The federal environment minister Greg Hunt is due to make a decision shortly on the Victorian government’s plan to put cattle back into the Alpine National Park. With only a few working days til Christmas, will the minister do one of those shonky announcements just before the summer holidays that governments are famous for?
Or will he do the reasonable thing and allow additional time for his department to consider the information that the state government withheld from him?
Recently, Mr Hunt approved major coal and gas facilities adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. Refusing a poorly developed ‘scientific whaling’ (sorry, ‘scientific’ grazing project) would help re-build some of his reputation as the minister for the environment.
The following is from The Age, journalist Tom Arup.
Victoria’s leading scientific society has called on the state and federal governments to abandon plans for a cattle grazing trial in the Alpine National Park, saying peer-reviewed evidence shows it would fail to cut fire risk.
In a letter to state Environment Minister Ryan Smith, the normally conservative Royal Society of Victoria has questioned the merits and scientific basis of a trial to test whether cattle grazing decreases the risk of bushfires by reducing fuel loads. About 60 cattle would be released into the Wonnangatta Valley for three years if the trial is approved by the Commonwealth.
In the letter, society president Dr Bill Birch says the trial ignores published evidence that cattle grazing has no measurable effect on fuel reduction, but has serious impacts on the diversity of species in the local area.
”The plan for the proposed trial is not clear and shows little evidence of sound scientific structure,” Dr Birch writes.
Dr Birch says among the trial’s failings are that the vegetation in the Wonnangatta Valley represents only a proportion of that found throughout the Alpine park, meaning the results could not automatically be applied to the entire region. He also said wildfires burn more intensely and move differently to controlled burns, which would be used in the trial, meaning any effect on fuel reduction by cattle would not be measurable.
”The Royal Society considers the proposed trial as another example of so-called scientific study, undertaken without adequate appreciation or even demonstrated knowledge of the literature and which is characterised by inadequate planning and inadequate scientific rigor,” Dr Birch writes. ”We suggest that the trial be abandoned.”
Executive officer of the Mountain Cattlemen’s Association, Graeme Stoney said: ”There is no doubt grazing reduces fuel in the grazing areas.”