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.
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.