An environmental management system (EMS) is an integrated management system that a farm business can use to identify and manage their impact on the environment and improve production efficiencies. They are based on a ‘plan, do, check, act’ cycle that aims to achieve continual improvement in environmental, business and marketing performance. Using Environmental Management Systems for Maintaining Native Vegetation and Biodiversity in Rural Landscapes identifies the essential components of an EMS as: an environmental review; development of an environmental policy; a significant assessment of the environmental issues; setting of goals and targets; development of appropriate management practices and procedures; action plans; appropriate monitoring and documentation; and finally a review or audit process. The authors identify a range of pilot EMS studies being conducted by industry and government, but report on one of the few that tackles the dual goals of restoring and enhancing native vegetation, and having a viable farm business. It concluded that EMS provides a useful structure to change farming systems to meet these goals, but needs to be developed using an action learning approach with access to locally relevant technical expertise.
Native Biodiversity Resource Kit: Environmental management in agriculture also examines how an EMS can be used to integrate native vegetation and biodiversity management into a farming system context. The kit establishes tools to identify the appropriate standards that land managers can use to monitor sustainable agricultural practices. It describes key principles to help ensure a consistent approach to native biodiversity planning and management, while working toward sustainable farming outcomes. The kit includes information on ISO 14001, an internationally-recognised process standard addressing environmental management, and contains specific requirements which can be externally audited and certified.
Further information is included in Environmental Management Systems: What are they, progress so far and where to from here?. This paper outlines why farmers need to be involved in the broad environmental debate and briefly assesses the environmental performance of current agricultural systems. It outlines the main components involved and reports on progress in relation to some recent EMS projects.
Table 9: Native Biodiversity Resource Kit – Environmental management in agriculture Department of Sustainability
and Environment, Melbourne (CD-ROM).Providing planning and assessment tools for a range of natural resource management issues, including native vegetation, can provide an integrated framework for property managers. The two workbooks on Environmental Best Management Practice on Farms provide farm self-assessment sheets for environmental management issues of importance to property managers, and action planning and management sheets to assist with planning improvement. The ten issues covered are: property management planning, vegetation management, water management, soil management, controlling the spread of weeds, animal management, nutrient management, chemical management, farm waste management, effluent management and greenhouse gases. The worksheets have been developed for farming enterprises such as mixed grazing, cropping and dairy in south-western Victoria. While issues and practices will vary elsewhere, it provides a useful model for integrating native vegetation with other NRM issues.
Source: Straker A, Lowe KW (2004) ‘Native Biodiversity Resource Kit: Environmental management in agriculture.’ (Website) http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/dse/nrence.nsf/FID/-5AD7C889DED359714A256AED000C74EF?OpenDocument (Accessed: September 2004).