It was a happy coincidence when Jon Hodgetts’ Canadian holiday plans aligned with the 10th annual International Rangelands Congress, held July 16-22 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Jon, who is Territory NRM’s Tablelands Regional Coordinator, agreed to represent TNRM at the event, which focused on the future management of grazing and wild lands in a high-tech world.
He joined more than 500 people from 57 countries at the event, and recounts his experience below.
First Nations Hoop Dancer performing to IRC delegates at Wanuskewin Heritage Park
As luck would have it my presentation was in one of the first concurrent sessions so, after speaking about TNRM’s Territory Conservation Agreements program, I was able to spend the rest of the week taking it all in.
During my presentation I talked about the success of the now 5-year-old program, which has led to more than 39,000 hectares of land in the NT being voluntarily preserved and under conservation management.
The talk promoted discussion on how the program helps landholders manage threats such as bushfires and feral and roaming livestock grazing pressures as well as maintain the ecological value of sites that are often home to threatened species. (You can find out more about the program here)
TNRM Regional Coordinator, Jon Hodgetts, gives his presentation about Territory Conservation Agreements. Photo Credits: Kate Forrest and Mary-Anne Healy
There was a healthy Australian contingent at the Congress. While I couldn't see everyone I was able to catch strong presentations from John Gavin from Remarkable NRM, Kate Forrest of the Rangeland NRM Alliance, Mary-Anne Healy from South-West NRM and Sally Leigo of Precision Pastoral. Furthermore, fellow Alice Springs resident Pieter Conradie of the Northern Territory Government’s Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries was part of the poster sessions.
Pieter Conradie (L) of NTG's DPI at the poster session with Australian Rangelands Society President, David Phelps (C) and Roy Chisholm (R) of Napperby Station
Over the course of the week, keynote and session speakers represented the majority of the world’s rangelands, although there did seem to be an absence of Indigenous involvement through the talks.
One keynote speaker, Ryan Brook, gave an excellent presentation entitled Canadian Indigenous Peoples and Arctic/Grassland Use, however this was the only known talk that made extended reference to Indigenous peoples (in Western nations) providing rangeland management, be it formal or through traditional methodology.
This seemed to be an oversight of the conference and the only criticism of the week.
The Canadian Rangelands extend well into the northern provinces where traditional hunting and landscape management still occurs but the Canadian focus throughout the conference was largely on productive pastoral estate.
The highlights for me included a field day around the central part of Saskatchewan, traveling through three distinct eco-zones; prairie, aspen parkland and boreal forest, as we made visits to Melfort Research Farm and a learning centre belonging to Ducks Unlimited, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the conservation of wetlands and associated upland habitat.
Field trip to Melfort Research Farm
It was interesting to discover just how extensively managed the southern Canadian rangelands are. So much of the pastoral estate is managed forage cropping.
Melfort Research Farm performs a lot of trials into the best make-up of this farmland whereas Ducks Unlimited is looking to restore native grassland to the region and consequently benefit native pasture grazing for cattle and bison (slowly being reintroduced to the region) by buying up plots around high conservation value waterholes.
It was great to hear from groups performing similar work to TNRM. In addition to the Saskatchewan waterhole management of Ducks Unlimited, MULTISAR operate in Alberta as they partner with landowners to conserve grasslands species at risk in the province.
Overall, attending the congress was a wonderful experience and learning opportunity and it was encouraging to see so many other Australian representatives showcasing the great work that extends throughout our own rangelands.
To learn more about the event, check out the formal website at http://www.irc2016canada.ca/
To access presentations made at the congress, please see http://2016canada.rangelandcongress.org/papers.html#sthash.OJR7WUJH.TVhhvoiM.dpbs