Australian Rangeland Society

David Phelps, ARS President and Director.  Email: david.gphelps@bigpond.com

Welcome to the President’s column of the Range Management Newsletter. In this issue’s column, I would like to focus on the recent International Rangelands Congress (IRC) held in Saskatoon, Canada. It was a great conference which was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Even more importantly, there was excellent networking, exchange of information and ideas, and opportunities for collaboration identified amongst nearly 500 delegates from 48 countries. Congratulations to the Canadian organising committee for a well-run Congress.

Australia was well represented with 47 delegates, and we were the third largest contingent present. International, and our own Australian conferences, build life-long bonds between delegates with both personal and scientific benefits. They ensure that we can all learn from, and contribute to, the art and science of rangeland management around the globe. From the congress it was obvious that we contribute greatly to the people, livestock, wildlife and resources beyond our own borders. The USA continues to expand on the State and Transition Model approach that originated in Australia. Across northern Australia, the Grazing Land Management approach to land types, land condition, estimating safe carrying capacities, feed budgeting and wet-season spelling—which has its foundation in north American research—are clearly international best-management approaches.

Life-long learning, scientific discussion and debate, the exchange of ideas and fostering of friendships are all important to ensure we don’t become isolated in our research, extension and land management, and continue to increase the sophistication of rangeland science and management.

The ARS was pleased to sponsor three delegates through travel grants, and there were Australians travelling on other grants and scholarships as well. Many Aussies were there on their own time and money, however, showing just how highly Australians value the opportunity that International Rangelands Congress’ offer. I encourage everyone to find ways to attend future International (and Australian) conferences, even if you may not have the financial support of your workplace.

Keep an eye on announcements of the next ARS conference in South Australia, and encourage your friends and colleagues to attend with you.

The ARS Council was very well represented at the IRC, with all three Directors, Council members and our Membership Officer all there to help promote the ARS. We shared a trade-show booth with the NRM Rangelands Alliance and the Spatial Hub, showcasing membership benefits and The Rangeland Journal. The box full of Journals that CSIRO provided to give-away went very quickly indeed. We teamed up with CSIRO to sponsor a congress networking session (aka smoko), which gave us some stage time to promote both The Rangeland Journal and the ARS. This provided excellent exposure and generated strong interest in publishing in TRJ from a range of countries, which will help further build the international standing of our Journal. Many delegates were also going to return home to encourage their libraries to sign up to institutional subscriptions. Increasing readership will lead to increased impact factors and encourage more submissions from around the world. Importantly, we also collected a long list of names of people keen to join the ARS, after learning of the benefits of membership. Our travel grants, and next year’s conference, were of the most interest to our overseas colleagues.

Each IRC has its own organising committee based in the host nation, but it is the IRC Continuing Committee which provides advice, guidance, and continuity and encourages and evaluates bids for future conferences. I wish to congratulate Dana Kelly of Queensland for her peer election as the President of the IRC Continuing Committee. This is a distinct honour, and testimony to the respect that the International community holds Dana and Australian Rangeland science in.

The IRC energised the Australian contingent—and overwhelmingly we came away wanting the opportunity to showcase our country in the future. The next IRC will be held in Nairobi, Kenya in 2020 which is when the successful host nation for the 2024 IRC will be announced. I encourage everyone who shares the vision for Australia to host the 2024 IRC vision to contact me.

On the more procedural side of the ARS, Council continue to meet every second month by teleconference. Key topics include ways to increase relevance to land-holders and NRM groups, to increase membership and ensure that the ARS is a respected organisation well into the future.