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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

Dargo High Plains subjected to intensive logging

The Dargo High Plains are a much loved part of the Victorian high country, with extensive open plains surrounded by eucalypt forests, much of which is dominated by Alpine Ash (Eucalyptus delegatensis). Alpine Ash is one of the iconic trees of the Victorian mountains, where it is widespread and often dominant in grassy or wet subalpine forests, in deep fertile soil, often on slopes, and where it commonly forms pure stands. In Victoria it occurs at altitudes between 900 and 1,500 m (3,000 and 4,900 ft). The high points of the Dargo High Plains sit roughly between 1,300 and 1,500 metres above sea level.

Only 0.47% of old growth Alpine Ash still exists in the forests of the Central Highlands. In the mountain ranges of north eastern Victoria and East Gippsland, old growth Ash is now rare, and ‘tens of thousands’ of hectares of forest are on the verge of ecological collapse.

Sections of the Plains have burnt several times in recent years, including the summer of 2018/19. Considerable sections of the Plains Ash forests have been logged in the past. Now, the state government has scheduled a number of logging coupes of long unburnt forest, which threatens to devastate the fringes of the high plains.

The logging program in the High Plains area appears to include roading through the Alpine National Park to access the coupes on the east side of the plateau.

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Alpine Ecology Workshop

On May 1, an alpine ecology workshop was held at Dinner Plain, which had a focus on alpine peatlands.

The day was supported by a range of groups and featured fantastic presentations from peatland experts, followed by a wander and chat through some of the peatland systems that exist in Dinner Plain. It brought together locals, people interested in alpine ecology from the broader region, and a wonderful cast of experts. One of the key messages I took from the forum was that fire is a grave short-term threat to peatlands and already impacting widely on this vegetation community.

Congratulations to Gail Owen, a Dinner Plain resident and member of the BDPO Landcare Group, High Country Landcare Facilitator Lisa Lee and NECMA Biodiversity Project Officer, Phillip Falcke, and Bev Lawrence and Aviya Naccarella from Mt Hotham Alpine Resort Management for organising an excellent and informative day.

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Please express your views about gold-mining in the Alpine Shire

The Facebook group objecting to gold mining in the Ovens Valley has launched a survey to get Alpine Shire people’s views towards the future of gold-mining in the Alpine Shire. 

It comes as a gold exploration company has been drilling in the Havilah Valley in recent weeks.

There are many exploratory licences applicable to the upper Ovens Valley. And there are 2 applications for gold exploratory drilling waiting for approval covering areas south of Yackandandah, Wandiligong, all the upper Ovens Valley to Harrietville and a strip down the western side of Kiewa Valley near Mt Beauty. 

“We were getting clear indications many people in the Alpine Shire were not happy with the exploratory drilling and the prospect of new gold mines in the area” said Col Finnie, administrator of the group. “But we thought it was time to find out what ratepayers and residents of the Shire think, hence launching a Survey Monkey survey.”  

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Sydney Backcountry Evening

Come together with other backcountry enthusiasts and get pumped for the upcoming season

Thursday 27th May 2021 at 6.00 pm Rose of Australia Hotel, Erskineville, Sydney

Speakers include:

  • Craig Sheppard, Avalanche Forecaster
  • Craig Brokensha, Meteorologist
  • Dave Herring, Avalanche Educator/ Backcountry tour guide

Food and drinks available for purchase at the bar.

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Mountain winter events 2021

Recent snowfalls across the Alps has got every snow lover excited about winter. Here is an initial list of snow related events happening across Victoria, NSW and the ACT this winter.

Please check here for a list of tour guides, all avalanche training providers, and gear hire options.

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Backcountry film festival screening in Harrietville

FITSKI is something of an institution in Harrietville. It happens before winter to help get the community fit for the snow.

The May session will include a screening of the Backcountry Film Festival.

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Development proposals for wilderness areas have not been disclosed to the public

Many thousands of people campaigned for years to see the best areas of wild Tasmania protected in national parks, World Heritage and other conservation reserves. However, the current state government continues its efforts to open up these areas to commercial development via tourism ventures.

While the plans for a ‘helicopter’ tourism venture at Lake Malbena on the Central Plateau has been generating a lot of community opposition, a range of other, lesser known projects are also being pursued by a number of developers.

Emily Baker, reporting for the ABC says that ‘documents obtained by the ABC show the Tasmanian government has received almost 60 proposals for tourism developments in wilderness areas, but only 30 have been disclosed to the public’.

Continue reading “Development proposals for wilderness areas have not been disclosed to the public”

Get the skills you need for a Winter of Awesome

Last winter was pretty ‘ordinary’ in terms of the snow pack, and many people were unable to get into the mountains because of lock down. However, in the places where outdoor adventure was allowed, it was clear that there was a boom in visitation to side country (areas in or near ski resorts) and backcountry (more remote areas).

It has been the same this winter in North America, with some significant results. The New York Times reports:

‘In the throes of a pandemic that has made the indoors inherently dangerous, tens of thousands more Americans than usual have flocked outdoors, fleeing crowded cities for national parks and the public lands around them. But as these hordes of inexperienced adventurers explore the treacherous terrain of the backcountry, many inevitably call for help. It has strained the patchwork, volunteer-based search-and-rescue system in America’s West’.

This winter we have to expect lots of new and inexperienced people getting out of resort and into the higher peaks.

This will bring lots of impacts to our precious high country – especially around human waste (check here for our Let’s talk about poo guide to managing human waste in the backcountry). It also brings risks to inexperienced skiers and riders, and others in the mountains who may need to assist people and groups in difficulty, and put strain on police and volunteer search and rescue groups like Alpine Search and Rescue and the SES.

Here are some ideas on getting skills if you’re planning to head out into higher mountain environments this winter.

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Please provide feedback on the Feral Horse Action Plan

We know that wild horses pose a major threat to mountain environments in Australia. In the ACT there is a plan to limit horse numbers. NSW continues to be stuck in a ‘culture war’ block that has stopped meaningful action to reduce numbers. Now Parks Victoria has updated their ‘action plan’ for feral horse management in the Alpine National Park.

You can review the draft action plan and provide feedback up until April 23. Once feedback has been compiled, the final action plan will be published ‘mid year’ in 2021 and then Parks Victoria can get on with horse removal..

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Alpine Ecology workshop at Dinner Plain

This full day workshop will happen at the community centre at Dinner Plain on Saturday May 1.

It will feature a great range of speakers, covering:

  • alpine peatland ecology
  • fire and alpine environments
  • opportunities to be involved in ecosystem restoration in the high country.

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Good news for the Mountain Pygmy Possum

The mountain pygmy possum (MPP) is a small animal of The Australian high country. Since, 2008, it has been declared by the IUCN Redlist as Critically endangered. Population estimates totalled less than 2000 individuals from the three combined isolated populations in 2000.

They are reliant on Bogong Moths to build up reserves for winter and for successful breeding. The lack of moths has had a significant impact on breeding in recent summers. But there is some good news from the 2020/21 summer.

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Logging on the Dargo High Plains part of a much bigger problem

The state government logging agency, VicForests, intends to log a total of 11 “coupes”, or sections, of mature forest, dominated by Alpine Ash, in the headwaters of the Little Dargo River, an area of state forest that lies right next to the Alpine National Park. These coupes are located in a series of clusters, where separate sections of bush will be harvested, creating a large zone of cleared land over time. One coupe has already been logged. The remaining coupes have not yet been scheduled for harvesting, and are yet to be surveyed. There is still time to stop this ecological disaster – if we act now.

The Little Dargo is roughly 15 kilometres south of the Mt Hotham ski resort in the mountains of north eastern Victoria. Background on the logging can be found here.

Continue reading “Logging on the Dargo High Plains part of a much bigger problem”

Kooparoona Niara (Great Western Tiers) National Park Proposed

The most recent additions to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) in 2013 included thirty six thousand hectares of land previously allocated to forestry activities, a large number of small Regional Reserves and Conservation Areas, and some other tenures.

The state government is currently proposing that some (not all) of the forestry land be added to existing Regional Reserves and Conservation Areas. There is a chance for the community to provide input. The Tasmanian National Parks Association (TNPA) is calling on the state government to think big and establish the Kooparoona Niara (Great Western Tiers) National Park.

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