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Landscape Rehabilitation- A Values-Based Management Framework

Landscape rehabilitation and resilience is a key strategic focus for the Queensland Water Modelling Network and an area set to benefit from more direct links with water modelling, to help guide the design of targeted interventions, and to assess their effectiveness. This is a vision that our Community of Practice events have discussed previously, as we looked at landscape impacts on water quality, flooding, water security along with various rural, regional and urban management needs.

On Monday 28 March 2022, we were joined by a group of eager practitioners from across local and state government, utilities, NRM groups, universities, and consulting, ready to explore how an integrated approach to landscape management and rehabilitation might look using a whole-of-system catchment management framework. This framework is a synthesis of knowledge and practice steps that provides a sequenced interconnected approach, that is beneficial for engaging stakeholders, building a catchment or restoration plan and underpinning any required investment. It was developed by Mike Ronan, and his team at The Queensland Wetlands Program at the Department of Environment and Science.

The day began at the Ship Inn with an Acknowledgement of Country by Piet Filet before a quick summary of the activities ahead. To set the scene and get a background on the landscape interests and experiences at the workshop, participants listed which landscapes they currently work on and what are the values that they seek to protect or enhance in their various landscape management projects. See table, below.

The results from this initial scan illustrate the depth of knowledge and interest among fellow professionals working in this theme and so it was a good confirmation for further discussion.

An introduction and “virtual – web-based tour” of the framework was provide by Mike as he walked the group through a pilot version of this Whole-of-System Catchment Management Framework.  The “soon to come final version” of this approach entails a number of main elements and details sub sections providing both expanded definition and clarity of each element to help guide a user through the utility and application of the approach. This step-by-step framework provides a comprehensive approach to rehabilitation from initial trigger to eventual monitoring and evaluation of implemented strategies. It has been designed as a navigation tool for technical specialist and decision maker and the many collaborators who may be involved along the way (see image below)

Whole-of-System Catchment Management Framework – “Draft for Consultation – Not Government Policy”

Some highlights included:

  • Interconnected systems approach, where the dependency on water connecting all the elements is key and self-evident
  • In contrast to many other approaches to traditional management problems where you want to fix a problem – this approach better unpacks the reasons why, what, where, when and how a landscape management requirement needs to be designed
  • The framework makes a deliberate differentiation between landscape value and landscape service. The benefit of this approach is that the service then incorporates a link to the actual beneficiaries who need to be engaged
  • The framework also ensures that the plan has an explicit spatial representation and a consideration of the temporal components
  • Alongside the framework are a number of “pillars” to ensure that the suitable information and provides are linked to the management plans. These pillars include:
    • A synthesis of sciences – both biophysical and social
    • Aspects of monitoring, evaluation, reporting and sharing
    • Engagement

To better appreciate the benefits and utility of this approach, five small groups at the workshop took to task with an outline a landscape restoration process.  In a broad ranging discussion each group looked to see how the integration of their own projects might work, what were any gaps, and suggest any case studies that could exemplify the application of the framework.

To round off the various small group discussions, Fernanda Adame – Field Ecologist and Steve Skull – Landscape Plan/Implementation Program Designer, both described how this integrated whole of system approach supports them in their various research and projects – plus engagement with the various stakeholder and beneficiaries involved in each particular landscape management/restoration project.  Along with Mike Ronan, this final concluding discussion saw a number of Key Messages considered, including:

  • To enhance the utility of this framework, the need for ongoing awareness raising sessions – as undertaken at this workshop – provides an initial key step to better appreciate the approach and detailed tools and supplementary resources provided by this website.
  • The framework optimises decision-making and the relationships between parties involved in landscape restoration. It is a tool that highlights the importance of working with an ongoing sustainability ethos with any landscape, as opposed to practices that only have a short-term gain prospect.
  • During the workshop several practitioners endorsed the use of this tool and are prepared to see how it could be developed as a common approach to complex landscape issues.
  • A reflection from past projects is that when communities are promised an outcome without a broader understanding and framework to characterise the issue then there is a strong risk that decisions made may not meet the broader community/stakeholder requirement
  • For research scientists, this framework provides a helpful view for real world application of research
  • It is important to distinguish the difference between beneficiaries and stakeholders

Some next steps coming from the workshop:

  • Once finalised and published, details of the website will be promoted through QWMN
  • In another year, there was a desire to reconvene and see what progress and use has been made of the framework – so a handy collective evaluation of the utility

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