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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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climate change

Getting ready for the next Big One

As Victoria shivers through a good, old fashioned winter, it might be a strange time to be thinking about fire. But next fire season will be with us soon enough, and there are some lessons for us from the horror summer currently being experienced in the northern hemisphere.

A 1.5 million hectare bushfire is raging in Siberia, and Alaska is burning. So are large parts of Turkey. The ‘heat dome’ that brought record breaking temperatures to the Pacific North West of North America has been followed by a fire season comparable with what we experienced over the terrible summer of 2019/20. California is experiencing a fire season that started in their winter. In January, Issac Sanchez, of Cal Fire Sacramento said “we’re not seeing ‘fire season’ any more. It’s just one big fire year, where we can be prepared for and expect a large destructive fire at any point.”

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Protect Our Winters Australia film screening: Purple Mountains

Snowboarder and environmentalist Jeremy Jones embarks on a mission to raise awareness about climate change.

His film Purple Mountains is being screened in Bright as part of the 2021 Victorian Backcountry Festival, which will happen in and around Mt Hotham resort over September 3, 4 and 5. Join festival sponsors Bright Brewery for a free screening of ‘Purple Mountains’ inside the brewery.

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Lessons from the Tasmanian fires of 2018/19: state has entered a ‘new era of bushfire risk’

Over the summer of 2018/19 huge fires burnt across Tasmania. An independent review of Tasmania’s management of the summer bushfires was released in August 2019. It found inadequacies in the response to the fire burning near Geeveston, and revealed that crews withdrew from the Gell River fire in Tasmania’s southwest in the mistaken belief it was out. The fire then expanded again and became out of control.

The report made a series of recommendations

Now, a comprehensive study examining the 2018/19 and the experience of authorities and affected groups by Insurance Group Zurich has found that the state has entered a ‘new era of bushfire risk’.

“Since the turn of the millennium, climate change and land use change have converged to bring about a new fire regime in Tasmania,” Zurich’s first Australian Post-Event Review Capability (PERC) report said.

More than two thousand dry lightning strikes hit the state during that summer, igniting 70 fires that formed into four massive fire complexes. Over 95,000 hectares of protected land was burnt.

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Major new developments planned for Kosciuszko National Park

The New South Wales government has released its 40-year plan to turn the Snowy Mountains into a ‘year-round tourist destination’. The draft Special Activation Precinct plan outlines options for future growth in and around Jindabyne.

The public is encouraged to submit feedback on the draft plan by mid-August. Amendments to the Kosciuszko National Park Plan of Management have also been released for public feedback. This proposes substantial new developments within the Kosciuszko National Park. It is also open for public comment.

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It’s getting hot in here

Australian skiers, boarders and other snow lovers know that our snowpack is often pretty erratic. Last winter saw ‘boom and bust’ snow events then heavy rain that destroyed the base. We all know the misery of rain and drizzle when it should be snowing.

We know that because of climate change, our snow pack has been in decline since the 1950s.

Without serious action on the global scale to reduce emissions, we will see more and more winters like 2020: erratic, sketchy snowpack and lots of rain events.

Continue reading “It’s getting hot in here”

POW launches new campaign: #weallmisswinter

Protect Our Winters Australia has launched a new campaign, drawing the link between winters missed and climate change.

POW says:

‘Winter 2020 was one like no other. With limited or no access to our favourite mountains. It was difficult no being able to see our shred buddies, no fresh morning mountain air and for those who did manage to get some on-snow time, what snow did fall was well below average. But what if Winter 2020 was a look into the future? What if missing winter was the new norm?’

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Community views on managing bushfire risk

As governments grapple with the threat posed by climate driven fire seasons, there is an ongoing debate about the role of fuel reduction burning (also called proscribed burning). While many experts agree that fuel reduction does play an important role in fire management, it is growing increasingly ineffective as fires become more severe and more frequent due to the impacts of climate change. While planned burning (and other fuel management techniques) can alter fuel loads, it must be carefully applied to reduce the risk of bushfire.

The Victorian government is currently running a survey about attitudes in local communities about how to manage bushfire risk.

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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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Are we losing the Snow Gum?

Today is National Eucalypt Day. #NationalEucalyptDay.

There are more than 700 species of this tree, which are found in, and often dominate, most ecosystems across the continent. Most species of Eucalyptus are native to Australia. Many of them are under threat, from over clearing, over burning and climate change. One of those at risk is the Snow Gum, the ubiquitous tree of the mountains in the south east corner of the country.

Continue reading “Are we losing the Snow Gum?”

‘A dire wake-up call’

Leading scientists working across Australia and Antarctica have described 19 ecosystems that are collapsing due to the impact of humans and warned urgent action is required to prevent their complete loss.

groundbreaking report – the result of work by 38 scientists from 29 universities and government agencies – details the degradation of coral reefs, arid outback deserts, tropical savanna, the waterways of the Murray-Darling Basin, mangroves in the Gulf of Carpentaria, and forests stretching from the rainforests of the far north to Gondwana-era conifers in Tasmania.

The scientists recommended a new framework to try to prevent ecosystems collapsing completely that they called the “3As”. It would require a greater awareness of the value of ecosystems, better planning to anticipate risks and rapid action to reduce them.

The report is titled Combating ecosystem collapse from the tropics to the Antarctic.

What does this mean for mountain environments?

Continue reading “‘A dire wake-up call’”

Where the Water Starts

Richard Swain loves the bush and wildlife of the southern ranges of New South Wales, where he was born. Richard’s deep connection to country and skill as a river guide led him and his partner, Alison to set up Alpine River Adventures. A successful business is now threatened by low water levels in the Snowy River. They both consider climate change is impacting the environment they love.

Where the Water starts is a film that explores connection to place and the impacts of climate change and feral animals on the Snowy Mountains.

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Ghost Forests of the High Country

Over 90% of the Victorian distribution of snow gums has been burned at least once since 2003. Some areas have been burnt multiple times, and this is impacting on the ability of these forests to recover. Like other Eucalypts, Snow Gums are fire adapted and can recover via new seedlings or regrowth from the base of the tree. However, repeated fires within a short period of time can kill the parent forest and destroy seedlings.

Continue reading “Ghost Forests of the High Country”

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