Rangelands NRM staff learn principals to spearhead the sustainable pastoralism program

Rangelands NRM took their first step under the new Caring for our Country 2013-2018 strategy aimed at Sustainable Pastoralism last month by participating in Rangelands Rehydration training.  

All Rangelands NRM operations staff converged on Warrawagine Station on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert in the Pilbara to spend four days with Ken Tinley and Hugh Pringle learning the principals behind Ecosystem Management Understanding (EMU).  

Program Manager (Kimberley) Grey Mackay who participated in the training said the EMU program forms the foundation for Ecologically Sustainable Rangeland Management (ESRM) plans that Rangelands are using to spearhead the sustainable pastoralism program.  

The week began with an aerial survey for all staff to put what was observed on the ground in the context of the broader landscape.  

“The property sees its fair share of water with the confluence of the Oakover and Nullagine forming the De Grey River,” Mr Mackay said.   

“However, as we all know, fast flowing water can be just as devastating as no water at all. There were many processes at work across the property, making it an ideal blackboard for the rangelands staff to learn off.”  

Mr Mackay said for many of the participants, preconceived ideas and years of learning about managing the rangelands had to be set aside.   

“Our first lesson was to stop and look and learn to read the landscape. There are so many messages in front of us, that we often jump at the first one in an attempt to find an easy, inexpensive and quick fix,” he said.  

“On many occasions, a solution was proposed by the experienced group; only to have Ken walk us another 20 metres up an erosion gully to find a very different set of circumstances that required a completely different level of management.”  

The culmination came when everyone recorded all their observations and viewed them in the context of the pastoralist’s assessment of their property through an EMU workshop run several years earlier.

It then became a prioritisation process. Which actions could be taken and what changes could be made to protect the most valuable country? What areas would benefit from early preventative intervention rather than costly retrospective damage mitigation?  

“The training was invaluable, providing a foundation to work collaboratively with land managers, critique landscape processes and to better identify and prioritise critical points in the landscape,” Rangelands NRM Operations Manager, John Silver said.

The couple of days was an introduction to holistic management, using stock as an opportunity to be part of the solution and prioritising remedial activities. This is just one slice of the ESRM pie and collectively we now have a shared understanding.”

“As a team we will better utilise each other’s strengths to help inform the planning process,” Mr Silver said.    

The Rangelands NRM staff wish to thank the generosity of Ken and Hugh for sharing their wisdom and also Robin and Lyall Mills for taking time out of their busy lives to not only host our event, but on most occasions joined us each day to share their knowledge and their management ideas.  

Photo: L-R Jane Bradley, Mary-Anne (GAWA – Pilbara Corridors), Bevan Grey, John Silver, Tim Wiley, Ken Tinley (presenter), Hugh Pringle (presenter), Paul Ekelenz. Seated Robin and Lyall Mills (Warrawagine Station) and Bill Cotching. Absent from photo: Peter Russell, Grey Mackay, Greg Brennan (DAFWA).