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EMU = Ecosystem Management Understanding
Supporting wise use (conservation) of land, based on local knowledge, supported by science

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EMS = Environmental Management System

EMS Introduction

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Pastoralism and the environment

The rangelands account for 87 per cent of the Western Australian landmass and encompass a diverse group of relatively intact ecosystems including tussock grasslands, shrublands, woodlands and patches of monsoonal forest. The rangelands represent the largest remaining group of semi-natural ecosystems in the State and, as such, are of high environmental value.

Pastoralists are responsible for managing nearly half of the Western Australian rangelands, grazing cattle and sheep on 980,000 square kilometres of native pasture.

Chemical-free production and extensive grazing patterns have helped to create a clean and green image for thepastoral industry. However, in many rangeland environments, domestic and feral animals have had a profound effect, with overgrazing leading to erosion, habitat loss and a decline in pasture diversity.

While most pastoralists are committed to maintaining and improving the condition of the rangelands, there is a growing imperative for this commitment to be demonstrated. More than ever, the public is accessing the rangelands and pastoral management is being scrutinised. In the future, public pressure may have implications for the terms imposed on pastoral leaseholds.

In addition, national and international markets are showing increasing interest in environmental management. As markets begin to seek out assurances that agriculture is sustainable, failure to provide credible proof of responsible resource use may result in restricted market access, an issue that is of real concern to export focused industries, such as the pastoral industry.

It is timely for pastoral managers to begin looking at ways of ensuring and demonstrating responsible management of the environment.

Many agricultural industries are looking towards Environmental Management Systems (EMS) as a method of achieving and demonstrating responsible management. EMS may be of use to the pastoral industry, by assisting pastoralists to:

• fulfil their legal obligations to manage the environment;
• improve the effectiveness of their resource management;
• build public confidence in the industry’s commitment to the environment;
• increase production efficiencies;
• reduce the costs of correcting environmental problems; and
• access markets seeking environmental assurances.
• Environmental Management Systems

 

Environmental Management Systems

An Environmental Management System, or EMS, is a systematic management framework that can be used by any business to assist in the task of identifying and managing the environmental impacts associated with itsactivities.

As a business management tool, an EMS can effectively complement and build on other existing activities such as property management planning, best management practices, codes of practice and quality assurance schemes (EMS Working Group, 2002).

There are many approaches that may be used to build an environmental management system.

However, there is currently only one EMS standard that is internationally recognised: ISO 14001.ISO 14001 was developed by the International Organisation for Standardisation in 1996. The standard sets out the generic components of an EMS and was developed to provide a wide range of enterprises with a standardised tool for identifying and managing environmental obligations, and achieving independent certification (Gunningham and Sinclair, 1999).

To maximise the value of their EMS, a business may decide to have its system externally audited and certified to the international ISO 14001 standard (EMS Working Group, 2002).
Environmental Management Systems are usually based upon the principle of continuous improvement and structured around the plan-do-check-act improvement cycle stated in the ISO 14001 standard (Figure 1).

Figure 1. The EMS continuous improvement cycle (after AS/NZS ISO 14001:1996)

An EMS is generally comprised of the following components:

• an environmental policy, stating the environmental goals of the business;
• a register of environmental legislation relevant to business operations;
• a review of environmental impacts associated with business operations and a list of significant impacts requiring management;
• plans and procedures required for managing significant impacts including a response plan for any emergency or unexpected situations;
• communication and training procedures;
• a program for monitoring the status of significant issues;
• a continual review and assessment of the effectiveness of the system.

The degree to which a business addresses the above requirements is largely dependent on the nature and complexity of its activities and the environmental impacts associated with its operations.


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