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“Stewardship among lifestyle oriented landowners,” by Nicholas Gill, Peter Klepeis, and Laurie Chisholm By: Taylor Senkiw

by on November 15, 2011

This article, published in the Journal of Environmental Panning and Management, discusses land stewardship regarding “new rural landowners (NRL’s),” in terms of their impact on ecosystem functions and land management. This is demonstrated through a humanistic perspective of presence, aspirations, and management practices. Scholarly literature, which discusses these significant changes in the agricultural farming structures vary drastically. This article argues that “this process of nature creation is probably more diverse and possibly more varied in outcome than in the agricultural landscapes that they are replacing”(4).

The case study from New South Wales, Australia illustrated that, “a more flexible and dynamic concept of stewardship is an important part of understanding landscape evolution”(4). The authors present two general themes that focus around the declination of the terrain, and issues of landscape-scale change, in regards to natural resource management (NRM) and NRL’s.

The first theme demonstrates the NRL’s interest and ability of land management. Through a variety of complex factors, overall this theme expresses the positive and negative concerns “about management along and across boundaries and consequences for social and ecological relationships that influence landscape processes and structure”(5).

The second theme illustrates, “the structural characteristics of landscapes characterized by increasing fragmentation,” that is usually associated with two forms of fragmentation in which usually result in similar outcomes describing the ecological processes (5)


The Case Study:

The study specifically focuses on amenity landownership in the Jamberoo Valley, which is a highly valued region, “as a coastal hinterland and for its ‘rural’ and scenic character. The valley is faced with crucial conservation concerns, because of its close orientation to expanding rural zones. Although the terrain holds favorable farming conditions, farmers are increasingly selling land parcels to NRL’s despite growing environmental concerns broadly expressed by the government. These transfers are resulting to greater residential development, generating minimal capital from agricultural and grazing activities in this non-urban valley.



This case study closely resembles Folke’s argument of sustainability through examining the resilience in terms of human and environment interactions. The Jamberoo Valley is experiencing an influx of individuals’ referred to as NRL’s, whose relationship with their landscape is less commercially focused, altering land management techniques. “The reason for buying rural land mentioned by the largest number of interviewees is their desire for contact with or immersion with some form of rural nature” (9). In fact the local government stated, “that their management represented a break with the less careful management in the past and that under their ownership there was improved stewardship of the diverse values of the land- be they production values, conservation values or aesthetic values”(12). The Valley is now characterized as an environment that “supports societal development”(Folke), which had been a perceived threat in the past because these individuals are not utilizing the landscape to its fullest capacity through the agricultural practices that have been used for years. Based off these pervious practices, the landscape has formed a level of resilience. As the disturbances are decreasing, due to the reduction of agricultural production, the diverse values of the land are not only able to sustain themselves but restore. “The values, processes and practices they embody, are collectively contributing to the future character of high value landscapes close to major urban areas”(18).  This brings up a very interesting point expressing the relationship with the environment and the underlying human incentives. These NRL’s are not utilizing the land for economic incentives, but rather because they value the intrinsic characteristics the landscape holds. When looking at other instances of the exploitation of natural resources, I believe that there is a definite correlation between land stewardship and economic pressures or incentives.


  1. What are your initially reactions when reading “A large minority of interviewees expressed reasons related to their desire for rural lifestyle…some wanted a cow or goat (or two for their children or grandchildren to see and experience  …or to keep themselves busy in retirement”(10). Or “advice from a local garden club to plant at least one species considered invasive on the NSW south coast”(12).

Based off these practices, what do you think their attitudes about their environment are? Do you think that their actual behaviors correlate?

  1. Do you think that the landowners in the Jamberoo Valley have an obligation to use the land in some way, even if it isn’t running in a fully commercial operation? Do you think this is benefiting or negatively impacting the land?



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  1. I think this article brings up some really good points, in addition to the ones that were discussed in class on Monday. NRL’s affect not just the rural land in that area, but NRL’s change the dynamics for everyone from rural to urban areas, small scale to large scale farming practices, different ideals on conservation, economic change such as land prices becomes affected, cultural practices shift, and values on life quality change (323). I think this could be a good change for many reasons. Humans impact the land no matter whether it is rural or urban and this change could be seen at the small-scale impact. Cattle grazing and agricultural practices can be very damaging to the landscapes. Having “hobby farming” would be less impact full. Also, this is changing to the quality of life for many people that affect their overall health. Happier lifestyles lead to healthier people. Also, “hobby farming” is more sustainable for families. There is less emphasis going to the grocery store therefore saving gas money and time. Going forward, I do think these NRL’s should have similar policies regarding land management so disagreements do not erupt and for conservation efforts.

  2. In regards to the first question, after first reading these comments made in the interviews, at first glance this looks like people are trying to make a positive change with their lifestyles and the environment. They seemingly want to be part of a more “rural” landscape, get away from city life and live a more nature friendly lifestyle. However, I see a huge problem with this “positive” shift in living. Some of these people are not experienced with this different lifestyle and may find that once they realize how much responsibility it takes to care for all the land and how much time it takes to take care of their few grazing animals, people might realize that this isn’t the life for them and give up their responsibilities of caring for the land. I am afraid that some people might see this new development idea as more of a fantasized reality and may not take care of the environment as they should. People may not be fully aware of how much they affect the environment even by having just one cow or one invasive plant.

    • Kelcy,
      In regards to your comments, I agree with the “fantasized reality” rural areas hold. The article states, “Most interviewees were not actively managing for restoration or regeneration of native vegetation, although most were interested in protecting vegetation on their land”(12). It then goes on to present ten interviewees, in which demonstrated their enthusiasm about managing the landscape more favorable than in the past. Do you think these individuals will positively reflect their views on other individuals in the community, ultimately contributing to noticeable changes in land stewardship? The reason why I am asking this very optimist question is because even those who aren’t currently practicing desirable agricultural management expressed an interest in protecting their land. I believe that this illustrates that these individuals would be open to learning and understanding different management styles, as the definition of interest clearly states, “state of wanting to know or learn about something,”

  3. alannadore permalink

    Initially when reading, I was skeptical about the NRL’s actual land-use compared to the goal they had in moving to the Jamberoo Valley, however, especially after class on monday, I started to see how this situation could be beneficial to not only that region, but in setting an example for other areas, though i’m sure the impact that these people have on the region is not completely without flaw, the approach that these people are taking and their initial reasoning for moving into this area is a great foundation for the nature-culture relationship they will have. If these people are moving into the area because of the nature they wish to co-habitate with in that rural landscape, their acknowledgement of the landscape as a positive and precious aspect of their lives will help their decision-making processes when they impact their landscape. They can set the bar for other areas where people can choose to live somewhere because of the landscape, and built a nature-culture relationship based on the respect of landscape, not just the possible use it has for human purpose. Humans do have an affect on landscape no matter what, but their ability to attempt to change their previous tactics is something that should be greatly encouraged in the ecologically troubled time period we live in today, even if it is with flaw, because at least they are attempting to change the nature-culture relationship for the better instead of continuing to add to the existing issues.

  4. Summer Rose W permalink

    To answer the first question, I agree with Kelcy that there can be negative impacts when people who are not experienced with having animals such as cows and goats talk about wanting one. It seems like those people are living in a complete dream world that if they move into a rural setting, they will have a farm, and all of their milk will come from cows and goats. Those people should first take into consideration what kind of impacts on the environment they are moving to, those animals will have. It will likely be a negative one, especially with goats – that eat almost anything for plants. Those people being interviewed in the article want to do “the right thing”(327), which is good, a positive thought about the environment. But I suppose saving the environment is easier said than done, and more research and thought needs to go into doing good things for the environment, not as simple as some of the interviewees believe.

  5. I completely agree with Summer and Kelcy in relation to the first question you pose. All I can think of when I see those statements is how these people are not considering all aspects of their environment. It reminds me of situations like bringing certain animals from once country to another and introducing them to an environment in which they don’t belong. The effects could be harmful to the environment as a whole if the new species kills off other ecosystems even if the people living there were just trying to do what they thought was best. I just think it’s a matter of not considering all the aspects of how an ecosystem runs that creates a divergent in the ideologies and actions on their environment, in particular.

    • janellekramer permalink

      I also agree in regards to the first question. The people who answer that they want to live on the land because they “want a goat or two for their children” makes them seem like they like the ideas of living on a farm a lot more than actually having to run a farm. This notion is supported by the fact that farming has seriously decreased in this area due to the influx of NRLs. It almost seems as if they don’t understand the land, they just want to look at it. This is not necessarily a bad way to look at the area of land you live on and the vast majority of people don’t work the land on which they habitate, but compared to the farmers that they are replacing, they seem very ignorant of the land.

  6. shanewyenn permalink

    In response to your first question, Taylor, I do not think their attitudes about the environment and their actions correlate. These people obviously want to get back in touch with nature and have their kids grow up outside of huge cities and urban developments, which I think is great, but they clearly are not going about it in a sustainable, little to zero impact kind of way. This makes me wonder what their definition of ‘nature’ is and whether they believe their spread of land is included in this definition. I’m assuming they think their spread of land belongs to them and they can do whatever they want with it, so why not plant a few invasive plant species and have a few goats and cows for their kids to play with because they’re not hurting anyone, right? Wrong. The problem here is that I don’t think these rural homeowners realize that their actions can have an impact on the land.

  7. It is certain that the migration of people from urban to rural areas is turning Australlia into a “multifunctional landscape”. Though many of the inherent consequences have most likely not emerged yet, I think it is pretty obvious that the land owners are doing more harm to the environment than good. I agree with most of the comments posted that transitioning to a more rural lifestyle seems to be becoming more like a ‘fad’ than an actual stab at conservation. I think it is almost humorous that the land owners initial response to the amenity migration was to want farm animals, knowing nothing about the real repercussions of having one. I think that the land owners should feel completely responsible for the land they inhabit, as I feel every person should feel responsible for the environment. Although I fully understand this is completely unrealistic. On the other hand, I think it is important that projects like the NRL keep trying new ways to push sustainability. Though these ideas are a little far fetched, I think the main concept of environmental conservation needs to persist. It is hard to critique an idea that is trying to good, there just needs to be a little more of an educational aspect involved.

  8. 242colleencarey permalink

    My initial reaction to these statements is, “typical.” Honestly, so many people have no regard for the environment, and how their actions affect it. Many people are selfish and want what they want, get it, and don’t think of consequences, especially when it comes to the environment. So although these facts are upsetting to me, I’m not surprised.
    So, based of these practices, I think that their attitudes toward the environment aren’t bad, but that they just don’t realize how their attitude affect the places they live. They love nature; they want to be close to it and around it; but, they don’t take into consideration what that means. I just don’t think their attitudes include awareness of conservation.
    Yes, they have an obligation to because they are paying money to be there, to be in a naturesque place. And yes, it will negatively impact the land.

    • CollenCarey,
      I see where you are coming from here. When these individuals are stated that they moved to more rural landscape because of the aesthetic appeal, I automatically became skeptical of the NRL’s quality of land stewardship. It wasn’t until the government stated in the article, ““that their management represented a break with the less careful management in the past and that under their ownership there was improved stewardship of the diverse values of the land- be they production values, conservation values or aesthetic values”(12). This coupled with the fact that many of the interviewees expressed their interests concerning vegetation management and restoration, demonstrated through, “putting significant resources into restoration activities and are strongly motivated to enhance land stewardship”(14), shows that they are aware of their impact on the environment. Do you think they are just saying these things, but acting differently? How do you think that their attitude and behavior could better express awareness of conservation?

  9. I agree that they do have an obligation to the land, not only because they are paying to be there but also because we all have an obligation to the land. My question is, if we expect them to treat their land a certain way, why don’t we?
    Furthermore, even expressing interest at bringing in species that are not native to the NSW risks their entire way of life and the people don’t seem to realize it, and if they do, they don’t care. The way an invasive species will interact in a new environment is impossible to predict, but the outcome is not usually a good one. However, at the same time in the age of globalization people are given access to things they weren’t given access to before so it does not surprise me that they are showing interest in more variety. The things the natives don’t seem to realize is the extent to which they are risking their way of life.

  10. I was also not very surprised after reading this article. I felt that this piece reinforced the common idea that humans are often very destructive and cruel to their environment. The belief that humans have a “typical” ignorance regarding the environment seems to be a concept that we continue to hear about.
    Globalization is something that requires education to go along with it as well, without the education and proper knowledge, people so easily destroy and harm the environment like land owners and NRLs. The environment that people live in and posses impacts their ability to be resilient, and as Cumming argued, resilience is a large part of a society’s identity. As a result, destroying and negatively impacting the environment will eventually start affecting the identity.

  11. amygraceaustin permalink

    I really like what Parker said about people’s ignorance regarding the environment and I definitely think that is evident within this article. However, everyone has to start somewhere when it comes to education and I believe that environmental education is no different. Taylor’s first question was about people who desire a rural lifestyle so that they can own a cow or goat for their children to see and experience. While I do agree that this is somewhat naive and continues stereotypes about the environment, I believe it is a solid place to start. I feel the same way about the small scale gardens that Taylor mentioned. While these two examples certainly do not account for the true complexity of the environment and our responsibilities within it, we should not be paralyzed by perfection. In other words, doing a little is better than doing nothing.

    Children who grow up with some opportunities to engage with animals and the environment will be more likely to be tomorrow’s next political ecologists and environmental policy makers.

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