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.
In the Australian Seasonal Bushfire Outlook produced in August, it was clear that East Gippsland and the Alps were facing a long and difficult fire season. Even though it is only early December, there have already been a series of large fires on both public and private land in both these sections of the state.
The ABC reports:
There have been six fires of significance over the past two weeks in East Gippsland.
Authorities were most concerned about fires near Gelantipy, Bruthen, and Ensay.
The fires were caused by dry lightning that ignited dozens of fires along the Great Dividing Range.
Incident controller Andy Gillham said the Country Fire Authority and DELWP were not caught off-guard by the fires.
“With all the modelling that has been done by the fire researchers, they said it would be an above-average season for East Gippsland,” he said.
“Because the landscape is so dry we had lightning and fires. We did have an early start to the season, but we weren’t caught off-guard”.
Check the Emergency VIC website for updates on fires.
The Australian Alps Walking Track (AAWT) is the premiere long distance mountain trail in Australia. It crosses the Victorian Alps from Walhalla to the NSW border, then passes through the Snowy Mountains before finishing in the ACT.
Anthony Sharwood has just started the AAWT from the southern end. He is doing the 660 km trip solo, walking from Walhalla, Victoria to Tharwa, A.C.T. This trip is made more challenging by the fact that two sections of the track are currently closed because of bushfires.
Anthony has been posting images and updates as he goes.
You can follow his journey on twitter here.
Background info and links on the AAWT available here.
The long running attempt by developers to establish a helicopter accessed ‘eco lodge’ on Halls Island in Lake Malbena in Tasmania’s Central Plateau is part of a larger agenda to open up areas of wilderness and World Heritage to new commercial tourism operations.
The proposal is disturbing on it’s own – it would allow the developer to have exclusive use of the island. But according to Fishers and Walkers Against Helicopter Access Tasmania, there are plans underway to allow larger areas that could be opened up to ‘helicopter tourism’. They say:
“This (map) is the world heritage zoning for the Western Lakes. All the orange and yellow is fair game for helicopter tourism. The zones were amended to suit development proposals”.
The map comes from the World Heritage Area management plan.
This is incredibly disturbing.
Please follow FAWAHAT to find out more and get involved in the campaign against private tourism developments in wild places in Tasmania.
The Victorian government has recently released the ‘Climate Science Report 2019’, which brings together the latest climate change science knowledge gained from the government’s ongoing investigations into climate science. The report provides further useful insights into both how our climate is changing and what it means for Victoria’s future.
In many ways, there is nothing new in the report. It notes that Victoria’s climate has ‘changed in recent decades, becoming warmer and drier’. These changes are expected to continue in the future.
In general terms, the state’s environment is becoming hotter and drier, with
- an overall increase in the frequency of unusually hot days
- a decline in cool season rainfall over the last 30 years
- greater number of very high fire danger days in spring
There are some details relevant to mountain environments, which we will outline briefly below (as direct quotes).
Act on Climate Victoria, the climate change campaign at Friends of the Earth Victoria, has launched an interactive map which shows details of climate change impacts on local communities, businesses and landscapes across the state.
It notes that snow cover has declined across the Alps since the 1950s. You can submit your observations of climate change impacts for inclusion in the map.
On Mt Stirling in north eastern Victoria’s High Country, there is a lone snow gum, which is several hundred years old. Earlier this year, someone heavily pruned branches from the tree, which sparked a debate about access to the mountain top.
There is a 4WD track over the alpine area of the summit. This year the Howqua Gap Track will open to the public who want to drive over the mountain from 29 November through to early May. Many people drive over the mountain during summer months, and sometimes there is poor behaviour from drivers, who take their vehicles off track. Some trail bike riders also take their bikes offtrack to the summit. This has environmental impacts and reduces the experience that many other visitors are seeking in exploring the mountain. As a result, some additional track works and signage has now been put in place. It is a shame that poor behaviour by a few has resulted in additional works needing to be carried out on the mountain.
There are a number of fires that have started as a result of lightning strikes in the Victorian High Country.
There are three fires in the north east that have caused a number of areas to be closed to walkers – these are to the east of Mt Bogong and two along the eastern side of the Bogong High Plains.
Additionally, there are 13 fires in total burning in remote areas of forest in north east Victoria. The other fires are located in the Tallangatta Valley, Dandongadale, Abbeyard and Mount Selwyn.
DELWP says: ‘The remote locations of these fires are proving to be challenging for our crews and we fully expect them to burn for a number of weeks as firefighters work hard to contain them’.
Authorities say that the fires are behaving in ways expected in January and February as fuel loads are so dry.
If you’ve ever walked or climbed in Tasmania, you’re probably aware of the eastern face of Mt Geryon in the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park. It has climbs of more than 350 metres in length and is a truly inspiring mountain environment. There are a series of couloirs that break the cliffs to the north of Geryon, along the spine of the Ducane Range.
Ben Armstrong recently skied the most impressive of these lines.
Public conversation about the recent announcement of an end to logging of old growth forests in Victoria has so far focused on the implications for East Gippsland, where large areas of ‘Modeled Old Growth (MOG)’ is expected to be protected, and the Central Highlands, where there will be very little protection. Given this announcement covers forests right across the east of the state, what does it mean for the High Country?
The short answer, at this stage, is ‘we don’t really know’. While the government map that has been circulated shows considerable areas of MOG throughout the foothills and valleys of the High Country, and even what looks like older Snow Gum Woodlands, we are yet to get the details on what the protection of these areas will look like.