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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

‘The cure for depression is action’

In March this year, I sat on the summit of one of my favourite hills, Mt Blowhard, and watched the fires just to the south, which were in the Dargo River valley and burning up onto the Dargo High Plains. Already a mosaic of burnt and reburnt forest, now characterised by the grey trunks of burnt trees, I knew that this would be another wave of impact on these mountain forests. Some parts of north east VIC have now burnt more than three times in a bit over a decade. Scientists warn about the loss of alpine ash and snow gum if the frequency of fire continues to increase.

Continue reading “‘The cure for depression is action’”

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Proposed new walker infrastructure for Walls of Jerusalem

The Walls of Jerusalem are located in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, on the edge of the Central  Plateau. It is a wild and inspiring place, that has relatively easy access via walking tracks and stunning rocky peaks and alpine lakes.

It is a hugely popular hiking destination and the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service has been trying to find the right balance between building track infrastructure to reduce walker impact and keeping the wild nature of the Walls.

There are now plans for additional walker infrastructure and there is an opportunity to make a submission about these proposals.

Continue reading “Proposed new walker infrastructure for Walls of Jerusalem”

Backcountry film festival – Melbourne 2020 screening

unnamedThe Backcountry Film Festival is produced each year by Winter Wildlands Alliance as a celebration of the human-powered winter experience and a gathering place for the backcountry snowsports community.

The Melbourne show will happen on Wednesday 25 March.

TIME: Please feel free to arrive from 6.30pm. Films from 7pm – 9.30pm.

VENUE: Building 80, Level 1, room 2, Melbourne.

445 Swanston Street Melbourne (between Franklin and A’Beckett streets). Easily accessible by public transport (trams on Swanston Street or trains via Melbourne Central).

TICKETS: Suggested donation: $8 conc & students/ $15 waged. There are no online sales. Tickets available at the door. There will be plenty of room. Sorry, cash only sales on the night (there are ATMs nearby). There is a seating capacity of 180 people.

Co-hosted with RMIT Outdoors Club.

All proceeds will go to the Friends of the Earth climate campaign.

We will start the evening with some short locally made backcountry films.

The BCFF program features 10 films (check here for details).

Facebook event page here.

Lake Malbena appeal filed in the Supreme Court of Tasmania

There has been a long running attempt to develop a tourism venturein a remote World Heritage Area on Tasmania’s Central Plateau. This would set a worrying precedent for future commercial development in World Heritage and National Parks.

In December 2019, the Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal (RMPAT) overturned the Central Highlands Council’s decision to refuse a permit for helicopter-accessed visitor accommodation at Halls Island, Lake Malbena, in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. But environmental groups have not given up on this issue.

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Fires and snow gums. To keep these forests we need less fire.

Fires are still burning out of control across much of the Australian High Country. Yet we are already well into the blame game, where some people and groups are blaming environmental activists and/ or The Greens party for ‘stopping’ fuel reduction burning and hence making the fires worse. While this is not true, this resonates with certain anti green and conservative demographics (check here for an alternative view of the conversation).

There is no doubt that fuel reduction burning has a role to play in how we manage forests and other landscapes. The problem is that it is often seen as a ‘one size fits all’ tool that will reduce fire intensity in all environments. But in reality, it works well in some ecosystems and is counter productive in others. This is a subtlety that is lost on the ‘fuel reduction is the answer’ boosters.

The argument that we need to increase fuel reduction burns in snow gum and true alpine environments is already caught up in the broader land management debate, and will continue in the coming months. So it’s worth taking a good look at what science says about the value of fuel reduction in our high mountain areas.

Continue reading “Fires and snow gums. To keep these forests we need less fire.”

Giving back to the mountains we love

As fire fighters get on top of the blazes that have been devastating huge ares of the Victorian, NSW and ACT mountains, towns and communities are starting to re-open. Many parks are still closed but towns are increasingly open for business.

One obvious thing we can do is visit these areas and buy up big. The economic impacts of the fires on tourism in local towns is enormous (and estimated to be well over $1B already)

The impacts on the natural and cultural values of the mountains are also huge. We are trying to track ecological impacts (details here) and post about cultural impacts where we can.

For instance, the Kosi Huts Association reports that: 

“At least 10 of the mountain huts dotted around the national park have been destroyed, including Delany’s Hut, Sawyers Rest House, Wolgals Lodge, Matthew’s Cottage, Brooks Hut, Pattinson’s House, Round Mountain Hut, O’Briens Hut and Four Mile Hut.“

It is likely that there will be re-building efforts for many of these huts.

There will also be lots of ecological restoration and track work happening that will require lots of good will and volunteer effort.

Please let us know what’s going on.

If you’re planning any recovery efforts (or are aware of any) that require volunteer support or input, then please email details to me and I will include here. Thanks.

Cam.walker@foe.org.au

The picture above comes from Andrew Stanger. The NSW Nordic Ski Club is building nesting boxes for animals that need hollows.

Continue reading “Giving back to the mountains we love”

What are the ecological costs of this summer’s fires?

In mid December, large fires started in East Gippsland. On new year’s eve, lightning storms started fires across the Victorian mountains and fire season came to the Alps with a vengeance.

Since then, huge areas of the Victorian Alps and Snowy Mountains have burnt. As at January 14, many of these are still going and, of course, the key priority is containing them.

But once it’s all over, we will need to count the ecological cost of these fires. Some areas in the Alps have now burnt three times in about 15 years. There is no doubt that longer fire seasons, driven by climate change, are already impacting on mountain and foothill environments.

The short answer at this stage is that we just don’t know what the full ecological impacts of these fires will be.

The following is a fairly random collection of reports on local impacts of the fires on mountain areas. It focuses on ecological values and impacts. Of course, this does not mean that human and economic impacts don’t matter. The narrow focus here is simply to try and share some information about what the impacts will be on natural systems, as the other stories are already being told widely in mainstream media. It will be added to as areas are re-opened to the public. I would welcome your reports for inclusion: please email text and stories to cam.walker@foe.org.au

Continue reading “What are the ecological costs of this summer’s fires?”

2020 fires: get into the mountains and spend up big (when you can)

Up until Christmas, there hadn’t been a lot of fires in the High Country, either in Tasmania or on the mainland. That all changed on New Years Eve. Lightning storms triggered fires across Tasmanian, Victoria and NSW. What followed has been nothing less than an absolute disaster as huge areas of the mountains have burnt – and continue to do so.

With large areas evacuated, the economic impacts on local economies has been devastating. This is peak tourism season, yet entire areas are under evacuation orders, businesses are closed and events are being cancelled. The flow on effects on many people’s income will continue for months. 

I am seeing many people who are struggling because their region or business is closed. Even where a town is open, the ever present smoke in many places is not very enticing to tourists.

So once the fires are under control, please have a think about doing a trip to the High Country. Aim to head off with your wallet full and your stomach, esky and food basket empty.

Continue reading “2020 fires: get into the mountains and spend up big (when you can)”

Big fire day across the mountains

[WED Jan 1UPDATE: I am away with the CFA at present and not in a position to update this page until further notice so please don’t rely on it for updates – please check the relevant government agency websites which you will find if you scroll down. Thanks]

There are some links on how to support recovery and emergency efforts available here.

And I’m still doing some updates on the Mountain Journal facebook page, mostly around park and road closures.

[Monday December 30 2019]

Here we go. We have a long, hot, scary day ahead of us, with extreme fire risk across all mountain areas.

In Victoria, authorities are calling on all people in East Gippsland (east of Bairnsdale) to leave the area, in case the Princes Highway needs to be closed. Mountain communities like Goongerah are at imminent risk of being hit by fires. The W Tree Yalmy fire is still not yet under control, nor is the Ensay Ferntree fire. Firefighters and aircraft are responding to four new fires north-west of Gelantipy which were started by dry lightning earlier his morning.

In NSW there has already been at least one small fire started by dry lightning in the Snowy Mountains (it is under control).

In Tasmania, today is a Day of Total Fire Ban, but authorities warn that tomorrow could be even worse, and that people in bushland areas should consider leaving for urban areas.

Continue reading “Big fire day across the mountains”

Low carbon backcountry is the New Black

If you love winter, then chances are you love a good ski or snowboarding film. This year’s batch of new films have been released over the last couple of months (pre Northern winter). One thing that’s really obvious in the ski/ riding genre is the ever growing number of films that are focused on human powered adventure. It’s great to see this tradition continue this year with a number of films focused on low carbon adventures.

Here’s an introduction to a few of them:

Continue reading “Low carbon backcountry is the New Black”

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