Tag Archives: environment

Introducing The Watershed

6a00d8341d07fd53ef01a3fd06febb970b-500wiAs we wait patiently for cooler weather and serious snow falls, you may enjoy this one. Its the pilot issue of a newsprint publication.

The previous one focused on all things snow and was called The Drift.

The Watershed is a collaborative newsprint publication between The Usual (‘The Usual is a creative team with a penchant for the outdoors’) and Patagonia to celebrate the joy of simple fly fishing, healthy rivers, dam busting, and sustainably sourced food.

The Watershed features Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia fly fishing ambassador April Vokey, DamNation producer Matt Stoecker, director Travis Rummel, 1% for the Planet co-founder Craig Mathews, dam buster Katie Lee. With contributions by Malcolm Johnson, Jeremy Koreski, Paul Greenberg, Jeanine Pesce, Keith Malloy, Trevor Gordon, Stefan Knecht, Jim Mangan, and others.

Pick up your  Spring/Summer 2014 copy at select Patagonia stores worldwide.

You can read it here.

Leaves From An Australian Forest Protest

Ron coverIn the late 1980’s the campaign to save the majestic forests of the South East New South Wales hinged on a Base Camp set up at Reedy Creek to provide a jumping off point for Direct Action.

The forest protests were having limited effect and getting very little media. Late one night, around the campfire, a small group of greenies discussed their ’perfect’ action. It turned out that each of us dreamed the same dream; getting away from the mass arrest protests of the day where people simply presented themselves en-mass for arrest and moving up into the trees where the Police couldn’t reach us and staying there – that is how the first long-term tree action on mainland Australia was born.

This is a poetic memoir of the actions that followed by Ron Fletcher, who was a central figure in the campaign. As Ron notes “while much of those forests has since been sacrificed to the wood chippers greed, the spirit and skills developed through Nullica and subsequent SE forest protests continued and grew to be followed by many powerful platform protests and protestors”.

You can read a review and order the book here.

Alpine grazing. It’s not just a bumper sticker, it’s a hypothesis

fire damage on Great Alpine Road
fire damage on Great Alpine Road

Its just not a credible one.

Latrobe University recently hosted a significant event organised by the Research Centre for Applied Alpine Ecology on the much contested topic of alpine grazing and whether it is a useful management tool to reduce fire intensity.

It featured two researchers with long term research backgrounds in the realm of fire and grazing.

A report is available here.


challenge to alpine grazing

The following update comes from the Victorian National Parks Association.

Today we lodged papers in the Supreme Court of Victoria challenging the Napthine Government’s reintroduction of cattle grazing to the Alpine National Park.

The whole idea of national parks is to conserve nature for future generations, and for its own sake. These natural environments are irreplaceable – a gift to the present, and a legacy for the future.

But by insisting on putting cattle back into the Alpine National Park the Victorian Government is ignoring the intention of the law that established national parks.

Now that all other avenues of protecting the national park have been thwarted we have been forced to take legal action.

Both the state and federal governments have failed in their duty to protect the Alpine National Park.

This is a legal test case. No one has ever tried it before, so we can’t guarantee we will win.

But in our view there is no other option. We have to take this brave step.

Ensuring the integrity of national parks is an investment in the future. Whether we win or lose this legal test case, the idea and importance of national parks as a haven for people and nature must be defended.

To fight this campaign we need to raise money from visionary people in Victoria. We’re hoping you are one of those people.

This campaign is vital. It’s not just about stopping cattle, it’s also about putting a stop to all the other attempts to exploit and commercialise our national parks in ways that irreversibly damage them for future generations.

We have to take this legal action now.  In March this year, 60 cattle were rushed back into the Wonnangatta Valley, part of the heritage-listed Alpine National Park, by your government as part of a flawed fire management trial.

These ‘cattle grazing trials’ have been roundly criticised as flawed science that will contribute little, if anything, to our understanding of fire management. The evidence speaks for itself, you can read it on our website.

We have to stop them going back in again over the coming 2014-15 summer when more cattle (up to 300) will do even more damage!

The mountain cattlemen have clearly said they want to return cattle to the entire Alpine National Park, and that this ‘trial’ is just the starting point.

With a looming state election, the Napthine Government and the Labor opposition must clarify their policy on these ‘scientific’ cattle grazing trials.

Victorians have a right to know before the next state election if they are voting for a small-scale scientific trial, the full-scale return of cattle grazing to the Alpine National Park or for the exclusion of cattle from the park once and for all.


winter on it’s way

With a couple of good dustings across the Alps in early May, everyone is getting impatient for winter. Thoughts turn to the big questions in life: when will we get that first serious dump? What trips am I going to do? Do I need any new gear?

If you’re getting ready for the first serious falls and opening weekend, maybe it’s time to think about:

ethical gear.

The Green and Sustainable gear site brings together information and listings on green and ethical outdoor gear, including what is still produced locally.

There are also a growing number of outdoor equipment producers who are paying attention to ensuring they have good working conditions in their factories. A lower impact snow industry is certainly getting closer every year – but only if we support it.

our carbon footprint.

Here in Australia, a trip to the snow usually means a lot of hours sitting in a car. But most resorts are well serviced by buses. Perhaps think of doing at least one trip a year by bus, as a practical way of reducing your impact. There are various ‘carbon calculators’ that are available so you can measure – and hopefully – reduce the impacts of your lifestyle.

If you’re a backcountry skier/ boarder, one option is to use buses to do longer tours: eg starting at Falls Creek and ending at Hotham.

hassle the resorts.

Most Australian ski resorts have given up on acting in any meaningful ay to reduce their contribution to global arming. In the US and Europe, many resorts are implementing a range of energy efficiency programs, sourcing green power (and even producing their own) and other measures. Resorts here have abandoned meaningful commitment to reducing impact.

If you stay in a resort, why not give them some feedback about the need for them to show leadership in responding to climate change?


Up high, just that bit closer to the sun, we need our sunblock. But what about the hidden nasties? Check here for a guide to nano free sunscreens.

keep your recycling hat on.

At home, most of us nowdays think about the little things that make a big difference: separating the rubbish from the recycling, turning off the lights when we leave the room, keeping an eye on water and energy use. A big problem with the massive influx of people to resorts in winter is that lots of them seem to leave their conscience at home when they are on holidays. Wasteful behaviour, lower recycling rates, cranking up the heating while leaving the door open. We’ve all seen it.

But if we can look after these things at home, we can certainly do it while on holidays …

protecting the Alps.

Climate change is an ever a greater risk to the mountains that we love and enjoy. Please think about supporting one of the groups that campaign on climate change or protecting the Alps.

A few ideas here:

Friends of the Earth Australia

Protect Our Winters

More ideas and contacts for local groups here.

Public Symposium on Fire Management and Alpine Grazing

10001434_807156965961438_7591415225312276971_nWEDNESDAY 21st MAY 2014, 530 to 700 PM

Hoogenraad Auditorium, La Trobe Institute for Molecular Sciences


Hosted by the Research Centre for Applied Alpine Ecology, La Trobe University

This Symposium will showcase how science answers questions about a current, highly topical management issue in the Australian Alps – the effects of livestock grazing on fire regimes of the Australian High Country.  The guest speakers will address globally important topics such as the evolution of Australia as a flammable continent, how weather and fuels determine fire regimes, fire-grazing interactions, and approaches to assessing the effectiveness of various fire management options, including alpine grazing. This is a public forum about an important land management issue, and there will be ample time for questions and discussion at the conclusion of the talks. The Symposium will be followed by drinks and nibbles.

This Symposium is a must for anyone with an interest in the ecology and management of the Australian Alps. Enquiries and reservations: femaa2014@gmail.com

Places are limited. RSVP: 15th May 2014


there is already substantial viewing infrastructure on the mountain

Mt Wellington cablecar proposal update

The following update comes from the Hobart group Respect the Mountain, who are concerned about plans to build a cable car up Mt Mount Wellington/ Kunanyi (check here for some background).

Dangerous precedent to be discussed at Hobart City Council meeting on 28th April

April 25, 2014

cable carA dangerous precedent is to be discussed at the Hobart City Council meeting in Town Hall on Monday 28th April at 5pm.

Mount Wellington Cableway Co. (MWCC) is hoping that council will grant landowner permission to extend the boundary of the Pinnacle Zone without any indication of what will be built in the area between the lookout and the top of the Organ Pipes.

Currently the area below the lookout platforms are protected from development. If the MWCC gets their way, then panaromic views from the top of the mountain could be marred by cables protruding beneath them.

This has the potential to set very a dangerous precedent for any future development on the mountain. Without any plans or specifications provided to council, the proponent is asking the City of Hobart to blindly provide permission to develop outside of established development zone. If the Hobart City Council agrees to this request, then it sets a precedent for any further proposals to be able to design wherever they want on the mountain!

MWCC are also yet to reveal exactly what they plan to build on the summit. Apart from a cableway station, other potential buildings that have been discussed include restaurants, cafes, visitor centre, accommodation, and an ampitheatre/function centre. This would form an enormous footprint on the fragile alpine environment and naturally wouldn’t all fit within the current development zone.

It is our belief that the cable car is being used to cloak an enormous development at the pinnacle.

Revelations at the MWCC breakfast launch just before Easter focused mostly on what they had planned on Cascade Brewerys land. Very little was mentioned about what was planned for the summit other than MWCC planned to fly an open-top cable car over the Organ Pipes.

Current revelations of plans are eerily similar to the 1993 Skyway plans that was to start at Cascades and used an aerial tram to travel to the summit where a restaurant and ski field were to be erected.
Respect The Mountain is calling on all concerned residents of Hobart to contact their Aldermen over the long weekend via mobile or email to register their concern before Monday’s meeting. Contact details are available on Respect The Mountain’s Facebook page, Twitter account and website. Alternatively, members of the public can attend the meeting at Town Hall at 5pm.

Giving Back part 2: the Victorian Mobile Landcare Group

I recently posted about the need for people who enjoy the mountains to give back to the natural environment in some way. One great option is to join or support one of the many groups that do ecological restoration work or track maintenance. One group that certainly ‘walks the talk’ is the Victorian Mobile Landcare Group, who work across a range of projects in the Victorian High Country.

The following is a report on a recent project they completed on the Bogong High Plains.

For contact details on a range of groups, check here.

Roper’s Hut Track Repair

Seven members of the Victorian Mobile Landcare Group Inc. (VMLCG) travelled to Mt. Beauty late on Friday 7 March in order to take on a request from Parks Victoria (PV) to assist create a rock vehicle bridge to protect sensitive sphagnum moss beds which straddle the Management Vehicle Only track out to the iconic Roper’s Hut, burn in the 2003 fires and restored in 2009 by a community effort, headed by the Freemasons Victoria NE District.

This one is the end of work. Time is 1 pm

The team met Parks Ranger Elaine Thomas and contractor Kim, on Saturday morning at Falls Creek and after rationalising vehicles and loads to reduce track impact, travelled out to the Big River Fire Trail and Roper’s Track intersection.

Once fortified by an early morning team, the VMLCG team then walked to the site, and after a JSA and briefing on design and approach by Kim, commenced the work to excavate and create the crossing.

In all, around 4 cubic metres of existing material was moved to make two purpose built and rock-based wheel tracks for both PV and contractor vehicles required to access the hut site. The 4 cubic metres of 75 – 150 mm granite rock used to fill the wheel tracks was kindly donated to the project by AGL, the operators of the recently constructed Clover hydro power station and this kind donation is much appreciated and acknowledged. Without it, this work would not have been possible.

This one is the end of work. Time is 1 pm
Start of the work at 10am. The pink dots mark the outlines of the track to be built
This one is start of work 10 am.  The pink dots are the track outlines we had to create.
This one is start of work 10 am.  The pink dots are the track outlines we had to create.

The VMLCG was originally tasked for two days but with the combined effort of the team and Parks Victoria rangers, the entire project was completed between 10 am and 1:30 pm on the Saturday – and after a quick lunch, the crew returned to Falls Creek and an early mark for the weekend!

The next phase of the project will be when the VMLCG returns with Fintona Girls’School to plant out around 450 alpine shrub species to stabilise the soil around the tracks and reduce their visual impact. It is expected in time, the spot will become barely noticeably and yet provide a much needed stabilising base for the occasional and required vehicle access.

We’ll let the before and after photos speak for the work done.

The VMLCG specialises in the development and delivery of remote area landcare projects and works collaboratively with a number of conservation groups on a diverse range of projects across Victoria. They can be reached via http://www.vmlcg.org.au

re-growth, Mt Stirling, VIC

climate change and bushfires

There is no doubt that our fire seasons are getting longer and more intense. Here in the south east, in terms of massive fires (greater than 250,000 ha), Victoria experienced two such events in the 19th century and five in the 20th century. In less than two decades, we have already had three mega fires in the 21st century. Many alpine areas have been burnt three times in the space of a decade.

There is no coherent overall response as yet by state or federal governments that outlines how we should respond to the growing interaction of climate change and wildfire. Sadly, our Prime Minister is in denial, having claimed that since ‘fires have always been part of our landscape’ there is no link to climate change. The Victorian state government has been challenged on the lack of attention to climate change in it’s approach to managing fire risk. Reducing fire risk is therefore about reducing fuel load and getting larger equipment , not about reducing greenhouse gas emissions or accepting that enhanced fire risk is the new reality for much of the country.

The following report, from Grist, outlines a different approach. The US government has released a strategy that aims to respond to the changing nature of fire threats. One aspect that especially interested me is the fact that it includes an approach that aims to ‘restore and maintain landscapes that are resilient to fire.’ In Victoria, we seem to be doing the opposite. There is a politically driven target that dictates that 5% of the state will receive fuel reduction treatment each year. This is in spite of the fact that some vegetation types don’t need burning to maintain ecological health, and others can become more flammable with the wrong fuel reduction approaches, and others are directly threatened by too much fire.

Climate change just reshaped America’s wildfire strategy


Like a tree in a greenhouse, America’s forest fire problem is growing ominously. Rising temperatures and declining rain and snowfall are parching fire-prone areas and juicing conflagrations. On Thursday, following years of meetings and scientific reviews, the Obama administration published a 101-page strategy that aims to help meet the country’s shifting fire threats.

The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy divides the nation according to fire risks, and profiles the communities that face those risks. “No one-size-fits-all approach exists to address the challenges facing the Nation,” the strategy states.


Despite covering 70,000 communities and 46 million homes, the strategy can be boiled down to guidelines that aim to do three main things: restore and maintain landscapes that are resilient to fire; brace communities and infrastructure for occasional blazes; and help officials make wise decisions about how and whether flames should be doused. Here’s what that all looks like in flowchart form:

Click to embiggen.

“As climate change spurs extended droughts and longer fire seasons, this collaborative wildfire blueprint will help us restore forests and rangelands to make communities less vulnerable,” said Mike Boots, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants: johnupton@gmail.com.

new road proposed for Mt Stirling

Mt Buller is already over developed. Is the road part of a plan to see similar development on Mt Stirling?
Mt Buller is already over developed. Is the road part of a plan to see similar development on Mt Stirling?

In 2008, the Mt Buller and Mt Stirling Alpine Resort Management Board applied for permission to build a road through old growth alpine ash across the north side of Corn Hill from Mt Buller to Mt Stirling.

This was ostensively to provide a route for people to escape the mountain in the case of a fire blocking the main road. However, it would pass through a considerable area of dense forest and then across to Mt Stirling, which then requires a long drive down to the Delatite River, where the existing Buller road emerges from the forest. If there is a major fire burning out of the Delatite Valley across the northern side of Buller it is hard to see how a major evacuation would work above the same area of forest. It would be a huge financial investment for a road that would probably never need to be used. A much cheaper option would be to ensure the community gathering site on the mountain contains a fire refugee able to withstand an intense fire.

So, is there something else going on? The Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) believes the real intent is to make it easier to build accommodation on Mt Stirling because it would greatly improve vehicle access to the higher sections of the mountain.

The VNPA says it would just require a ‘simple amendment’ to the current planning scheme to allow development.

The road was knocked back several years ago, but now the resort is trying to gain approval again.

There have been various attempts to develop ski resort facilities on Mt Stirling over the years, and this has long been resisted by many in the community. Mt Buller is already heavily developed, and Mt Stirling provides opportunities for cheaper, lower impact winter and summer recreation. It has recently seen the development of major mountain biking trails, and provides access to walkers, skiers, 4 wheel drivers, and horse riders.

The VNPA is tracking this issue. Check their website for updates.

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 126 other followers