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Australia’s Stock Route Network: 1. A review of its values and implications for future management


  • Pia E. Lentini,

  • Joern Fischer,

  • Philip Gibbons,

  • David B. Lindenmayer,

  • Tara G. Martin

Pia Lentini, Philip Gibbons and David Lindenmayer are respectively PhD student, Senior Fellow and Professor at the Fenner School of Environment and Society, the Australian National University (Hancock Building (43), Biology Place, Canberra ACT 0200; Tel: +612 6125 1496; Email: Joern Fischer (formerly of the Fenner School of Environment and Society) is a Professor with the Faculty of Sustainability (Leuphana University Lueneburg, Scharnhorststrasse 1, 21335 Lueneburg, Germany). Tara Martin is a Research Scientist with CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences (EcoSciences Precinct, 41 Boggo Road, Dutton Park QLD 4102). This research forms part of a larger project investigating the value of travelling stock routes for biodiversity conservation, in response to a pressing need for quantitative data and information to guide stock route management decisions.


Summary The Stock Route Network (SRN) is a vast system of public land, comprising vegetated strips and small reserves across the eastern length of the Australian continent. Now predominantly following the road system, this network was historically established to allow for the movement of livestock prior to truck and railway transport. Owing to declines in traditional uses, parts of the SRN may now be sold to private landholders, or put under long-term grazing leases, making them unavailable for other emerging uses. This is in spite of the fact that it is widely accepted by researchers, practitioners, graziers and agriculturalists that the SRN holds great natural and cultural value. We conducted a review of scientific and grey literature to determine the known values of the network for biodiversity conservation, cultural heritage, rural communities and Australian society as a whole. We found that the majority of existing literature on the network focuses on New South Wales (NSW) and is of a conservation-based nature. The Stock Route Network supports a wide range of threatened species and communities, with considerable potential for many more to be discovered. The network also holds heritage value for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The societal benefits from the SRN are numerous because it provides land for recreation and apiary sites, a source of seed for revegetation projects, a focus for rural tourism, as well as the traditional benefits for stock droving and emergency agistment. In the light of our review, we identified key knowledge gaps pertaining to the values of the SRN and propose a number of options for its future management. Appropriate governance and increased investment in SRN management is now urgently required to ensure that it continues to conserve its many environmental and social values in perpetuity.