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Confusing means with ends: A manager's reflections on experience in agricultural landscapes of Western Australia


  • Ken J. Wallace

  • Ken Wallace was, for over 17 years, the Regional Manager (Wheatbelt) with the Department of Conservation and Land Management. He has just accepted a Perth based position with the Department (Locked Bag 104, Bentley Delivery Centre, WA, 6983, Australia, Tel. +61-8 9334 0333. Email: The points made in this article were originally presented in a talk at the Ecological Society of Australia Inc. Conference in Perth, during September–October 1999. The paper was stimulated by problems arising from poor goal setting and a tendency to use means as goals.


Summary Since ‘landcare’ in its modern form began in Australia during the early 1980s, considerable resources have been focused on applying tools and processes, such as community empowerment, regionalization, integrated catchment management, and facilitation and coordination. While these are valuable tools to achieve goals, they are not themselves goals. Unfortunately, they have frequently become ends in themselves. This confusion of means and ends has hindered landcare achievements in Australia. Examples of this are provided, and then contrasted with management based on goals that emphasize realistic targets, highlight barriers to goal achievement, and facilitate the development of well-targeted actions. The complexity of most natural resource management issues, the lack of technical solutions and the long timescales over which management must be applied have all contributed to the confusion of means and ends.