Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
School of Natural Sciences / Centre for Ecosystem Management
The majority of arid and semiarid land in the Western Australian pastoral zone has a long history of livestock grazing within an extensive network of predominantly family-held pastoral leases. A variety of different groups have purchased pastoral leases in the last five decades and, for many, making a profit from pastoralism is no longer a priority. For the central rangelands of Western Australia, these groups have included: government agencies, who have purchased some 9% of pastoral leases by area; private conservation organisations (<1% purchased); aboriginal communities and groups (∼7%); and mining companies (∼13%). The purchases of pastoral leases by government agencies was designed to improve the conservation status of arid-zone ecosystems, and is the first step in a process of changing land tenure to a conservation reserve. This paper summarises the extent and other characteristics of these changes in land tenure and ownership of pastoral leases, and explores the implications for land management and conservation, stemming from these changes. It demonstrates that large areas of contiguous land with no or reduced domestic stocking can now be found in many parts of these rangelands, particularly in the Coolgardie, Yalgoo and Pilbara bio-regions, with some leaseholders actively managing land for the conservation of biodiversity and restoring sites degraded through past over-grazing. In some bio-regions, such land covers considerable proportions of sub-catchments, suggesting that broad-scale conservation management and restoration objectives may be realised. It is argued that to fully realise these objectives requires effective communication and co-ordination between land managers, including sharing of ideas, view-points and resources. In particular, mining companies, now major holders of pastoral leases in Western Australia, can play an important role in contributing to and even facilitating such objectives.