What is Landcare?
Landcare is about communities proactively taking action to address environmental issues that they have identified as important.
The Landcare movement is a joint partnership between the community, government and business. Landcare groups can be composed of a wide variety of individuals, which may include farmers, urban residents, landholders, families, and students. They have been established throughout Victoria, from urban centres to remote and rural areas. Some Landcare groups have come together to form Landcare networks with the aim of bringing about environmental change at a landscape scale.
A variety of activities are undertaken by Landcare such as: rejuvenation and repair of wildlife habitats, restoration of waterways, improvement to farmland, community capacity building, coastal protection, and urban action to help our environment, wildlife, farmers and community.
Landcare began in Victoria in 1986 with a group of farmers near St Arnaud in central Victoria forming the first Landcare group. Since then, hundreds of groups have formed across Victoria.
Victoria has a long history of groups working together. Experience has shown that the group approach achieves better results than individuals working alone. Sharing of information with other group members leads to an improved understanding of both problems and solutions. Groups also have more access to a wider range of advice and financial support than is available to the individual.
Landcare groups have proved to be an effective means of integrating new farmers, including hobby farmers, into the local community. They have also provided a valuable social outlet where sporting clubs, schools and churches have closed as the population declined.
To see what Landcare groups around Victoria are doing, go to the Victorian Landcare Gateway or see the latest issue of the Victorian Landcare and Catchment Management Magazine.
Landcare lets ordinary people do something to ensure a healthy future for the natural resources we rely upon.
On this page:
- Land degradation
- Types of land degradation
- Rural landcare groups
- Support for landcare groups
- Landcare on public land
- Landcare for city dwellers
- Other benefits of landcare
- Landcare in schools
Land degradationLand and water degradation affects many parts of Victoria. It has many causes, such as rural and urban development, the gold rush boom of the 1850s and the builiding of houses, roads and railways.
Land degradation leads to physical, chemical and biological changes in the soil and waterways, deterioration of natural environments, loss of species diversity and changes to the landscape.
Economically, land degradation reduces agricultural production and increases costs associated with repairing the land, public utilities and treating water. These losses affect both rural and urban areas.
There is also a social cost to land degradation. The viability of farms is affected by increased production costs and reduced value of production as a result of land degradation.
Rural communities also suffer. When a district can't support its agriculture, people move away, and sporting clubs and volunteer fire fighting, for example, suffer from declining participation.
Types of land degradationWind and water erosion
Erosion is caused by water or wind scouring unprotected soil, or excessive runoff causing gullies. The soil may be unprotected because of:
- recent sowing with crop or pasture
- vegetation loss due to salinity or soil fertility and structural problems
- insect attack
- low levels of vegetation cover.
Different kinds of erosion include sheet, rill, gully and tunnel erosion, and land slips.
Salinity occurs when there is too much salt in our soil and water. Clearing deep-rooted native vegetation means more water soaks through the soil to become part of the groundwater. Irrigation can compound the problem. As the groundwater rises it brings with it salts that can be harmful to plants.
Soil structure decline
Repeated cultivation of soil for farming or moving heavy machinery on soil can cause compaction and structural problems such as plough pans and surface sealing.
Induced soil acidity
Increasing soil acidity can reduce crop and pasture yields. It may occur naturally, but is generally associated with high rainfall and the cultivation of legumes which lead to nitrate leaching.
Weeds compete with crops and pastures for moisture and nutrients, harbour vermin and can choke access to bushland and streams.
Rabbits have devastating effects on the environment. They strip the ground of vegetation, leaving it susceptible to wind and water damage. Their warrens can cause erosion, particularly tunnel erosion. Rabbits also compete with stock and native animals for feed.
The main cause of stream erosion is increased runoff from catchments. The effects may be worsened by:
- stock accessing the water
- removal of vegetation, usually by grazing and tramping
- muddying of water and accumulation of sediment
- clogging of the stream by weeds
Rural landcare groupsLandcare began in Victoria in 1986 with a group of farmers near St Arnaud in central Victoria forming the first Landcare group. Since then, hundreds of groups have formed across Victoria.
Landcare groups in rural areas start in response to a common problem - salinity, erosion gullies, rabbits or weeds - that spans a number of properties.
Working together to tackle land degradation problems is sensible, especially when the cause may not necessarily be confined to one property. For example, a salinity problem on a farm may be the result of clearing hills many kilometres away.
The advantages of working in groups are:
- better results from a joint approach, compared with those of individuals working alone
- better understanding of the problems through group discussion and support
- improved long-term productivity and amenity value of the area
- access to a wider range of technical, financial and other help
- community pride in and ownership of the project
- a sense of achievement
- public recognition of the group's efforts which may encourage others to take part
However, it is not enough just to protect the land. Farmers make their income from their land and need to ensure that production is maintained.
Landcare, therefore, is a partnership between production and conservation, with whole communities caring for the land – local councils, conservation groups, schools and interested individuals.
Support for landcare groupsCatchment Management Authorities (CMAs), government agencies and regional Water Authorities can provide technical information to groups to help them make informed decisions. To contact the Regional Landcare Coordinator at your local CMA directly, visit the Victorian Landcare Gateway for contact details for your region.
The Victorian Farmers Federation can provide advice and support on setting up groups.
Grants and incentives are also available to help groups implement on-ground works and to educate and inform others in their area. For more information on funding opportunities contact your local Catchment Management Authority or visit the Victorian Landcare Gateway.
Landcare on public landAbout 40 per cent of Victoria is public land such as National Parks, forests and reserves managed by Government agencies.
Where land degradation problems overlap between public and private land, Landcare provides an opportunity for private and public landholders to work together to tackle problems.
Weeds and vermin are of particular concern in areas near public land. Just as it's important for neighbouring farmers to tackle problems together, so it is important for the managers of public and private land to co-operate.
Many urban Landcare and 'Friends of' groups work on public land or across both private and public land.
Landcare for city dwellersProvincial cities depend on the health of the rural industries surrounding them for much of their prosperity.
Metropolitan Melbourne depends on rural Victoria for much of its produce. Rural catchment areas provide Melbourne with its high quality water supply.
Looking after the land is in everyone's interest.
Rural Landcare groups form in response to a land degradation problem and the need for farmers to protect their livelihood. Urban people generally do not rely upon the land for their livelihood.
However, urban people spend their leisure time in parks and gardens, along waterways, at the beach, on golf courses and visiting the country or the bush.
None of us like to visit our favourite recreation area and see it damaged by degradation such as:
- fishing spots obscured by blackberries
- countryside scarred with gullies
- urban creeks dirtied
- local golf courses affected by salinity, overgrown with weeds and harbouring rabbits and foxes.
By looking after our own backyard we can gain an insight into the massive job facing people in the country who tackle many of the same problems but at a much larger scale.
Other benefits of landcareLandcare is a great way to meet like-minded people.
Not everyone wants to spend their leisure time playing tennis or golf; but many do want to meet people, enjoy the outdoors, do something for the environment and become involved in something totally different from their usual work.
Landcare provides that opportunity.
Landcare in SchoolsChildren are learning about the natural environment in their school curriculum. Many are concerned about the destruction of rainforests, recycling and the greenhouse effect.
Landcare schools activities try to give students an understanding of their local environment so as they can better appreciate what's going on elsewhere. The LandLearn program can provide resources to schools and offer professional development for teachers.
Environmental monitoring projects, such as Waterwatch, give students hands-on experience of local land degradation and curriculum materials provided to teachers help them discuss options with their students.
After all, today's students will be tomorrow's land managers.