As Tony Abbott threatens to de-list significant areas of the Tasmanian World heritage area (WHA) so the loggers can get to the old growth forests that are currently protected, it’s worth remembering that all our WH Areas are special and most of them are already under pressure from climate change.
No area has as many climate pressures as the Australian Alps. This film from Stephen Curtain offers some great telemark skiing images from the Western slopes of the Main Range in the Snowy Mountains. It also reminds us how unique and vulnerable this landscape already is. There have been several attempts to get World Heritage listing for the Australian Alps over the years. In an era of climate change and ever more demands on wild places, we need more world heritage areas, not less.
Check the film here.
Point zero zero one (0.001) is the approximate percentage of the Australian continent occupied by the Australian Alps.
Bordering one Territory and two States, this biogeographical island supplies invaluable fresh water to much of south east Australia and provides outstanding natural, spiritual and cultural values.
Although the Australian Alps are recognised as a national iconic landscape by federal national park agencies and Tourism Australia in recognition of such values (see australia.com/campaigns/nationallandscapes/AustralianAlps.htm), World Heritage Listing still eludes the Australian Alps.
Point zero zero one celebrates the fleeting beauty of these Alps.
This short film was an entrant to Bristol’s 2012 Wildscreen Festival in the UK. Visit wildscreenfestival.org/
Wow. Year four of the mountain journal. I love doing this early autumn reflection on the past year, but always feel a bit shocked that it has come around so soon. Thankfully the fires were not as bad this summer as the previous year, although the Tamboritha complex did give some serious worries for a while there. What stands out for me was the long and brutal heatwaves that we endured over summer after a fairly mediocre winter that saw various wash-outs of the entire snow base in Victoria mid season.
As we cycle into the cooler seasons and get some perspective on the year, what is apparent to me is the growing number of serious land management issues confronting the mountains, from the woefully badly managed proposal from the Victorian government to re-introduce cattle grazing into the Victorian alpine park, opening some parks to prospecting, on-going struggles against logging, and plans to allow private development in national parks. The pro development, anti environment, climate change denying troglodytes that currently run Canberra and Victoria are happily dismantling the work of decades to build some basic environmental protections. Tony Abbott is more brash than the Victorian Liberals (announcing, for instance, this week that there are too many national parks) but both state and federal Coalition parties have done a hand brake turn and are racing back to the 1950s when it comes to environmental issues as fast as they can.
You can find the rest of the post here.
The following update and call out comes from the Victorian National Parks Association.
There was also an interesting report on Bush Telegraph on ABC, with the following quote:
In a report titled Does Alpine grazing reduce blazing? A landscape test of a widely-held hypothesis. Dr Williams found ‘the use of domestic stock to mitigate fire extent and severity at landscape scale under conditions of extreme fire weather, is not justified on the basis of the current scientific understanding of fire behaviour, livestock behaviour and alpine vegetation dynamics.’
Dr Williams says there is no justification for the current trial.
‘It has no scientific justification and the trial as it is set out has very little scientific credibility… it will be a neat demonstration that cows eat grass.
Don’t let Abbott & Co trash our parks
- There is still no peer reviewed scientific design for the trial.
- There has been no consideration of a location outside of the national park.
- The application ignores the considerable scientific evidence that cattle grazing does not significantly reduce alpine fires.
- More than 60 years of research shows cattle damage alpine wetlands and the headwaters of many rivers, threatening nationally-listed rare plants and animals.
- The rushed decision means there will be no time to carry out on-ground surveys for threatened and rare species that could be affected by cattle grazing.
- Making a donation to our campaign
- Sending a message to Greg Hunt Greg.Hunt.MP@aph.gov.au
- Writing to your federal and state members of parliament
- Spreading the word on social media by reposting this message
- Getting friends and family to sign up to our email updates
In a sad but not unexpected move, the federal environment minister Greg Hunt has approved the Victorian government’s grazing trial in the Wonnangatta Valley within the Victorian national park.
Check here for some background.
This report comes from Tom Arup at The Age.
Greg Hunt approves Victorian Alpine National Park cattle grazing trial
Mr Hunt’s approval stands in contrast to the Gillard Government which blocked a similar – albeit larger – cattle grazing trial, on the grounds it would damage the environment and the heritage values of the alpine region.
The Napthine government has pursued the trial saying it is necessary to test whether grazing reduces the risk of bushfires by removing fuel loads. Conservationists say there is little scientific rigour behind the program and past research shows cattle grazing has no impact on stopping bushfires, while damaging sensitive alpine ecology.
Under the trial, 60 cows will be released into the Wonnangatta Valley in the park for the first year of the program. In the second and third years of the trial, up to 300 cows could be introduced, though Mr Hunt would need to approve the expansion and extra years first.
The approval of the second and third years of the trial by Mr Hunt will be contingent on additional surveys of rare and endangered species in the area and the impacts on heritage.
Mr Hunt has also put limits on the numbers of dogs and horses allowed to be used during the trial. Temporary electric fencing will also be installed along some of the 262-hectare trial site boundary.
Cattle grazing was first removed from the Alpine National Park in 2005 by the Bracks government. Grazing is backed by the Mountain Cattlemen’s Association of Victoria, which says it is part of its long-standing cultural heritage and has campaigned for the practice to return to the national park.
Upon coming to power in Victoria in 2010, the Coalition moved to reinstall grazing in the park, proposing a five-year trial of 400 cattle across several sites to test its impact on bushfire risk.
The government then released cows in the national park in 2011 but was ordered to remove them by the Gillard Government because they had not sought approval under federal environment laws.
That sparked a bitter battle between Canberra and Spring Street over the trial. Former federal Environment Minister Tony Burke changed heritage protections for the alpine region to block cattle grazing, likening the proposal to Japanese “scientific” whaling.
The state government launched a legal challenge, which failed. When the Abbott government came to power last year it then resubmitted a slimmed down version of the trial.
Mr Hunt’s approval was made late on Wednesday night, and he says it followed a “rigorous assessment”.
The following article comes from the Winter 2014 issue of Mountain Magazine. It tracks the decline of a glacier in coastal Alaska and was written by Tad Pfeffer, scientific partner of the Extreme Ice Survey.
The tremendous snowfall of the Alaskan coastal ranges funnels down to the waters of Prince William Sound, where the Columbia Glacier calves icebergs into the Valdez shipping lanes. I’ve lived at the Columbia for a few weeks at a time for nearly 10 years, and at glaciers around the world for 35. I watch, measure, photograph, and poke at ice with various tools to reveal the inner workings of this particular cog in the great environmental machine we inhabit. My work is arcane, an oddball pursuit. Or it was. Surveying ice is now mainstream. The state of the world’s climate, and its glaciers, suddenly matters.
Since 1983, the Columbia Glacier’s length has shrunk by a third, losing 12 miles of ice. Pushing icebergs into the ocean at that rate is fast work. The Columbia can move 100 feet per day. In 2006, I used time-lapse photography as an observational tool. The next summer, renowned photographer James Balog and a film crew accompanied me to Alaska to do more.
The result of our work is the Extreme Ice Survey, a collection of large-scale, time-lapse imagery from Alaska, Iceland, and Greenland. Balog’s photos get the crucial point across: These giant systems are changing, and fast. Filmmaker Jeff Orlowski captured the big moments and the frustrating hurdles, and his contribution became the film Chasing Ice. Our collective labor informs those who must act, for the benefit of us all.
And our work continues. The EIS now gathers time-lapse photography from 28 cameras stationed at 13 glaciers in Greenland, Iceland, the Nepalese Himalayas, Alaska, and the Rocky Mountains. South America and Antarctica are next. Each camera collects 8,000 frames annually, taking a photo every half-hour of daylight. The images help the public learn more about glaciers and ice sheets so that 35 years from now, the Columbia might still exist.
Visit extremeicesurvey.org for more information.
The following opinion piece was published in the Weekly Times newspaper, March 5, 2014, and was written by Phil Ingamells, from the Victorian National Parks Association.
The project to put cattle back into the Alpine National Park has put Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt in something of a pickle.
Should he leave decisions on land management to the states, as many in his Government will be pressing him to do, or should he act on his clear responsibility to protect the National Heritage-listed Alpine National Park?
Having made a pre-election promise to the mountain cattlemen that they’d get back into the park, the Victorian Government framed the exercise as a scientific trial to “prove” that alpine grazing would reduce fire.
But in December 2010 they hurried cattle into the park before they had even thought about out how to run a trial. Tony Burke, then federal Environment Minster, saw through the exercise and called a halt. This second attempt isn’t much better.
If you really want to know how grazing affects bushfires, you have to look at the behaviour of real fires, and two clever studies have done that.
One carefully measured the severity of fire across grazed and ungrazed areas of the Bogong High Plains after the 2003 fire. Another used satellite imaging right across the high country for both the 2003 and 2006 fires.
Both studies found that grazing didn’t significantly reduce fire extent or severity, and there was evidence grazing could alter vegetation over time to actually increase risk.
But the Victorian Government seems to be pretending these published didn’t happen.
Instead, the new “trial” will, inexplicably, put 300 cattle into the remote Wonnangatta Valley, letting them munch away on half the known population of a nationally threatened orchid.
Scientists and experienced land managers agree it will tell us nothing useful about fire behaviour. The Victorian Government is either showing incompetence, or taking the federal minster for granted, or both.
The following comes from ABC Rural and is written by Alexandra Blucher and Bill Brown. At the end of their article you will also find links to the arguments FOR and AGAINST culling, culling methods and summary of the damage caused by brumbies.
Wild horses are out of control in the Australian Alps according to conservationists, and doing irreparable damage to the fragile alpine environment.
However, brumby advocates dispute the claims and say alpine horses are part of an iconic bush heritage that must be protected.
It’s a divisive debate and passions always run high.
Aerial surveys of the wild horse population in the Australian Alps, including Kosciuszko National Park between 2003 and 2009, indicate an increase in brumby numbers, from just under 2, 500 to over 7,500 horses.
With recent good seasons and an estimated population growth of between eight to 20 per cent every year, NSW National Parks are projecting that a conservative estimate, would put the current horse numbers in the alps at over 10,000, with over 7000 in Kosciuszko National Park.
Conservationists say environmental destruction in Kosciuszko National Park is at crisis point, with threatened native animal and plant species at risk. They want the population to be aerially culled.
Advocates for these wild horses of the high country reject the population estimates, the claims of lasting environmental damage, and say they will vehemently fight any move towards aerial culling.
Government review puts brumbies back in the spotlight
A review of the Kosciuszko Horse Management plan is currently underway after the NSW Environment Minister, Robyn Parker, called for it to be examined last year.
As a part of the review, a consultation process is underway to bring the polarised community together to decide how the wild horse population in Kosciuszko National Park will be managed.
The discussions are expected to be far from harmonious with the facts about horse numbers, the extent of environmental damage and the best approach to management, all in dispute.
Another round of aerial surveys is expected to be completed in April.
The Government initiated consultation process will put the divisive issues firmly back on the public agenda.