Barney Foran, Institute of Land Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, Albury.  Email:


A forester/farmer friend driving fence pickets as part of BlazeAid in the Victorian bushfires mused that “We put the fences back exactly where they had been. There was no space for thinking beyond the status quo and what had been”. Whenever the crisis hits, there is no lack of heart, effort and money. We get things going again and we mostly recreate the past, but is this good enough?

Our paper in last year’s Rangeland Journal (see Foran et al., 2019) was the third of decadal rangeland futures thought pieces. Simply put, it proposes that our rangelands are out of sight and out of mind in policy terms. We must therefore become more creative and systemic in making effort and money go further. There will be periodic funding splurges for floods, fire and drought. We must plan well ahead to implement the grand strategies for our regions and communities. A town hall meeting after the flood is not best for clear minded strategic planning.

So can the Rangeland Society do more than cows and grass? Given the mind-bending range of expertise at this year’s biennial conference, of course it can, and must. Initially we could catalyse a “systemic investment and action plan” plan for one region (probably Central Western Queensland) with several agencies and communities involved. This concept could guide further plans for 15 NRM Regions in the Rangeland NRM Alliance.

Five headline points are as follows:

  • The crisis or disruption will come, so prepare regionally for it
  • Focus first on big monies, smaller buckets will help towns and people
  • New belief systems might be needed, beyond economic growth and efficiency
  • Our rangelands are relatively intact in world terms, so see that as the prime resource
  • Keep the plan live and available, and revisit biannually

We suggest ten concise chapters under the following headings will be enough to test the concept and highlight core priorities, as follows:

  1. Investment priorities under the $10/50/100 million funding options
    • this is upfront and draws on points 2-10 below
    • I would expect that quite different investments happen under the three funding tranches (issues of scale and scope)
  2. Demographic realities and possible future trends
    • should include fly in/out and traveller realities and futures
    • also an audit of all the institutions in a region with skin in the game
  3. Indigenous populations, location and extent of Indigenous owned land
  4. Makeup of Gross Regional Product
    • accurate contribution to regional dollar churn, employment and skills audit
  5. Critical infrastructure needs
    • includes major items like bridges, all weather roads, health clinics, network of good toilet stops, communications, power, water etc.
  6. Disruption futures
    • obvious one is climate change, temperature, floods but also fires, virus pandemics, market drop outs (live cattle trade, mine closures)
  7. Land use pattern, industries, activities, and problems
    • possible include carbon capture activities and potential
  8. Invasive plants and organisms
    • possibly include here the critical biodiversity assets and their need to be managed
  9. Doing old things better
    • traditional NRM and industry issues in which the Society is well versed
  10. New activities for jobs, economy and regional resilience
    • this is where real and mad schemes for new activities (that make a regional difference) get an airing
    • obviously have to have some reality filter and not require extensive R&D

Background Appendices would also be included containing the key reports and data files that underpin points 1-10 above

The ARS Council would be keen to hear feedback about such a systemic plan.  Please contact the President David Phelps ( or the Secretary Bob Shepherd ( if you have any comments.