At the grassroots making the rangelands recover

New wave contours are making a big difference on harsh land

100 Stories of Hope
Local Land Services officer Paul Theakston overseeing rangeland rehabilitation near White Cliffs.

Local Land Services officer Paul Theakston overseeing rangeland rehabilitation near White Cliffs.

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Being on the level with farmers part of Local Land Services officer's job

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Paul Theakston is glad he's moved from overseeing native vegetation clearing into the realm of rangeland rehabilitation where he is seeing real goals kicked.

The NSW Local Land Services Senior Land Services officer works in one of the harshest and most difficult terrain in the state. But his ability to relate to farmers at ground level over his 20 years in the Western Division of NSW is helping change the landscape - literally.

The bitterness that often arises over native vegetation was wearing him down. Now he's in a field where he's boosting native grasses and helping farmers increase their productivity, on some land often that was forlorn of hope.

"There's no use approaching a farmer with an idea if it's not a win-win situation," he says. "If you don't go out there with something to offer you are not going to get anywhere.

"If you can't relate to them on an ideological level it won't work either. It's all about relating at that deeper level."

The success of the rangeland rehabilitation program is now bearing fruit with so much demand from farmers a second LLS officer has been employed to help with the program. The work is all about putting in place contours on farms, helping pool water to promote native pasture growth.

It sounds similar to the old Soil Conservation Service system, but this one uses satellite imagery and a careful manner in where the contours are first placed on farm to create a cascading effect.

It's been a great meeting of minds between Paul Theakston and the creator of the Ecosystem Management Understanding (EMU) system, Hugh Pringle, who brings a wealth of Australian and overseas experience into rangeland management.

The main area for the sites has been in wide circle around White Cliffs. They've created their own rangeland rehab program and the results have been outstanding.

There are subsidies for part of the program, but also farmers are required to pay upfront for various basic costs.

One farmer spent $20,000 on a paddock he was putting his prize rams into and had fodder on order - almost equal to that amount. After it rained the contours worked almost immediately. So much so with the extra pasture, the farmer cancelled his fodder order.

With two Easter falls this year of 17mm and then 20mm, the pastures were still green come October. "Now we're snowed under with requests from other farmers to be part of the program," Paul says.

The story At the grassroots making the rangelands recover first appeared on The Land.

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