Desert conference links Indigenous rangers

Traditional owners and Indigenous rangers have met in the Red Centre near Uluru to discuss land-management priorities for about one-third of Australia's land mass.

The Indigenous Desert Alliance Conference in Yulara is the largest gathering of its kind in Australia and is hosting more than 400 delegates and 50 desert ranger groups over three days this week.

IDA chair and Nyangumarta elder Nyaparu Rose said this year's conference is focused on fire management to limit wildfires, while protecting cultural sites and the habitats of threatened species such as the bilby, the night parrot and the great desert skink.

"Burning starts up when it's green after the rain, because it doesn't flare up, and it's a small burning," Ms Rose told AAP.

Rangers burn on-country to produce small, patchy and low-intensity fires, combining traditional Indigenous knowledge with modern methods.

Ms Rose said the federal government's State of the Environment Report and the recent Threatened Species Action Plan showed a recognition of the importance of Indigenous-led land management.

"Our strong connection to country over countless generations means we have the expertise to look after our desert home and the animals that live here," she said.

The IDA teaches rangers modern burning techniques, including aerial incendiary from helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

Central Land Council manager of land management Nick Ashburner said an increase in funding to Indigenous Protected Areas following wildfires in 2011 had effectively eliminated wildfires in Tanami in the Northern Territory.

"In the few years I was there you really noticed that big wildfires just didn't happen anymore," Mr Ashburner told AAP.

The wildlife biologist said ranger programs helped get people back into country, which was effectively dependent on human intervention after thousands of years of land management.

"People don't really understand until you've lived out here how vital the human influence on the landscape is, because it's been like that for so long," Mr Ashburner said.

"It's just a natural part of the landscape, so we have to make sure that input is still there."

Ms Rose said the conference also worked to ensure knowledge-sharing instilled a combination of scientific and cultural teachings in young rangers.

"They learn both ways, as if they would walk in two worlds and have an understanding of both sides," she said.

Ms Rose said maintaining the health of the land was crucial to meeting the needs of people within the community.

"If you have a good, healthy country, you have healthy people, healthy rangers, and our elders, our cultural advisers, they are very important to be healthy as well," she said.