Politics within and without - the origins and development of a rangelands landcare group
The 1990s saw a resurgence of interest in land-use reform in the arid and semi-arid rangelands of Australia. Scientists and conservationists called for a reassessment of land use in areas now used for extensive grazing of cattle and sheep. Landcare groups formed by pastoralists were criticised for deflecting resources away from questions of land-use reform. While Landcare groups in agricultural regions of Australia have been subject to considerable assessment, analysis of rangelands Landcare has tended to revolve around questions of land use to the neglect of analysis of the operation of the groups themselves. Based on a case study of a pastoral Landcare group in the rangelands, the research reported in this paper found that pastoral Landcare in the rangelands has comparable outcomes to Landcare elsewhere in terms of the creation of opportunities for improved communication and learning among landholders. In addition, this group has developed from an emphasis on single-issue projects towards multi-faceted projects focussed on social as well as ecological sustainability. The analysis also found that political considerations were significant in the forma-tion of the group and remained important for some pastoralists at the time of fieldwork. Finally, rangelands Landcare in this case study has provided a vehicle for reformist pastoralists and their associates to work actively towards influencing their peers to acknowledge land management problems and to reflect on their management practices.
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