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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

Auden Schendler on climate change – skiers can make a difference

After a decade of inaction, the Australian snow industry is finally starting to engage meaningfully on the issue of climate change. With Perisher having been bought by the Vail Resorts group, it has been swept along in that companies efforts to achieve carbon neutrality for it’s operations by 2030. And Thredbo recently became the first Australian resort to formally join Protect Our Winters (POW) the activist group seeking to mobilise the snow sports community.

There is, of course, still plenty of room to move. Many resorts, like Mt Hotham, are still effectively in denial about climate change, opting for the ‘we’ll just invest more in snow making capacity’ option. But as the recent visit by POW founder Jeremy Jones showed, there is a significant interest in the snow community about climate change.

We are starting to see some great leadership from prominent skiers and riders like Nat Segal, who is a vocal advocate for climate action. The interview below comes from Powder magazine and features a conversation with Auden Schendler of the Aspen resort. Auden is often seen as a key global spokesperson on climate because of his work at putting Aspen on a sustainable footing. This reflection has some significant things to say about what is and what isn’t possible in the resorts and what is required if we are to take effective action to limit climate change.

Two salient points that stand out for me from this interview are:

“We have to acknowledge or understand as a starting point that to be sustainable has got to mean solving climate change.

On climate, if you’re not at risk politically or from public criticism, and if you don’t feel uncomfortable, if it doesn’t hurt, you’re probably not doing enough on climate”.

The take home message from Auden is that making your operations greener is not an end point. It’s part of the pathway to solving climate change. This is going to involve sustained and public advocacy for the adoption of policies which will tackle climate change in a meaningful way – ie, engagement in good old fashioned politics. As he eloquently puts it, it means advocating for ‘systemic change’.

He reminds us that the current option adopted by most resorts is simply not going to work:

‘You can’t adapt to where we’re headed … we’re headed toward four degrees Celsius’.

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Mount Buller 100 Megalitre dam planned – call for public comments

Since at least 2014, there has been a proposal to construct a 100 Megalitre dam near the summit of Mount Buller.  The official title of the project is “Mt Buller Sustainable Water Security Project”.  The project involves the destruction of about 5 hectares of treeless alpine native vegetation, and subtracts about 10 hectares from the existing downhill skifield on Mount Buller.

Federal legislation requires a period of time to allow interested people and organisations to comment. Submissions are due by 22 December.

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Victorian Government moves on invasive animals

Wild deer cause massive damage across the Alps and many other forested parts of south eastern Australia. The Victorian Government has accepted most of the recommendations of a parliamentary inquiry into the Control of Invasive Animals on Crown Land. Significantly, the government has acknowledged that recreational hunting is generally an ineffective means of invasive animal control and announced that feral cats will be declared pest animals on public land, allowing more effective control programs.

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Telluride aims for a carbon neutral target

With Donald Trump winding back climate action at home, seeking to reopen coal mines, restart offshore drilling and withdrawing from the international climate agreement, many US states and cities are stepping up and taking action to reduce their emissions.

There are many inspiring stories from across the USA that have emerged since Trump’s election. But there are also decades worth of excellent and determined work in many cities and towns. The recent decision by the Town Council of Telluride in Colorado to “adopt a goal for the entire community of becoming carbon neutral” comes on the back of more than a decade’s efforts to reduce emissions.

Telluride is a former mining town in the south west of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. It is located in a remote part of the state, in a dramatic canyon surrounded by peaks and is now famous for its skiing. Resort towns are often famous for extravagant lifestyles, but permanent residents often live with a much lower carbon footprint than ‘fly in, fly out’ visitors.  It has a permanent population of about 2,500 and a large amount of tourist and holiday accommodation (you might enjoy the mockumentary ‘The Lost People of Mountain Village’, which takes you through the ‘lost landscape’ of the purpose built Mountain Village, located very close to Telluride, which is often largely deserted outside of peak holiday season).

Telluride has a long history of working to reduce the impact of it’s carbon emissions. Recently Alec Jacobson of Mountain Independent, wrote an excellent summary of the town’s efforts since 2006, which is available here.

With the growing number of regional towns in north eastern Victoria working to reduce their emissions through community action and good policy, I wanted to share some of the learnings from the Telluride story as I understand them.

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Construction starts on Cradle Mountain tourist centre

In 2016 a new tourism plan for northern Tasmania has launched, which raised the possibility of there being new developments adjacent to the Cradle Mountain National Park. Its key intention was to greatly increase visitors to the north of the state.

Part of the detail of the plan included a ‘cable car’/ gondola which would run from just outside the northern boundary of the park into the park at Dove Lake. The cornerstone of the proposal was the development of new tourist centre, which is where the gondola would start from.

This week saw construction start on the $21.8 million ‘gateway precinct’ (ie new tourist centre) and Dove Lake re-development. According to Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin, the start of construction was “a significant day of epic proportion”.

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Guided walks to Kosciuszko

The walk up Mt Kosciuszko is not challenging. It is a pleasant hike from the Charlottes Pass Road or a harder climb up from Thredbo village. Many people take the easy way out and catch the Kosciusko Express chairlift from Thredbo, which means you miss most of the elevation gain of the walk. From there it’s a wonderful stroll through alpine landscape to the summit. The very last bit of the walk passes through boulderfields. The views are incredible.

Thredbo is offering guided hikes every Saturday from 4/11/17 until 28/4/18. If you haven’t been out on the Main Range before, this is a good way to get familiar with the terrain.

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Dinner Plain polo field to be ditched?

The proposal for a ‘village green’ in the alpine village of Dinner Plain would have seen almost 2 hectares of snow gum woodland cleared and significant visual impacts on the village. After a long consultation and planning process, the Alpine Council needs to take a final decision on whether to proceed with the development.

In a welcome move, Council Officers who have been assessing the concept report that there is ‘not majority community support for this project’ and recommend that it should not proceed. Council will take a final decision at a meeting on Monday December 18.

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Happy international mountain day!

December 11 is designated by the UN as international mountain day.

In the promo for the day, the UN notes:

“Almost one billion people live in mountain areas, and over half the human population depends on mountains for water, food and clean energy. Yet mountains are under threat from climate change, land degradation, over exploitation and natural disasters, with potentially far-reaching and devastating consequences, both for mountain communities and the rest of the world”.

True. But today I feel like ignoring the (very real) threats to the mountains we know and love, and instead focus on how much the existence of mountains improves our lives.

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The Empire strikes back

Fossil fuel interests are one of the forces behind the backlash against pro-environment outdoor brands

It is hardly news to note that President Trump has launched a significant and sustained attack on the environment. Apart from withdrawing from the international climate change agreement, winding back support for renewable energy, seeking to open up new sections of the Arctic to fossil fuel production, he has cut federal protection for major federal reserves (for a good summary of his actions so far check this page).

This wind back has been strongly opposed by environmental groups and First Nations. Many sectors of business are also taking the unusual step of getting active. For instance, recently 350 companies wrote to the President, urging him to abandon his attempt to reduce protection to iconic and much loved landscapes across the USA.

In recent weeks the President has radically reduced the size of Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante national monuments.

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New owner for Stockman mine announced

The Stockman Project is located in the Victorian Alps, 60 km by road north east of Omeo. The project contains two copper-zinc-lead-silver-gold rich deposits, called Wilga and Currawong. Wilga was discovered in 1978 and Currawong in 1979. Denehurst mined the copper rich core of Wilga deposit from 1992 to 1996. The mine operated by Dehnurst left behind a dangerous mess. In 2006, following $6.9 million worth of rehabilitation of the plant site and tailings dam at the taxpayers expense, the project was put out for public tender as part of an exploration incentive program. Jabiru Metals Limited (Jabiru) was awarded the project in March 2007.

After a number of attempts to re-open the mine, the Victorian treasurer has announced a ‘new multi-million dollar investment’ in the Stockman project and a new owner.

Continue reading “New owner for Stockman mine announced”

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