Landcare was developed as a community-based approach to land management in Australia in the 1980s. There are now landcare groups in more than 15 nations around the world.
Landcare was developed as a community-based approach to land management in Australia in the 1980s.1 Soil degradation had reached a critical level and the government found that their programs were not having sufficient impact. A project to encourage neighbors to work together to identify specific issues in their regions and to develop shared solutions was proposed to the state government in Victoria. They agreed to provide funds to hire a facilitator for the first few landcare groups in 1986. The groups were so popular and so successful that by 1990, there were over 70 groups. Today, there are more than 5,000 groups landcare groups operating across Australia, focusing on stewardship and sustainable management land, coasts, and rivers.
It didn’t take long for people in other countries to start noticing how successful the landcare approach in Australia was in getting people to work together to care for their land. Pretty soon, there were people from all over the world who were watching and asking about how they could start their own landcare groups. People from Australia were more than happy to share what they had learned and today, there are landcare groups in more than fifteen nations around the globe. A good site to visit to learn about landcare internationally is the Secretariat of International Landcare (SILC). In fact, one of the founders of SILC, Sue Marriott, came to visit the Catawba Valley in the the fall of 2010.
News about landcare reached the ears of several people in the United States, who thought it would be an interesting idea to try on American soils. In 2006, a bunch of Americans, including business people, government agency representatives, and researchers from Virginia Tech, went half way around the world to learn more about landcare. They came back excited about what landcare could offer American landowners and land managers who were committed to caring for their land and communities.
It is difficult to say how many landcare groups are in the United States because they are local, independent, and they may not actually be calling themselves a “landcare” group. There are three groups operating right in the Appalachian region of southwestern Virginia and North Carolina that all call themselves landcare and are loosely following the Australian model — Grayson Landcare in Grayson County, Virginia; Montreat Landcare in Montreat, North Carolina; and of course Catawba Landcare. These three groups are all different and are tackling very different issues, but what makes them all landcare groups are their focus on caring for their community — together!