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Climatic extremes coupled with a complex mix of unique and frequently fragile ecosystems and a variety of human activities in the rangelands produces a suite of interesting and sometimes difficult management challenges.

In Australia's Federal system of government national policy is the responsibility of the Australian Government but primary responsibility for land and natural resource management rests with State and Territory governments.

Managing the Rangelands

Life in the rangelands goes on largely hidden from the view of most Australians.  However, rangeland ecosystems, like all others, are dynamic and in a constant state of change. Australia's rangelands are also subject to a great diversity of land uses and differences in the intensity of land use. Traditional pastoral industries increasingly share the rangelands with mining activity, more intensive forms of agriculture, tourism and recreation, and a steadily increasing biodiversity conservation estate.

The ACRIS report, Rangeland's 2008-Taking the Pulse, has produced data that can guide improved management responses and interventions.


Very Volatile Wedge Women's Sandal Hyde Tan Most pastoral lands are leased from governments. Pastoralists contribute to the national economy and manage vast tracts of the rangelands. Almost half of the nation's cattle herd are raised on the rangelands.

Agriculture and irrigation

Dryland and irrigation-based agriculture have long been practiced in the rangelands, particularly in the Murray-Darling Basin, where rangeland ecosystems comprise 90% of the land area.

More than 40% of all the farms in Australia are located in the Murray-Darling Basin and it yields close to 45% of total national crop production. Agriculture tends to occur in highly productive pockets of the rangelands, in contrast to pastoralism, where enterprises are often spread across vast areas.


The Australian minerals sector is a major producer of the world's key minerals commodities. Over the five years to 2006-07, minerals industry exports have totalled over A$300 billion. Much of this activity is located in the rangelands.


Rangelands or outback tourism in Australia is continually growing in popularity and economic importance. It extends across five jurisdictions - Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Indigenous communities and enterprises are becoming a significant presence in outback tourism.

Indigenous communities

Indigenous people have primary responsibility for managing 27% of the rangelands. This increases to more than 36%, or close to 2,300,000 square kilometres, when combined with all those areas over which indigenous people have some level of recognised interest.

Indigenous people continue to hunt and gather on their lands but are increasingly participating in the broader economy through mining, pastoralism, bush foods and tourism enterprises as well as assuming land and sea stewardship responsibilities for environmental protection.

Water management

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Australia's two largest river basin systems, the Murray-Darling Basin and the Lake Eyre Basin cover more than one third of the continent and are located largely within the rangelands. Some of the thousands of wetlands in these river basins have been listed under the international Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention, Iran, 1977). The Great Artesian Basin keeps water dependent rangelands industries functioning through drought and good seasons.

The Australian Government Department of the Environment and Water Resources has responsibility for implementing several key initiatives and legislation. The Sates and Territories, retain major legislative responsibilities for water management.

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