WHAT ARE THE RANGELANDS?
75% of Australia’s land mass is regarded as Rangelands. Whilst often recognised by many as the “Outback” the name Rangelands is an accepted term used around the world to describe the regions of low rainfall and highly variable climate of arid and semi-arid regions. Our rangelands contain a wealth of biodiversity including a total of 1800 types of plants and 605 vertebrate animals currently identified.
Our rangelands support most of Australia's valuable mining industry ($12 billion/yr) and growing enterprises such as tourism ($2 billion/yr) yet the broadest land use in the Rangelands is pastoralism ($5.5 billion/yr – cattle $4.4 billion & sheep $1 billion).
The term “Rangelands” first came into use in the 1600’s in the United Kingdom, became more commonly recognised in the United States from the 1800’s and has now been adopted world wide to explain the various land types found in the arid and semi-arid zones of the world. These many different types of rangelands together form the largest part of the earth's land surface - approximately 70 percent (excluding Antarctica).
Western Australias Rangelands
In Western Australia the rangelands cover 87 % of the state’s 2.5 million square kilometres, and include all but the south west of the state. Approximately 980,000 sq. km. is pastoral leasehold.
Most of the WA rangelands are flat to undulating. There are 20 bioregions wholly or partly within the rangelands portion of WA. Vegetation types range from tussock grasslands and shrublands to woodlands, but also include patches of monsoonal forests in the north of the state.
Pastoralism is the most dominant land use across 45% of WA’s rangelands, with a greater proportion of sheep in the south and cattle in the north. There is some intensive horticultural production around the Gascoyne and Ord Rivers areas. Mining is an important industry, including gold at Kalgoorlie, iron ore in the Pilbara, oil and gas from the northwest shelf and diamonds at Argyle Diamond Mine in the Kimberley.
On a National scale, through initiatives such as ‘Caring for our Country’ the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) is working to achieve sustainable land management in the rangelands.
On a local level, the ESRM Program aims to work together with individual land managers and regional Land Conservation District Committee groups to achieve “healthy and resilient ecological systems supporting profitable regional industries and vibrant communities”.