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Reducing contention amongst organisations dealing with commercially valuable but invasive plants: The case of buffel grass

Friedel, M.H., Grice, A.C., Marshall, N.A., van Klinken, R.D.
Environmental science & policy 2011 v.14 no.8 pp. 1205-1218
Cenchrus ciliaris, climate, conservation areas, environmental impact, government agencies, grasses, grazing lands, invasive species, issues and policy, land use, models, pastoralism, pasture plants, pastures, planting, stakeholders, sustainable development, Australia
Policy development can fail when organisations tasked with managing contentious species for different outcomes are at odds. Buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris L. syn. Pennisetum ciliare L. Link) has been planted worldwide and is a valuable pasture grass but it is contentious because of its environmental impacts. Due to this contention, government agencies in Australia have been reticent about developing policy for sustainable management of buffel grass. We developed a workshop procedure in which representatives of government and non-government organisations with an interest in buffel grass could discuss impacts and management of the plant in a non-adversarial setting. Orientation of the organisations ranged from a strong pastoral production focus to a strong conservation management focus. Workshops were run in four contrasting regions, which differed in climate, predominant land use and pastoral dependence on buffel grass. The results showed that, perhaps unexpectedly, diverse organisational stakeholders had similar perceptions of the positive and negative impacts of buffel grass on production and conservation, despite differences in their orientation, and there were differences amongst regions. Objectives for managing buffel grass on conservation reserves and on grazing lands of low conservation value were also generally agreed, and the tools appropriate to the objectives were largely uncontroversial although they varied regionally. The main contention was in regard to management objectives for grazing land of high conservation value. We suggest that there is sufficient common ground amongst organisations to initiate policy development for sustainable management of buffel grass in Australia, provided the process is responsive to the needs of stakeholders and to regional differences in environmental, social and economic potential. We also suggest that this process can be a model for reducing contention over other invasive but commercially valuable species.