A fond farewell

As well as look­ing back, David Mcnabb turns his eye to the fu­ture as he pens this farewell col­umn about his time with Field & Game Aus­tralia.

Field and Game - - DAVID MCNABB FAREWELL - David Mcnabb

Work con­tin­ues un­abated on con­ser­va­tion, the sus­tain­able use of wildlife through hunt­ing, and recre­ational shoot­ing. As the sea­sons roll around this edi­tion sees branches busy pro­vid­ing mem­bers with great Sim­u­lated Field events, school shoots, and the Na­tional Car­ni­val.

This year the FGA Na­tional Car­ni­val pro­vides mem­bers and spon­sors with the largest Sim­u­lated Field event in the coun­try. The scale of the event brings its own chal­lenges, with plan­ning un­der­way well in ad­vance of each year’s an­nounce­ment. This year ful­fils the com­mit­ment to ex­pand the event for­mat, pro­vid­ing more diver­sity of shoot­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for mem­bers, thanks for your sup­port by nom­i­nat­ing to com­pete, catch­ing up with friends from around the coun­try and mak­ing new friends. The ex­panded for­mat presents im­por­tant com­mer­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties for our spon­sors, thanks to each and ev­ery spon­sor for your in­valu­able sup­port. Thanks also to the hard-work­ing vol­un­teers at host branch Wodonga-al­bury, as­sisted by Be­nalla and Cobram, in part­ner­ship with the FGA team. This com­bined com­mit­ment will en­sure this event con­tin­ues to grow.

Ev­ery month our com­mit­tees and vol­un­teers pro­vide al­most 60 Sim­u­lated Field events for the avid and ca­sual com­peti­tor. It orig­i­nated as a form of prac­tice out­side hunt­ing sea­sons, which re­mains an im­por­tant part of the ethos. There are also school shoot­ing events, Come & Try days and cor­po­rate events, all of­fer­ing the com­mu­nity fun and safe ac­cess to shoot­ing sports. Re­search demon­strates broad com­mu­nity sup­port for recre­ational shoot­ing and given the ease of ac­cess, we have an in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant way to in­tro­duce new peo­ple to FGA through Sim­u­lated Field.

The in­vest­ment in Sim­u­lated Field in­cludes the con­tin­ued de­liv­ery to branches of ‘My Club, My Scores’, the au­to­mated tar­get scor­ing sys­tem. The team have also com­pleted a re­draft of the rules, us­ing feed­back and data gath­ered across the branch net­work. The ob­jec­tive is to pro­vide branches with im­prove­ments in the run­ning of Sim­u­lated Field events. The draft rules are be­ing re­viewed by branches and feed­back is be­ing used fi­nalise the draft­ing be­fore adop­tion of the re­vised rules.

Chal­lenges con­tinue, and the emerg­ing is­sue of con­tam­i­na­tion at the Heart Morass restora­tion project is of the high­est pri­or­ity. In­ves­ti­ga­tions are un­der­way, gath­er­ing the data to iden­tify what this means for the ecol­ogy of the wetland and the wildlife that in­hab­its this im­por­tant wetland com­plex. The Heart Morass wetland restora­tion project is recog­nised for its sig­nif­i­cance, po­ten­tially on an in­ter­na­tional scale, and it’s cru­cial the eco­log­i­cal char­ac­ter of this wetland is main­tained.

In 2018 FGA will cel­e­brate an­other mile­stone: 60 years as Aus­tralia’s most sur­pris­ing con­ser­va­tion­ists. This won­der­ful legacy is all due to peo­ple who un­der­stand how na­ture works and who have been at the fore­front of prac­ti­cal con­ser­va­tion work for decades.

Their legacy con­tin­ues to­day with on­go­ing wetland man­age­ment by branches and vol­un­teers in Vic­to­ria and South Aus­tralia, in­clud­ing trav­el­ling vast dis­tances for an­nual health checks at more than 300 wet­lands across south eastern Aus­tralia and in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory.

New ini­tia­tives to im­prove wetland man­age­ment, de­vel­oped by work­ing closely with agencies, in­clude an ex­cit­ing ini­tia­tive with North Cen­tral Catch­ment Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity.

There is an ex­cit­ing shift in dis­cus­sions with gov­ern­ments, one that recog­nises the prac­ti­cal con­ser­va­tion ex­pe­ri­ence gath­ered by hunters that can be puz­zling for some­one with­out con­nec­tion to the Aus­tralian bush and the sus­tain­able use of wildlife through hunt­ing.

The most ef­fec­tive con­ser­va­tion ac­tions are of­ten counter-in­tu­itive to those with the au­thor­ity for pol­icy in these ar­eas, who more of­ten than not have lit­tle or no con­nec­tion to habi­tat and wildlife yet are charged with mak­ing de­ci­sions that im­pact us from their CBD of­fices.

I’ve writ­ten be­fore about the dan­gers of col­lab­o­ra­tion through pro­cesses that are of­ten termed stake­holder en­gage­ment, that typ­i­cally only im­poses com­pro­mised out­comes.

The sus­tain­able use of wildlife pro­vides hunters with a unique and com­pelling per­spec­tive as con­ser­va­tion­ists. Hunters gain in­valu­able in­sights into prac­ti­cal habi­tat man­age­ment, wildlife man­age­ment and we un­der­stand the ben­e­fits of pub­lic land ac­cess from the priv­i­lege of spend­ing time in the bush.

The chal­lenges of sus­tain­able use of wildlife are world­wide, and in Aus­tralia we con­tinue to see a ve­neer of sci­ence ap­plied to the pro­cesses ap­plied to the man­age­ment of hunt­ing. As we in­ter­ro­gate de­ci­sions on hard­head in South Aus­tralia, blue wing shov­eler in south eastern Aus­tralia, Mag­pie geese in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory, or even the North Amer­i­can pin­tail, our find­ings raise a se­ries of ques­tions on the de­ci­sions im­posed on hunters. Those de­ci­sions typ­i­cally im­pose re­stric­tions or ex­clu­sions on hunt­ing, made in a vac­uum of data about the real im­pact of hunt­ing on dy­namic pop­u­la­tions of wildlife. Emerg­ing and ex­ist­ing re­search raises ques­tions whether hunt­ing in our con­text has any ef­fect on the over­all mor­tal­ity of wildlife pop­u­la­tions.

The ve­neer of sci­ence we see ap­plied to hunt­ing de­ci­sions in Aus­tralia serves lit­tle pur­pose other than to arm bu­reau­crats with a sense of ‘due process’. As hunters we have a unique per­spec­tive, we are mes­merised by the duck pitch­ing into the de­coys with wings cupped and feet down. At the same time, we have an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of dy­namic wildlife pop­u­la­tions, rather than get­ting caught up in the dy­nam­ics of re­cruit­ment, mor­tal­ity and so on. This does lit­tle to noth­ing for en­hanc­ing habi­tat and in­creas­ing our un­der­stand­ing of wildlife.

It’s in this con­text of con­tin­ued chal­lenges bal­anced with ex­cit­ing devel­op­ments, that I bid farewell from this role. It has been an ab­so­lute priv­i­lege.

My sin­cere thanks to ev­ery­one I’ve had the plea­sure of work­ing with, to those who shared a seat at your camp­fire, and a spe­cial thanks to the amaz­ing FGA team. To­gether we’ve stared down some mon­u­men­tal chal­lenges to hunt­ing and recre­ational shoot­ing, and we’ve had a red hot go.

An amaz­ing com­mu­nity of pas­sion­ate and ded­i­cated peo­ple sur­rounds the FGA camp­fire. Thanks for your hospi­tal­ity and the con­ver­sa­tions, shared ex­pe­ri­ences and knowl­edge, it has been in­valu­able when striv­ing for long-term pol­icy out­comes.

Now I can only do two things En­cour­age peo­ple to take the time away from the camp­fire to tell the FGA story to peo­ple in your com­mu­nity. I’ll be do­ing the same.

I will also spend more time with my fam­ily who have been in­cred­i­bly sup­port­ive while I pur­sued this amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity. I’m also look­ing for­ward to fi­nally putting some train­ing into a young dog who shows lots of prom­ise. I may even im­prove my Sim­u­lated Field hand­i­cap, that shouldn’t be too hard.

Thank you.

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