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Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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Australian Alps

Older forests experience ‘smaller and less severe’ fires

A new study in the journal Austral Ecology provides the most comprehensive analysis ever performed of the fire history of forests in the Australian Alps. This is a significant piece of work because it says that unburnt forests are less fire prone than those that have been recently burnt.

This has implications for how we manage these forests and woodlands. The current widely held assumption is that by reducing fuel loads, fire reduces the flammability of most eucalypt-based forests.

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Book Launch of Bold Horizon

High-country Place, People and Story
by Matthew Higgins

Canberra, April 11.

What is it like in Australia’s high country? Matthew Higgins takes readers into this challenging environment to tell a unique story through words and pictures. Starting with his own experience, Higgins then profiles a range of mountain people from stockmen to Indigenous park rangers to tourism operators and more — each touched by this picturesque, bold landscape in different ways.

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Bold Horizon: High-country Place, People and Story

A new book on the Australian Alps will be released in April.

Matthew Higgins traces the mountain experience in a rich variety of ways. Firstly he talks of his own times in the alps as a bushwalker, cross-country skier, historian, and oral-history interviewer. Then, he profiles a range of people who have worked, lived, or played in the mountains: stockmen, skiers, Indigenous parks officers, rangers, brumby runners, foresters, authors, tourism operators, and others’.

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Connecting Melbourne and Canberra to the Australian Alps Walking Track

The Australian Alps has hundreds of fantastic trails. The iconic long distance trail is the Australian Alps Walking Track, which stretches from Walhalla, east of Melbourne, almost to Canberra. The AAWT was created in stages, starting with the Victorian Alpine Walking Track, which was developed in the 1970s as part of a larger vision of linking the Australian Alps with a three-state trail. The dream of a long distance track was only fulfilled after years of work and a lot of ‘big picture’ thinking by many people.

Now there are plans to extend the track network all the way to Melbourne and right into Canberra. There are two alternatives for the track from Melbourne, and a proposed route into Canberra, which are outlined below. This well researched proposal identifies gaps in existing tracks and a number of options for connecting up with the existing AAWT.

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Atone for your carma by supporting mountain critter cause

Winter may be long over, but the snow is still there across the higher ranges of the Australian alps. It was a winter that went through so many boom and bust cycles and if all that rain had been snow, we’d be skiing until January. Long after the resorts have closed there is still decent and rideable cover in many places, but we are getting towards the end of season 2016.

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Thirty years of co-operative management of the Alps

National Parks now cover much of the higher terrain in the Australian Alps, from the Baw Plateau to the east of Melbourne, all the way across the mountains almost to the outskirts of Canberra.

Those of us who enjoy these parks owe a great debt to the people who argued for the creation of the reserves in the first place, and to the generations of land managers that have looked after them.

While it is a discrete series of parks in Victoria, NSW and the ACT, there is also overall co-ordination of the parks through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the three state and territory and federal governments.

The MoU has allowed the Australian Alps to be managed co-operatively by the various agencies. Treating the Alps as a single bioregion makes a lot of sense, especially in a time of climate change. Yet like all good government decisions, the concept of co-operative management didn’t just appear. It took decades of work by a range of big picture thinkers and visionaries, and engagement in political processes at many levels that saw the creation of the agreement.

The current version of News from the Alps is dedicated to the co-operative arrangement and includes a potted history of the processes that lead to the signing of the MoU.

Whereas in the early stages after European colonisation, the Alps were seen largely as summer grazing grounds for cattle and sources of wood, gold and other materials, the history in the newsleter makes it clear that there was concern about the state of the Alps from the early to mid 1940s.

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Documenting the impacts of wild horses on the Australian Alps.

This is the ultimate bit of research into the negative ecological impacts of brumbies on indigenous ecosystems in the Alps.

It is explained in three reports, and the primary author is Graeme L. Worboys. A range of other researchers were involved in the work. It is peer reviewed and based on observations by the author in the Australian Alps protected areas that covers a period of 42 years.

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A new protector of the Mountain Pygmy-Possum

The Mountain Pygmy-possum (Burramys parvus) is one of our iconic alpine species. It lives in rock screes and boulder fields, and is also the only Australian mammal restricted to alpine habitat. There are only three main populations remaining.

It faces a number of threats: habitat destruction, climate change and predators. The construction of ski resorts in the alpine regions in which the mountain pygmy possums inhabit has been one of the greatest factors attributed to population decline.

This recent story from the ABC by Lucy Barbour outlines an innovative program which aims to protect the species from feral cats.

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Bike packing

If you drive up any of the sealed roads into the mountains outside of winter, you will be aware of the incredible surge of interest in road riding in the Alps. From the Seven Peaks concept (ride up the seven key roads at your own pace during ‘riding season’) to events like the Tour of Bright (which has two substantial hill climb stages including the road to Hotham), road riding is huge.

Mountain bike riding is equally a wildly popular pastime, with Mt Buller in particular being an early adopter in terms of putting in infrastructure. The riding is great, and a growing number of other resorts are seeking to increase tourist visitation through developing infrastructure like single track networks.

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