Rob Harris provides an update on the alpine grazing proposal in the Weekly Times.
You will be pleased to know you have a full 10 days to provide input on more than 20 documents. The paperwork is available here.
Cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park could return after a full assessment of a proposed grazing trial
CATTLE could graze again in the Alpine National Park before winter after the Commonwealth agreed to a full assessment of a proposed trial.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt last week opened a 10-day consultation period.
Mountain Cattlemen’s Association of Victorian president Charlie Lovick said the decision for a “full federal environmental assessment” made sense.
“No doubt it’s a polarising issue and it’s going to continue to be, but this takes some of the politics out of it and now the worthiness of a trial can be accessed,” Mr Lovick said.
“The 10-day period and assessment means we could still get up there by late March and a short trial this year before returning next year could certainly be advantageous.”
The proposed three-year grazing trial of 60 cattle would take place in the remote Wonnangatta Valley.
Projects deemed by the Commonwealth likely to have a “significant impact” on nationally protected areas requires federal approval.
The process requires the State Government to publish assessments that “clearly articulates any impacts” and will also take into account expert scientific advice and public submissions.
A decision is expected by the end of next month.
Victorian Environment Minister Ryan Smith was asked to submit more information about the trial – particularly a survey of native flora – to the Commonwealth last month.
Grazing in the national park was banned by the Bracks government in 2005.
Mr Smith said the Coalition Government believed there was a “clear need to investigate”.
Past scientific studies, including one by the CSIRO, have ruled grazing did not reduce the risk of fire in Alpine areas.
The Victorian National Parks Association criticised plans to return cattle as “a back door way of getting cheap grazing for their mates” while the Australian Society of Native Orchids has written to the federal minister opposing the return of cattle.
Tom Arup from The Age newspaper is reporting that the Victorian government’s cattle grazing proposal has been referred for assessment by the Environment Department. It is good to hear that the poorly developed proposal hasn’t been approved and will require further investigation.
However, with the tendency of this government to approval destructive projects, the threat is not yet averted. The state government could use the additional time to actually inform people about the plan by providing more details on how the proposal has been framed. Without additional data, it seems like a deal for some mates rather than a well thought out scientific proposal to see if grazing can reduce fire risk.
Victoria’s alpine cattle grazing trial will face an assessment
Victoria’s cattle grazing trial in the Alpine National Park will face an assessment under the federal environment laws, scuppering any chance of cattle grazing the park this summer.
Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt has deemed the project a ”controlled action”, meaning that first it will need an assessment by his department, and then his approval. The trial, which the state government says is necessary to see if grazing reduces bushfire risk, would see 60 head of cattle released into the Wonnangatta Valley for three summers.
A larger trial was blocked by the federal government in 2012 under national environment law for the threat grazing posed to the natural and heritage values of the region.
For background on the proposal, check here.
This is a great project. A group of back country skiers from Montana have joined together to make a film that looks at wilderness in their state – the first in the USA to create wilderness. Designated wilderness areas prohibit mechanised recreation like the use of snowmobiles. The US phenomena of ‘slednecks’ is a huge issue across a lot of the mountainous public lands in the ‘States.
Land of No Use is a two year documentary project using winter recreation to explore the value of Montana’s public lands. The title comes from an old bumper sticker and slogan for opponents of wilderness designations (i.e. motorised recreation enthusiasts and timber corporations) that reads, “Wilderness = Land of No Use.” The narrative of the land management debate will shadow that of a group of young athletes exploring terrain where humans are mere visitors, in a state named for its mountains.
The people behind the project recently successfully crowd sourced funds for the filming and production.
They plan to have it ready for distribution later this year.
Their blog has some great images and videos of their back country adventures.
Prospectors get green light to search in national parks
The Age has reported that the state government has approved for new national parks. The following is an excert from an article by Tom Arup.
Five parts of the Alpine National Park, one area of the Lake Eildon National Park and two sections of the Lerderderg State Park will now be opened to recreational gold hunters who are often known as prospectors or fossickers.
The use of metal detectors and hand tools will be allowed, but the government has ruled out the use of more elaborate motorised devices sometimes used by prospectors.
A review of the environmental and cultural impact of the decision will occur after one year.
Phil Ingamells from the Victorian National Parks Association said national parks were there for nature, not for digging up.
The decision to open up new areas follows a Victorian Environmental Assessment Council investigation – commissioned by the government – of nine national and state parks to determine which would be most appropriate to allow prospectors access to.
While the council recommended the new areas adopted by the government on Tuesday, it warned in its final report there was clear evidence the practice could damage the natural values of national parks, especially rivers and creeks. It also said prospecting did not sit well with the purposes of national and states parks.
Read the full article by Tom Arup here.
Read background info here.
Snow gums are the quintessential alpine tree on mainland Australia, generally growing at heights between 1,300 and 1,800 metres asl. Forests and woodlands of Eucalyptus pauciflora can look quite uniform from a distance, but up close they have such character.
But wildfire has been devastating large swathes of snow gum habitat, with significant fires in the Victorian High Country in 1998, 2002/3, 2006/7 and 2013 and in the Snowy Mountains in 2003.
Research is showing that if we want to allow snow gum forests the chance to recover from these fires, we need to keep the cattle out and do our best to stop any future fire activity.
This story available here.
Conservation Volunteers Australia and Parks Victoria are calling for volunteers to help restore remote sections of the 650-kilometre Australian Alps Walking Track.
Last summer saw helpers spend 120 days in Alpine National Park Across repairing 23 kilometres of track, laying 930 metres of rubber matting and installing water bars to prevent erosion at locations including The Knobs, Mount Sunday and Mount McDonald.
Remote sections of the track are difficult to maintain over time and help is needed to clear fallen timber off the track, install rubber tiling, brush-cut overgrown vegetation and to install crucial signage and symbols to help guide bushwalkers on their adventures in the Australian Alps.
There will be three projects in March and April which are rated hard walking, and involve remote camping in the King Billy/ Mt Magdala/ Mount Clear/Knobs areas of the Alpine National Park.
For more info, contact volunteer engagement officer Adam Smolak on firstname.lastname@example.org
The trips are:
Australian Alps Walking Track Project Mt Clear/Nobs Area
2nd to 8th March 2014
16th to 22nd March 2014
Please check here for more info.
Australian Alps Walking Track Project King Billy Mt Magdala Area
30th March to 5th April 2014
See more here.
The following comes from Rob Harris at The Weekly Times. It is interesting to note that this trial is ostensibly about whether cattle grazing can reduce fuel load, yet the Mountain Cattleman rep keeps talking about invasive species in the valley.
Given that cattle introduced most of the invasive species in the first place it seems to be an ‘own goal’ type argument to run if you want to see cattle brought back.
As with the earlier attempt to get cattle into the Alpine Park, it would appear that the Victorian government has done a poor job of compiling the information that the federal minister needs to make an informed decision on the trial. Given that the Wonnangatta trial has been a concept endorsed by the environment minister for at least a year, it is hard to fathom why this second application has been managed so badly.
For background on the issue, check here.
There is an online poll attached to the story: Should a native orchid halt alpine grazing?
Fears for native orchid put high country cattle trial on hold
The Victorian Government’s push to begin a three-year trial in the Wonnangatta Valley this month has been put on hold after the Commonwealth sought more information about the habitat.
The Australasian Native Orchid Society of Victoria is the latest conservation group to raise concerns about a return to alpine grazing, after it was reported a survey of rare and threatened plants in the area was not included in Victoria’s application to the Commonwealth.
The Wonnangatta Valley is home to one of two known populations of the native orchid diuris ochroma, or pale golden moth.
Society member Richard Thomson said the group had written to federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt seeking protection for the native flower.
“Having chosen this venue virtually in the middle of the park – where there is plenty of state forest which would have been equally as suitable and wouldn’t run the same risks to the environment – just seems totally weird to me,” Mr Thomson said.
Mr Thomson said it was “ridiculous” the Victorian Government would put the native flower at risk.
If the trial is approved by the Commonwealth, 60 cattle will be released into the Valley for a three-year trial.
A spokesman said Mr Hunt was awaiting information from his Victorian counterpart that would allow the department to make a “fully-informed decision”.
A spokeswoman for Victorian Environment Minister Ryan Smith said an updated survey of the native habitat would be provided to the Commonwealth. She said the “experience and expertise gathered over 170 years” should be included in land management.
The mountain cattlemen, removed from the park in 2005 by the Bracks Labor Government, will this weekend hold their annual high country “get together” on the Omeo High Plains.
Mountain Cattlemen’s Association of Victoria president Charlie Lovick said the decision to stop grazing Wonnangatta had grown into a fire trap “infested with invasive species”.
The following comes from The Mercury newspaper, journalist Jennifer Crawley.
Mt Wellington opens for development under new management plan
MT Wellington is open for business, with a new management plan allowing for a wide range of commercial development, including a controversial cable car.
The Wellington Park Management Plan, which took effect this week, opens the gates to commercial development at the pinnacle and The Springs.
The tourism industry has welcomed the potential for new drawcards at the Hobart landmark, which attracts more than 350,000 visitors every year.
Tourism Industry Council Tasmania boss Luke Martin said the plan was “overdue, historic and very welcome”.
“It creates the possibility of a whole series of new markets on the top and at The Springs,” Mr Martin said.
The plan allows for a visitor centre, interpretation centre, viewing shelter cafe, restaurant and take-away food premises, bus terminal, council depot, shuttle buses, cable cars and aerial ropeways, and funicular rail and cable-rail systems.
There has been no commercial development on the mountain since a health spa and chalet were destroyed by bushfire at The Springs in 1967.
Mr Martin said there was great potential for tourism development on the pinnacle.
“We have 350,000 tourists going to the summit each year, with no economic activity out of them,” he said.
“There is a market for something on the summit to vastly improve what’s there now.
“Even if the cable car doesn’t happen, we will still get something.” Environment, Parks and Heritage Minister Brian Wightman said the plan allowed for a range of developments in the park, including a cable car.
“The new plan strongly promotes the development of new visitor services and infrastructure on Mt Wellington, but also ensures its special values are protected,” he said.
Developments specifically allowed at The Springs include a backpacker hostel, bed and breakfast establishment, holiday cabin, residential hotel, walkers bunkhouse/hut and cable-rail systems.
While the plan allows for commercial development at The Springs and the pinnacle, Wellington Park Management Trust chairwoman Christine Mucha said the trust preferred major development to be centered at The Springs.
“We would like to see The Springs developed and Hobart City Council would like to see it developed,” she said.
“It is the central point to start walks and bikes and it is lacking facilities.” Hobart developer Ali Sultan’s approval for a visitor centre, restaurant and carparking at The Springs expires next month.
Hobart Lord Mayor Damon Thomas said no one could do anything at The Springs until that lapsed.
“The playing field opens up but not until that happens,” Ald Thomas said.
The new plan was “a big step forward,” Ms Mucha said.
“It was two years in the making and before the Planning Commission for nine months.
It’s not just about Mt Wellington, it’s the whole mountain range, Glenorchy and crown land.” Greens environment spokeswoman Cassy O’Connor said talk of development on the pinnacle was disturbing.
“It’s disappointing and disturbing to hear the state’s Environment Minister talking up inappropriate development such as a cable car on Mt Wellington,” she said.
“Brian Wightman knows very well that any cable car on the mountain would damage its natural and cultural values.”
Cable car proponent Adrian Bold said his group had waited for the plan to be ratified before taking the next step with their cable car vision.
They will have a proposal launch next month, a second round of public consultation and the plans before the council by mid-year, he said.
“We are very excited the plan is finally ratified,” he said.
Worn Wear is an exploration of quality – in the things we own and the lives we live. This short film takes you to an off-the-grid surf camp in Baja, Mexico; a family’s maple syrup harvest in Contoocook, Vermont; an organic farm in Ojai, California; and into the lives of a champion skier, a National Geographic photographer, and a legendary alpinist. It also features exclusive interviews with Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard.
Released as an antidote to the USA Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping frenzy, Worn Wear is an invitation to celebrate the stuff you already own.
Check here for an earlier post on the Worn Wear campaign.
The mountains of the eastern seaboard of the USA have some similarities with those in south eastern Australia. They are mostly forested, with only limited terrain above tree line, meaning that much of the steep snow country is not easily or safely ridden. Alpine resorts get around this by cutting runs, with sometimes very significant environmental impacts. Mt Buller would stand out as the worst case in Australia, with much of the mountain having been massively impacted by the footprint of the resort: the roads, the village, the runs and associated infrastructure, and waste treatment plants, etc.
Backcountry skiers and boarders tend to look to the higher terrain, and while many areas of tree covered terrain in the Australian mountains do offer some great options, the vast majority of the riding hours that are clocked up each winter are on naturally open slopes above tree line.
In the Adirondack mountains of New York state, there is a growing movement to create backcountry runs through ‘glade clearing’, small scale clearing of saplings to create safe corridors through the forests to allow skiing access.
The Adirondack Powder Skier Association (APSA) was formed to negotiate the right to cut these trails from state authorities in the Adirondack Park, which covers about 2.5 million hectares of wild land. Although avalanche slide paths are formed each year, skiers currently have few options when it comes to safely touring the backcountry mountain sides in the park. The APSA is seeking to gain an amendment to legislation that covers the park management plan so that they can create a series of skier-specific trails. The APSA argues that these would have less environmental impact than formed walking trails. Ron Konowitz, the president of the APSA, says “we’d manage the undergrowth by clipping horizontal stems and minimal undergrowth. On hiking trails they remove the top soil down to a hard surface. What we’re proposing is so much less invasive than that.”
Essentially they would seek to carefully remove a handful of trees on each ‘run’ or glade to create a more open area through birch forests which will be far safer than attempting to ski through regrowth forest. At this point, this type of management for backcountry skiing is not recognised in the Park management plans. Back country skiing and boarding is growing in North America, as it is here. The APSA argues that opening up back country runs would bring economic benefit to local towns, as it would attract more people to a wider area of the Adirondacks, as well as bringing many more opportunity for low impact out-of-resort skiing.
Of course, such land management intervention for a particular user group on public land is potentially fraught. It can be a foot in the door to more intrusive developments. The APSA seems to be mindful of this risk: it is seeking a change only to allow glade management, and is going to considerable lengths to bring all groups concerned about the mountains along with this proposal. It is set up as a not-for-profit corporation formed to “study, protect, promote, and enhance low-impact human powered snow sports on public lands in the Adirondack Mountains” and is working with state and local land managers, plus the local towns, conservation groups, and other stakeholders, to “define then develop appropriate management regulations” for managing the runs. If successful in gaining permission for the runs, they would trial them on a number of mountains.
For further details on the APSA, check their website.