reading it and enjoying the articles! In particular, readers seem to be appreciating some of the more ‘newsy’ articles (informal articles on research in progress, conferences, government initiatives etc). Several people I spoke to also commented on how much they enjoyed the photographs in the on-line version of the newsletter (particularly as they are in colour and can be larger than in the printed version). If you are thinking of submitting an article don’t forget to include some photos as they do make a difference!

Attending the Conference also gave me a great chance to catch up face to face with a number of ARS people that I generally interact with only via email or phone. In addition to attending Publication Committee and Joint Council-Publication Committee meetings, I enjoyed chatting with Ken Hodgkinson (who, as Chair of the Publications Committee, helps me out a great deal) and Carol Ireland and John Taylor (who keep me up to speed with Council business). I also enjoyed finally meeting Graeme Tupper (who maintains the membership list and organizes the printing and posting of the every issue of newsletter for me), several members of Council, and Chris Anderson and Melinda Chandler from CSIRO Publishing.

I enjoyed both the formal and social sessions of the Conference with highlights including the field trip (especially the interactive session with the indigenous rangers) and the evening functions.

I would very much like to thank the Australian Rangeland Society for helping me attend the Conference with the assistance of an ARS Travel Grant.

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Peter Walker, 19 Talinga Place, Orange  NSW  2800.  Email:  peter.walker3@bigpond.com


The Soil Conservation Service of NSW has made a long and illustrious contribution to land management in the Western Division rangelands, first as a stand-alone agency from the early 1940’s till 1991, later subsumed into other government agencies and finally Catchment Management Authorities.  The Service was heavily involved in land, soil and vegetation surveys; land systems mapping; property management plans; development and implementation of rangeland restoration methodologies like waterponding, contour furrowing, tyne pitting, waterspreading and woody shrub control; input to clearing and cultivation applications; and many other extension and investigation projects.


Some of us who worked out there in the good old days decided to do a reunion tour around the northern part of the of the Western Division in September last, to remember old times, places and jobs, and to see how the country is faring.  We did hope to visit some old research sites but this turned out to be limited (a future project maybe!)


Fifteen of us, collectively representing about 170 years of Western Division experience, set out for 6 days, and some of us met up with Geoff Cunningham on the last night in Condobolin, which had been our regional headquarters.  Some are retired, some still doing a bit of consulting, and some still working.  We had variously been stationed at Condobolin, Bourke, Broken Hill, Hay, Buronga, Nyngan and Cobar.





Photo 1.  On the steps of the Bourke Lands Office.  Back Row: Peter Keane (ex Bourke); Third Row (L to R): Peter Barker (Bourke), Sandy Booth (Bourke and Buronga), Neal Irons (Bourke), Mark Arrow (Broken Hill and Condobolin), Peter Houghton (Condobolin), Bruce Alchin (Hay); Middle  Row: John Lawrie (Broken Hill), Bill Semple (Hay and Condobolin), David Eldridge (Hay and Broken Hill), Daryl Green (Cobar, Buronga and Condobolin); Front Row: John Quilty (Condobolin and Nyngan), Roger Stanley (Broken Hill), Peter Walker (Cobar and Condobolin), Peter Milthorpe (Broken Hill and Condobolin)


We stayed in Bourke, Fords Bridge (camping), Wanaaring (shearers’ quarters), Tibooburra, White Cliffs, Tilpa (camping) and Condobolin, and had a wonderful time, with good weather.  Some of us had not seen each other for 40 years, or had not met others who worked there at different times.  We were reintroduced to that marvellous and now harder to get West End beer.


We called on Ray Thompson at Nyngan: he has recently laid out his 50,000th waterpond: what an effort!  The demand is still as strong as ever.


We did make some observations of the country we saw.  There has been an excellent recent run of seasons, especially last summer and autumn, with a big flood along the Darling and Paroo.  The western lakes, fresh and salt, were full, with a large range of wildflowers.  The grass cover in all areas was phenomenal, and plenty enough to carry fire, even in the dense woody shrub areas of the west Darling and south of Milparinka.  One area burnt earlier this year near Wanaaring showed evidence of regeneration of woody shrub seedlings and regrowth of burnt bushes.  The country we saw was generally in the best condition any of us have ever seen.  The exceptions were some dense mulga stands around Byrock where there was absolutely no ground cover, and some hard mulga country just west of Cobar which was very bare.  It goes to show that most of this country is capable of production given the right (or only exceptional?) seasons.


There was some concern about the prevalence of goats and dorpers in the hard red country, with potential to graze harder than the traditional sheep and cattle.  The need to manage stock numbers though is really the key to grazing these and other rangelands.


We visited a site at “Wapweelah” near Enngonia, which has been exclosed from stock for 20 years and some of which had been bladeploughed to control woody shrubs.  David Eldridge showed us some results: woody shrubs have increased on all grazing and ploughing treatments but more so where they were ploughed.  On sites that were not ploughed soil carbon has increased by 28 t/ha over 20 years on the exclosed area and 21 tonnes on continually grazed areas; the carbon said to be worth $86/tonne.  A lively debate ensued about the economics of carbon farming vs sheep grazing.  No consensus was reached!


Sandy Booth and some others visited his 1978 shrub ecology research sites at Fort Bourke and Wanaaring.  While the hopbush, turpentine and punty had waxed and waned, it was interesting that some ironwood (Acacia excelsa) trees tagged in 1978 are still only 90cm tall while younger cohorts are several metres tall.  These observations prompted the comment that maybe some of these sites be reassessed given the longevity of the trials and the current state of the original tagged plants as well as the presence of untagged generations.


We saw some 20 year old contour furrows at “Kayrunnera” near White Cliffs, still very well defined and growing a range of chenopods and grasses, including bladder saltbush and old man saltbush, which we think were sown.  No expansion away from the furrows, as happened at Cobar years ago, but the vigorous growth in the furrows attests to the success of the technique on what was originally bare ground.


Amongst knee high green Panicum on the Darling floodplain we talked about the concept of average carrying capacity, when capacity will  range from 10 sheep per hectare in times like this to 0, and everywhere in between.  Again, the matching of stocking rate to feed availability was raised, and the benefits of stock mobility.


We stopped down the Cobar road in what is open woodland with good grass cover, but a dense crop of hopbush about 20cm high: a sign of things to come.


We visited the Cobar Experimental Area, which was contour furrowed in 1963.  It has long since been reopened to normal grazing, but there are still signs of the furrow depressions and vegetation, and some of the old transect pegs, 49 years later! Most of the area has stayed fairly open but woody shrubs and trees seem to be on the increase. We also visited a waterspreading scheme constructed in 1971 by John Quilty near Nymagee.  It is still there and working, though there has been bank damage which needs repair.  There are bimble box trees along the banks up to 10m high and 20cm diameter.


We stopped at the Booberoi Regeneration Area, west of Condobolin, which was exclosed from stock in the 1950’s.  Some 60 years on it has dense growth of white cypress pine and woody shrubs whereas the surrounding grazing land remains an open woodland.





Photo 2.  Booberoi Regeneration Area, west of Condobolin


We think there would be great benefit in some old fellas revisiting old experimental sites, rephotographing and doing a few easy measurements, to gauge the long term results.  We also think it would be good to take along some current staff to pass on some wisdom.  With the lack of resources these days we would even do it for nothing: an excuse to get back to the good country!


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Daryl Green from Dubbo, New South Wales recently retired after nearly forty years working in the rangelands of NSW.  Last year he was awarded the NSW Public Service Medal for Meritorious Service.


Personal Background


On being asked to write this by Noelene I checked what Don Blesing had written and was very surprised to see that we had several things in common.  Like Don I was born and raised on a sheep and wheat farm, but in the northern Riverina of NSW.  Bush things like pony club, tennis, rabbit trapping and yabbying took up a lot of our time.  We had an un-cleared rocky hill on our place that we kids spent a lot of time wandering around and this unwittingly started my interest in plants and landforms.  It was only later that I realized that we had ‘discovered’ an un-described Pterostylis green-hood orchid and the quite rare beard orchid (Calchilus robertsonii) – to us they were just some of ‘our’ wild flowers.


Primary school was at a small bush, one teacher school that only had 12-15 students during my schooling and only two in my class.  We lived about 8 kilometres from school and for a couple of years I drove my brother and older sister to school in a horse and buggy – quite a surprise for our city bred teacher!  For my secondary schooling I went to Yanco Agricultural High School – a selective, state boarding school near Leeton in the RIverina.  After coming from a small school I loved the company, sporting teams and education opportunities at Yanco.  After high school I was lucky enough to gain a NSW Government traineeship in the Soil Conservation Service so I headed off to Armidale to start a Rural Science degree.  Despite enjoying myself probably too well at Uni I managed to graduate within the prescribed four years.  Due to my SCS traineeship I needed to change to Agricultural Science in fourth year to do extra units in Soil Science, Soil Conservation and Plant Ecology.  The latter proved very beneficial when I started working in the rangelands; as did the overall Rural Science philosophy of ‘Agricultural Ecology’.


Work History


As a Soil Conservation Service (SCS) trainee I was bonded to the SCS for five years (or the then large amount of $2000) and was soon posted to Cobar in April 1973 to work with Peter Walker – Geoff Cunningham and Peter Milthorpe were my bosses.  I had previously spent time out around Wilcannia with school mates so the West of NSW was not too big a surprise for me.


I planned to stay in Cobar for around two years but spent thirteen years there, with the rangelands becoming firmly mixed in my blood.  The seventies and eighties were an exciting time in the rangelands around Cobar with CSIRO carrying out many research programs – people such as Alan Wilson, Bill Mulham, Graeme Harrington, Ken Hodgkinson, Dean Graetz and many others were very active and as local extension officers we were often included in discussions and planning.  Likewise we had the opportunity to carry out small research investigations into rangeland management in our own right.  In the late seventi es NSW Agriculture also established their Rangelands Research Unit at Cobar, with Tony Grice being one of the initial appointments. During this  time I worked on soil conservation projects, property planning, woody weed management with fire and goat grazing, rangeland monitoring and the development/impacts of clearing and cropping in the Western Division. I attended one of the two ran ge monitoring workshops at Fowlers Gap in 1973 and this stimulated my career interest in rangeland monitoring.


After Cobar I spent two and a half years in Buronga with the SCS where I was lucky enough to be asked to prepare recommendations to ameliorate soil erosion on key archaeological sites in the Willandra World Heritage Area, as well as preparing reports on property management for the twelve properties in the Area.  The former allowed me to see some very restricted archaeological sites.


I was then promoted to the SCS regional office in Condobolin as a specialist rangelands officer.  While there I designed and implemented the NSW Rangeland Assessment Program (RAP) – a monitoring program that now has some twenty years of annual monitoring information for much of the Western Division.  In the early nineties the government started to fiddle with departments and we went through several iterations but the rangelands issues did not change.  During this time I sat on several national groups as the rangeland representative for NSW.  After thirteen enjoyable years at Condobolin I moved to Dubbo and in 2004 I took on the job as the first General Manager of the Western Catchment Management Authority; which I held until my retirement last year.  I was very lucky to hold such a great job for the last seven years of my career.  Now I am doing some small scale consulting work to keep my rangeland interests on the agenda.


I had always intended to return to farming however the timing never seemed to be right.  I would have found it hard to leave the rangelands to go back to cropping!


Other Interests/Hobbies


I have a wife, we married when we lived in Cobar and three grown up daughters but no grandchildren as yet!  I also sit on the board of the Orana Education Cooperative, a community-based not-for-profit in Dubbo.  My other passions include rugby – I still play the odd game of Golden Oldies, golf (more of a curse than a passion), reading, music (eclectic), fishing, gardening and travelling – both overseas and around Australia.


What spurred your interest in the Rangelands?


I think it was partly my rural background, partly the ‘agricultural ecology’ approach to management but it was mostly the early years of working with both landholders and researchers to better manage our rangelands that spurred me on to continue my rangelands career.  The inclusive approach to rangeland management that had researchers, pastoralists, extension officers and land administrators (mostly) working for a common outcome appealed to me.


When and why did you join the ARS?


I was one of the early members of the ARS; I think I joined in the year of its formation.  I recall being involved in some of the early discussions regarding the formation of the Society and the debate over the name and particularly the acronym!  I probably joined initially because of the very high level of rangelands activity in the seventies and I have continued because of the great value I receive from The Rangeland Journal, the RMN and the Conferences.  I have a complete set of the journal and RMN in my library.


How has the ARS helped you?


A difficult question to answer; the ARS has been part of my professional and career support for most of my working life.  I think the key area of help has been as a venue for the meeting of people with common interests and ideas, whether through the publications or through the Bi-annual conferences.  The Conferences in particular encourage the development of strong rangeland networks, allowing the regular renewal of acquaintances across all of Australia.  The opportunity to travel to conferences at places such as Alice Springs, Carnarvon, Kununurra etc. and see local issues presented and discussed should not be underestimated! In addition the stimulus to attend International Rangelands Congresses (I have been lucky enough to attend three) is important.


I have found The Rangeland Journal to be a great source of information for myself and my staff.  It is a key outlet for Australian and overseas research on rangelands.


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


The key issues I see that the rangelands are facing include:

  1. The lack of a clear ‘rangelands voice’ that can be heard and understood by the great majority of Australians who live outside the rangelands. The rangelands and the rangeland communities have little say in their own future, sometimes having inappropriate policies imposed upon them.
  2. Climate change impacts may be positive or negative for different areas of the rangelands but the uncertainty of the quantum and direction of change may undermine confidence in the future. Conversely, the ecological approach of rangeland management may be a valuable asset for ‘export’ to non-rangeland areas under predicted climate change scenarios.
  3. Invasive species further disrupting the ‘natural’ rangelands systems, changing both production and natural values.
  4. Realizing the great opportunities that exist for the rangelands to become a key protein supply to the expanding demand from Asia, particularly India and China. The lack of support for processing of stock within Australia is a major issue, considering the ongoing debate regarding ‘live exports’.

Despite these issues I see a great future for our rangelands – the improvements in on-ground management have been substantial during my career, the current business approach, combined with recognition of the need to protect our natural systems by most land managers augurs well for the future.


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Richard Silcock, Agri-Science Queensland, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, GPO Box 267, Brisbane  Qld  4001.  Email: Richard.Silcock@daff.qld.gov.au

Though satellites are the preferred method of monitoring territory by governments, there are some things that the bird in the sky cannot do. One of these is to determine pasture composition. Given that this is a vital ingredient for graziers and wildlife, schemes for doing this were put in place many decades ago. Under that policy the Queensland Government in conjunction with the wool industry, set up transects and exclosures in a few key areas to monitor what was really happening – to validate or refute what people were saying about the state of the land and their pastures. Such monitoring also allowed the vagaries of climate to be largely eliminated from the effects of land management when any changes were measured objectively.

A few years ago, I reported on changes over 40 years from some of the transects in south-west Queensland (Range Management Newsletter July 2006). Now I make some observations about an exclosure that were set up in the mid 1960s by those legends of mulga research, Bill Burrows and Ian Beale. Maintaining the integrity of wire fences to exclude large grazers is always a problem but sometimes lady luck smiles on us and this happened on the Eulo – Hungerford road in sandplain mulga/hopbush country. The exclosure there was set up in February 1966 in a very dry time. Recordings continued sporadically until the late 1980s when funding for such research/monitoring effectively ceased. However, some sites like this one have been revisited and photographed while driving past on other duties. So I present here a few snapshots that tell a bit of a story and reinforce the conclusions reached in the report of Beale et al. 1986. (Final Report to Australian Wool Corporation K/2/900B Grazing land productivity and stability) that when fire and sheep are excluded from mulga country, mulga may regenerate from seed in some profusion.

The exclosure is 40 yards by 10 yards for a good reason. Research funding was tight and so each exclosure (only 17 were set up in this project) consisted of a 100 yard roll of dog-netting wire and a bundle of steel star pickets. Initial photographs were apparently not taken so the photographic record runs from 1973 and includes 1980, 1982, 2008 and 2012.   Unfortunately the 1980 snaps are facing the opposite direction to the rest and the comparable 1973 snap was exposed by film developers and has a white streak across it.  The Photos below shows the exclosure in 1973, 1982, 2008 and 2012.

The 1973 snap (Photo 1) shows similar degrees of grass density inside and out after 7 years exclusion of sheep and kangaroos, no obvious mulga shrubs and no Eremophila longifolia bush in the foreground. The main large shrubs are Eremophila sturtii and the principal perennial grass is Eragrostis eriopoda (woollybutt). Seasons had been generally poor to bad except for 1971. Termites quite like old, dry woollybutt stems and would be contributing to pasture removal at times.

Photo 1.  Eulo–Hungerford Road exclosure in 1973


By 1982 nothing much has changed but a small E. longifolia bush is in the foreground, more woollybutt tussocks exist in the foreground after the good years of the mid-70s (1975-78) & the old dead mulga stag is still there (Photo 2).  The 1980 snaps show young mulga trees about 2m tall behind the old shrubs and their presence is disguised in the 1982 photo shown here.

Photo 2. Eulo–Hungerford Road exclosure in 1982


We then take a 26 year leap in time to September 2008 (Photo 3), when seasons had been quite dry for several years except for 2007, to find several well-grown mulga trees inside the exclosure that almost hide the old mulga stag. The E. sturtii bush in the foreground of the plot has died and a young mulga replaces it. The E. longifolia bush in the near foreground is also dead now but (not shown) sand has accumulated around its base and many woollybutt plants are well established in that location. Woollybutt is still the dominant pasture grass but is thinned out compared to 1982 and extra green turkeybush (E. gilesii) plants are evident. Pasture density and bulk is again similar inside and outside the fence. Regeneration of mulga from seed was a consistent outcome inside the exclosures in mulga country. The density and vigour of green turkeybush on this sandy mulga country is nowhere near that seen in the hard-setting mulga soils of the region.


Photo 3.  Eulo–Hungerford Road exclosure in 2008


Now come up to the present day in 2012 (Photo 4) after consecutive wet years and we have lots of pasture inside and outside the exclosure. There are still very bare patches inside the SW corner of the exclosure that were not that bare originally or in 1982. I don’t know why but an underground termite nest is one possibility. The old mulga stags are still there on the western side and behind the mature mulga trees – they can last for decades and are not a reliable sign of recent calamities. After the recent excellent seasons, there is a wide range of perennial grass species with wiregrasses (Aristida spp.) prominent.


Photo 4.  Eulo–Hungerford Road exclosure in 2012


There is a lot of litter on the ground in 2012 both inside and outside the fence (the fence remains in fair order but has never been rabbit-proof & certainly has no effect on termite movement). There are new narrowleaf hopbushes (Dodonaea attenuata) inside and outside, many of which have established or at least grown to prominence in the recent good years. None of the mulgas have yet developed a distinct main trunk after several decades and may never do so in this landscape.

We have little information about the management of this site except that the owner, until recently, was a four-generation family business based on sheep and one who used careful hedging of big mulga as a drought fodder. A cool fire burnt through the site in late 1979 and the April 1980 photos (not shown) show little evidence of damage to the shrubs in the vicinity of the exclosure.

If you look for the exclosure on Google it is extremely hard to identify it’s location as these pictures would suggest, because there is no obvious difference in ground cover inside the fence. That contrasts with several other exclosures of the same era that are on claypans where the cover has changed considerably over time as loose soil was trapped around burrs and dead ungrazed herbage.

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Bill Bolton Smith, formerly of Wilangee Station Broken Hill, died on 13 August 2012 in Adelaide.  He was a Fellow of the Australian Rangeland Society.

Bill maintained an active interest in the Australian Rangeland Society particularly from the time of the formation of a Broken Hill Branch of the Society in 1977.  He was the inaugural President until 1982 when he retired, sold Wilangee and moved to Adelaide.  He continued to maintain an interest in the activities of the Society following his retirement.

Bill was particularly keen for pastoralists to be involved in the activities of the Rangeland Society and ensured that functions were held regularly to provide information and advice to pastoralists.  During his tenure as President, the Broken Hill branch organised 11 seminars, field days and special education courses for pastoralists in isolated communities of the Broken Hill district. These functions attracted large numbers of pastoralists.

He was particularly keen for pastoralists to participate in presenting papers at seminars and field days.  At a Seminar on “Financial Management for the Pastoralist” organised by the Branch in May 1979 he presented a paper on “The Financial Management of Wilangee Station”.  In his presentation he described the productivity and financial records of his family’s 30 years of management of Wilangee.  The proceedings of the Seminar were published by the ARS in the Australian Rangeland Journal.  His paper provided valuable benchmarks on rangeland production in the Broken Hill district.

His recognition of the role of pastoralists in helping their peers improve rangeland and business management and his willingness to contribute his experience freely to the discussion of issues confronting rangeland managers, is demonstrated in the abstract of his paper.  “In this paper I hope to lead you through the financial history of Wilangee Station. Through decisions we made, the mistakes we have made, the lessons we have learnt, the debts we have taken on and the profits we have we have made, our aim is to expose all of these facts so people may learn from them.”

Bill was always prepared to include sectional interests who may have been critical of pastoralism in dialogue and activities in the rangelands.  He was instrumental in organising tours with the Western Lands Commissioner, the late Dick Condon, in the Broken Hill district for people from conservation groups to inspect properties and talk to pastoralists and their families.

Bill was an active participant in a large range of committees and grazier organisations for the benefit of the pastoralist community. He served on the Council of the Pastoralists Association of West Darling from 1957 to 1982 and was president from 1967 to 1970.  He was a Director of the Broken Hill Pastures Protection Board 1960 to 1982 and was inaugural President of the West Darling Bushfire Prevention Scheme.  He was a member of the Wild Dog Destruction Board from November 1960 to June 1980 and served on the committee of the School of the Air P&C Committee.  In 1982 he was appointed an honorary member of the Graziers Advisory Committee of the Fowlers Gap Arid Zone Research Station after 15 years of service to the Committee.

Bill had a valuable ability to understand arguments around an issue and achieve a consensus position in a meeting.

Bill Bolton Smith was born in Broken Hill on 29 March 1926 to his parents Tom and Evelyn Bolton Smith of Wilangee Station. Apart from 1938 to 1941 when he attended Scotch College in Adelaide, he lived at Wilangee until he retired in 1982 and moved to Adelaide to live. He returned from school in 1941 to work on Wilangee as a station hand and took over management of the property when his parents retired to Broken Hill in February 1951. He married Enid Crace on 1 November 1950. He is survived by his wife Enid and children Gina, Rosie and Tom, 4 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.

Geoff Woods

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Kay Bailey, National Bellyache Bush Coordinator, Department of Land Resource Management, PO Box 1120, Alice Springs NT 0870. Email: kay.bailey@nt.gov.au.


The newly formed National Bellyache Bush Management Group (NBABMG) met in Kununurra on 28 September 2012, the day after the ARS Conference concluded. This enabled a number of the Group members to attend both events – making contacts, taking part in the proceedings and listening to the presentations.



Photo 1.  Members of the NBABMG visit a local bellyache bush infestation with Dick Pasfield of Ord Land and Water, 28 September 2012.



Information was provided at the Conference on the status of bellyache bush (Jatropha gossypiifolia) as a Weed of National Significance from April 2012. Since that time a National Bellyache Bush Strategic Plan has been developed after extensive public consultation. This Plan identified the formation of a national group as a high priority and has since been implemented with the NBABMG getting together for the first time in Kununurra.




Photo 2.  The Kimberley green biotype of bellyache bush (Jatropha gossypiifolia).



Membership of the NBABMG reflects the distribution of bellyache bush across the northern rangelands areas of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. It includes government, industry and community representatives with an independent community chair. The key role of the Group is to provide guidance, direction and policy advice on the management of this weed through implementation of the National Bellyache Bush Strategic Plan.


This first face to face meeting was an important one for the NBABMG. The aim was to discuss how to implement the strategic actions to prevent further spread of bellyache bush, reduce the impact of this weed where it currently exists and increase the capacity and willingness of the entire community to do the work required.


Further information on the national bellyache bush program is available at www.weeds.org.au/WoNS/bellyachebush.

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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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Please note that the Australian Rangeland Society Articles and Memorandum of Association were amended at the 2012 Annual General Meeting of the Society.  The amended document is available for viewing on the Society’s website under the “About us” heading or by using the following link:  https://www.austrangesoc.com.au/site/about_constitution.php

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