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A vegetation management extension framework for Queensland

Dr Jude Westrup

Community Education and Extension Support
Department of Natural Resources and Mines, Qld

Are you breathing?
Is the person next to you breathing?
Will you both be breathing tomorrow?
Next week…year…decade?

These questions seem flippant, yet they allude to aspects of the generally low level of ecological literacy within the population, the community at large, which may hinder our collective ability for ecological sustainability.

What do people do, from the moment they wake up in the morning? Whilst they’re asleep? Apart from breathing, all other human and environmental processes depend on, and are embedded within, healthy ecosystems and landscape functioning.

No aspect of human endeavour or life is separate from or independent of ecology. Yet how many people give thanks, daily, for air, water, vegetation, photosynthesis, chlorophyll, light reactions or the Calvin Cycle? How many look around, understand or are even aware of the ecological processes that sustain life? The great global cycles of nutrients, water, carbon, energy flow?

To contribute to raising the levels of ecological literacy within the community and to support the sustainable management of native vegetation within Queensland, the Department of Natural Resources and Mines has implemented a framework for management, planning and legislation for native vegetation. The framework, in alignment with the National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Native Vegetation, aims to achieve:

  • the ecologically sustainable use of land;
  • the protection of biodiversity and other environmental values;
  • planning certainty for landholders, industry and the community;
  • prevention of land degradation such as salinity and soil erosion; and
  • protection of water quality within catchments.

The department has developed a New Extension Framework, outlined by my colleague Greg Leach, in another paper at this conference. Since our understanding of the importance of good native vegetation management is constantly growing, and to enhance service delivery, under the New Extension Framework we have developed, via a participative process, a Vegetation Management Extension Framework (VMEF) for Queensland. All vegetation management work throughout the state is framed by the VMEF. There are both statewide and region action plans being currently delivered or developed. Each has been participatively developed and implemented, with review and evaluative processes built in.

The ‘Terms of Reference’ for VMEF are:

  • to outline the philosophy and practice of extension for Vegetation Management, within an ESD context;
  • to support efficient and effective policy development and service delivery, within the corporate vision of DNR&M;
  • to act as a platform for professional development;
  • to include implementation, evaluation and review; and
  • to link with other Intra- and Inter-Agency service delivery initiatives at strategic and operational levels.

VMEF provides an opportunity to draw together the statewide effort in Vegetation Management, to harness the substantial Intra- and Inter-Agency, Community, Research and Industry expertise, people, resources and programs, and to promote and advance extension within Vegetation Management, the department as a whole, and the broader community.

Vegetation Management extension (VME) within Queensland encompasses a diverse array of people and integrated natural resource management (INRM) issues. Primary to the success of VMEF are good ecological science, breadth of vision and the other human dimensions. The framework consists of reference documents and actions plans for each region and the statewide team. These are intended as ‘guides’ to inspire rather than to ‘prescribe’ actions. VM extension includes:

  • Sharing of knowledge, ideas and experiences;
  • Establishing and maintaining effective working relationships and networks with all client groups;
  • Use of facilitation techniques;
  • Co-learning; and action learning;
  • Use of various communication techniques and resources to suit a range of audiences, from individual to group;
  • Being proactive and responsive;
  • Providing some of the means for assisting communities to make better decisions
  • Regional and property level VM planning;
  • Community environmental education;
  • Acting as a leader for VM communication and coordination;
  • Raising awareness of Government policies and legislation.
  • Making extension an integral part of day-to-day administration of regulatory arrangements.

To achieve VM extension, this framework will:

  • guide the thinking and practice of extension,
  • provide direction and a mechanism for accountability for extension planning and delivery at regional and state levels,
  • recognize the role of extension in policy development and service delivery,
  • provide a process for implementation, on-going evaluation and review,
  • link with other government and non-government service delivery initiatives at strategic and operational levels,
  • support professional development, and
  • be a working model of New Extension in NRM.

It is based on the following principles:

  • People and relationships are valued.
  • The inclusion of everyone.
  • The use a whole systems approach (ecological, social and economic).
  • The grounding of activities within a scientifically based program.
  • A dynamic, adaptable and responsive approach to changing needs and resources.
  • Processes and activities will be achievable and practical.
  • Delivery of consistent messages to all stakeholders.
  • Process, action and people orientations.
  • A process balanced with content.
  • A basis of continuous improvement and reflective practice.
  • A focus on co-learning and creating & maintaining lifelong adult and community INRM education processes.
  • The integration and collaboration of initiatives, projects and proposals.

The VMEF Statewide Action Plan is intended to be a practical, action oriented plan. The priorities outlined within this plan were identified as:

  • wide-ranging and appropriate for statewide research, discussion and action,
  • aligned to Vegetation Management extension and education Partnership Agreements, and
  • as gaps in the work already occurring regionally under VMEF. The regions are simultaneously implementing VMEF action plans that are closely aligned to their respective Partnership Agreements.
  • After consultation with staff the following priority research and discussion areas have been developed for statewide vegetation management extension:

Phase 1

B.8 Foster a learning culture

C.2 Define concepts of public and private good

C.10 Understand and deal with complexity

C.12 Understanding systems

C.19 Encourage creative thinking

D.1 Define performance expectations

D.3 Monitoring and evaluation for continuous improvement

Phase 2

B.6 Advance extension

C.8 Understand clients’ values and issues

C.19 Understand staff values and issues

C.23 Achieving responsible decision-making and action.

The process being developed includes scoping, research, writing/producing drafts, peer review and discussion, publication and action.

Regional Vegetation Management teams are already well underway with their implementation. The Statewide team will come together soon for planning the review and evaluation processes.

Raising the ecological literacy of our community is a multifaceted task. This VMEF aims to contribute to this and to the sustainable management of Queensland’s native vegetation and landscapes, and the integrated management of our natural resources.

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