This is a brief overview of the many myths surrounding land management and the environment.
Other parts of this site deal with these issues in more depth
The myths are
1 The icecaps melting will cause sea levels to rise substantially
2 The Great Artesian Basin has a recharge area in the Desert Uplands in Qld
3 Resting the land from Grazing and letting it become a wilderness (no management) returns it to a more diverse environment
4 Aboriginal firestick management was sustainable.
5 All grazing leads to degradation & stocking rates should be controlled
6 Land managers have an attitude to mine the land`s resources
7 All Tree Pulling is destroying the environment
8 Bulldozers are bad guys
9 Pulling trees across creek lines and gullies causes environmental degradation
10 The government is the best land manager
11 The world cannot keep increasing it`s food production
12 Conservation should not become comercialised
13 Native species are superior to exotics
#1 The icecaps melting will cause sea levels to rise substantially
This myth comes from overlooking two facts.
(1) The melting of ice that is floating in the sea will have next to no effect when it melts due to floating ice already displacing water of the same mass (volume) prior to melting.
(2) The amount of non floating ice on the icecaps, (should it melt) is insufficient to raise the oceans more than a few cms
If there is going to be a rise in sea levels, it will be due in most part to the expansion of the oceans because it has a warmer temperature. Although some extra water vapour may stay in the atomosphere as well.
#2 The Great Artesian Basin has a recharge area in the Desert Uplands in Qld
GREAT ARTESIAN BASIN RECHARGE ASSUMPTIONS UNDER CHALLENGE
A series of papers from Emeritus professor Lance Endersbee has begun a debate on the model of the great artesian basin. (Click here to go to research and articles and read Prof. Endersbee's papers).
For many years landholders who live near and on the "supposed recharge area" have questioned the accuracy of government department claims that the area mapped as such could really provide the recharge of the great artesian basin. The supposed "recharge area" is a narrow strip of sandyish soil which has mainly yellowjack trees and associated vegetation on it. It runs up the eastern side of the G.A.B.in the Desert Uplands.
There are older Government maps which have the recharge area drawn in other areas, so it has always been a theoretical idea. The Qld Govt has defined the Great Artesian Basin recharge area in legislatiuon since 14/2/2000.
However there has always been some reasons that local landholders and bore drillers believe recharge is not occurring in the Desert Uplands. These are some.
(1) In the Desert Uplands, the rock strata lays horizontal, not vertical as the government model suggests it should .
(2) There is only a little water above the first layer of rock ( when drilling) which would indicate only minimal rainfall infiltration occurs in the sandy "Yellow Jack Country" anyway.
(3) The "supposed recharge" sandy soil has several hard rock and associated tight clay layers in it below the first rock layer and above the "best" water bearing aquifer.
(4) There are several water bearing aquifers above the "best" and main aquifer. (sometimes they have internal pressure, sometimes not)
(5) The water often rises 10 metres or more when the "best" aquifer is hit. (It`s a confined aquifer with pressure in it so how does rain water get in?)
(6) There are large differences in the altitude levels of the standing level of the water in the "supposed recharge area" bores. i.e. ranging from approx 550 to 950 feet above sea level (altitude of the land, less the depth of the bore to water) For example. If the land altitude is 950 feet above sea level, and the bore water is at 400 feet depth, the bore water altitude is at 550 feet above sea level.
(7) The top of several flowing bores north of the supposed recharge area, are higher in altitude (Approx 1100 feet above sea level) compared with the standing bore water in the supposed recharge area. (Approx 550 - 950 feet above sea level)
(8) A flowing bore was established in the supposed "recharge area" at a depth of 1000 metres, which is quite an achievement as there is no standing water table within 170 metres of the surface at that part of the landscape.
So to summarise, the Queensland government has legislated that in the narrow strip of "yellow jack country" in the Desert Uplands, the rain infiltration goes though several layers of rock and associated clay and then under a sealed layer so that it builds up substantial pressure to cause 3000 flowing bores hundreds of kilometres away and sometimes higher in altitude to where water supposedly enters the aquifer.
#3 Resting the land from Grazing and letting it become a wilderness (no management) returns it to a more diverse environment
Many wrong assumption are mixed together in this myth.
(1) The Australian landscape previous to european settlement was not a wilderness. It did have management (Aboriginal firestick management with native animals grazing on it). This management kept the tree density down and appears to have helped about 20 species of "megafauna" become extinct, but it did have a level of stability that kept the remaining species in some sort of balance.
(2) Without ruminant grazing animals, the less humid (arid) areas of Australia (and the world) will gradually desertify because keeping the carbon (grass) cycle working sustainably can only be done by grazers eating the grass and producing dung which can then be broken down to refertilise the soil. In arid areas the plants do not rot down as they do in humid environments - in fact they often blow or wash away depleting the soil of nutrients.
(3) Fire does not do as good a job recycling the nutrients as grazing , but can have some benefits in pruning grass plants and helping some nutrients to be recycled.
(4) Plants need grazing or pruning to stimulate root and leaf growth. Without this grazing plants can gradually decline and die.
Therefore creating a wilderness without management such as planned grazing and occassional fire will create a very different environment than the pre-european firestick environment. - More trees, less grass, less nutrients recycled, more feral animals, more weeds, and ultimately a less sustainable environment all in the name of conservation.
#4 Aboriginal firestick management was sustainable.
As previously stated, purely a firestick regime does not recycle the nutrients as well as a planned grazing regime (carbon goes into the atomosphere rather than back into the soil to feed micro organisms and increase soil fertility.)
The Animal grazing that Aboriginals managed was not anything like the intensity required to be truly sustainable, but was satisfactory for low demands on the landscape and small human populations. There are indications that a fair number of smaller burrowing and browsing animals helped recycle some carbon (grasses) and nutrients. They were mostly displaced by rabbits, foxes, cats, pigs, dingos, and earlier farming management.
#5 All grazing leads to degradation & stocking rates should be controlled
It is true that much over grazing has resulted in land degradation. The definition of overgrazing is either grazing for too long, or grazers returning too soon after a shorter than required rest period. Different plants require different periods of rest between grazings. At different times of the year the plants require different rest periods also.
When grazing and rest periods are managed well, the land regenerates.
As the land regenerates, the numbers of stock can usually increase. The more the intensity of grazing animals (higher numbers on smaller areas for shorter periods) the greater the regeneration affect. Therefore grazing is a tool that can be used to degrade or regenerate the land and if governments start limiting stock numbers, this will lead to limiting the options for a regeneration process.
#6 Land managers have an attitude to mine the land`s resources
Land managers do not get any benefit from having a "mining the land" attitude. If the land is mined, the resources deteriorate, the asset devalues, & income decrease - We do not know anyoe who wants that to happen. Land managers are the best conservationists in our society. Unfortunately the previous world`s best management practices were not always very sustainable. and today it`s land managers who are leading the way in finding new and better ways.
The fact that so many land managers fertilise (put deficient soil nutrients onto the soil) , are involved in landcare, try new ways of doing things, and that production is still increasing should rebuff this myth.
The fact that the percentage of landholders that use computers and the internet is 3 times as high as those in the cities, should also indicate the positive attitude many land managers have to learning and using better ways.
#7 All Tree Pulling is destroying the environment
Not all tree pulling is tree clearing. 85% of the tree pulling in Queensland is to regenerate the landscape by establishing better grass cover and controlling the regrowing and thickening trees. (See Tree pulling) There is no land use change associated with this management. In fact the tree biomass is still a net increase despite what seems to be a lot of tree pulling. If there wasn`t any tree thickening and regrowth, then that 85% of tree pulling would stop within a few years.
Another 10% of Queenslands treepulling is for crops, which can be managed so that minimal destruction occurs. (currently 20% or more of a landholders property has to remain in reasonable sized areas of vegetation for biodiversity conservation)
But the 5% of tree pulling that is for mines or city expansion, we agree almost always destroys the environment . We wonder if we started a movement to pull down the cities and replant native vegetation, rectifying water cycles, and re introducing native animals, if anyone in the cities would support us.
#8 Bulldozers are bad guys
The image of bulldozers is always as a baddy. But bulldozers are just an environmental tool.
As with anything, such as fire, cars, sex, and information, there are good and bad uses for these things. In the bush Bulldozers are used to
dig dams to water stock and wildlife,
build contour and water spreading banks which help reduce water speed than causes erosion and to improve water infiltration,
clear fencelines as firebreaks and tracks, and
pull trees for regenerating thickening timbered grazing lands back to open woodlands.
The place that bulldozers do the worst environmental damage is around cities where the land becomes housing areas and the environment changes almost completely into houses surrounded by tar and concrete with non native grass lawns or factories emitting all sorts of chemicals into the environment.
#9 Pulling trees across creek lines and gullies causes environmental degradation
Many landowners have pulled trees across creeklines and improved the land.
Stan Lawrence (Aramac) had gullies over a metre deep. After pulling and seeding they silted up so much that they have disappeared in 15 years.
Brett Wehl (Aramac) also reports the same thing with gullies 1.5 metres deep.
Peter Clarke (Longreach) was featured on a Landcare video describing how pulling across gullies slowed water flow, and established more grasses, and gradually healed the landscape.
Lance Jones (Rolleston) showed a departmental advisor his eroding gullies with standing timber and the healing gullies with pulled timber. The advisor`s comment. "This is not what we get taught"
#10 The government is the best land manager
Government departments can have all sorts of people in their ranks. Whenever they have decisions to make, generally the decisions are
(1) slowly made
(2) a compromise between many "experts"
(3) they cost a lot to implement
(4) the various levels of management change them, and
(5) rarely are they held accountable by the public.
The government people who make the decisions do not
(a) lose money if it is a bad decision
(b) lose asset value if it is a bad decision
(c) have to live on the land they have control over
(d) risk their family`s livelihood because of their decisions
The standard of Government managed land is classicly known for being a mess.
National parks often create huge fire risks, have feral animal and weed problems, and standards fluctuate with personel motivation, and departmental processes.
Comparing private land
While privately owned land has management problems too, it is far less than government run lands.
This is because there is personal pride and incentive in managing something you have invested time , money and effort in.
Anyone who thinks landholders should be subject to government decisions should try leaving their lives in the hands of government social workers for a while to experience why it does not work well.
If governments are there to serve the people and regulate what a community wants, that is one thing. But when it governments are the ultimate decision maker, that is entirely different. Dictatorial decisions are a disaster for an environment that is varied and ever changing.
#11 The world cannot keep increasing it`s food production
This assumes people have stopped being resourceful. While there may be a limit one day to the amount of food the world can produce, those who know the possibilities of improvements in water uses (such as recycling and irrigation in the deserts), biological farming, Grazing management, and aquaculture developments, can still see at least a 20% increase in production ocurring in the next 20 years just on the knowledge we have today.
Then consider desalinisation of the oceans water, reclaiming degraded land, and further technological advances, and there is still a lot of room to improve food production further.
One US lobbyist claimed the USA could produce enough food to feed half the world`s population if it could distribute it properly .
#12 Conservation should not become comercialised
Nobody wants to see good species become extinct, but the idea that it has to be the government that always controls a species survival is very shortsighted.
Why not provide tax incentives for private conservation.
Win - Win solutions where individuals can get some benefits should be encouraged. A species that has a use will be conserved one way or another.
#13 Native species are superior to exotics
This is a belief that permeates government departments trying to tell landholders not to introduce species from out of the area. Landholders are continually looking for better species or mix of species to improve the environmental performance of the land. If an overseas species is brought into Australia and fills a niche (such as Dung Beetles), most people are happy, but if we suggest even extending the range of native species such as the redclaw crayfish, there is a negative reaction.
While the belief in a very bio diverse ecosystem is espoused, it apparently does not mean that you can carefully do anything except keep the status quo. We however are not suggesting being irresponsible, but practical and open minded.