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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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environment

Dead forests making bushfires worse

We know that climate change is making fire seasons longer and more intense. This is happening globally. It has enormous implications for the landscapes that we love, how we prepare for and fight fires, and even how we live in fire prone areas.

These fires are transforming the landscapes we know and love. Anyone who has driven out of Jindabyne into the Snowy Mountains, or Mt Beauty towards the Bogong High Plains knows what I am talking about – endless walls of grey, dead trees. Only 0.47% of old growth Alpine Ash still exists in Victoria. This has huge implications for the aesthetics of our mountain areas, and significant ecological implications.

Increased fire frequency could see mountain forests like Alpine Ash replaced by wattle woodlands. As recently noted by Brett McNamara, the manager of Namadgi National Park:

Recovery happens but it is “tainted with a sense of what does the future hold for us if we are to experience fire again and again with such intensity. This is where the question is unanswered. What these mountains will look like well into the future?”

The huge volumes of dead trees from previous fires also creates a lot of fuel that is already dry and hence ready to burn in future fires. What are the implications of this for our fire fighting and land management efforts?

Continue reading “Dead forests making bushfires worse”

What’s your Big Idea for climate action?

The Victorian government is required to prepare and rollout a climate strategy every five years out to 2050. However, because of the C-19 pandemic, it is well behind schedule, so the Friends of the Earth Act on Climate collective has launched a push to write a People’s Climate Strategy for Victoria and is seeking your Big Idea that Victoria could take to act on climate.

It can be something to rein in emissions or protect the community from climate impacts. What could be done in mountain areas and surrounding towns?

There has long been a plan for a wind turbine at Mt Hotham. There have been several bulk buy programs to get solar panels onto houses and businesses at Hotham and Dinner Plain. What about micro hydro power in ski resorts? Or protecting the carbon dense forests of the Victorian Central Highlands? Running ski resort lift operations on 100% renewable energy? Using electric rather than diesel buses in ski resorts. Or building bushfire refugees in mountain communities?

What’s your big idea that will be good for climate change and good for the mountains?

  Continue reading “What’s your Big Idea for climate action?”

Barilaro calls for horse removal from Kosciuszko National Park to stop

Wild horses, along with other feral species, have inflicted enormous damage on the alpine and sub alpine environments of the Snowy Mountains for decades.

There has been a long campaign to have numbers of horses reduced, which has been resisted by people who claim the horses have a ‘cultural’ claim to be in the mountains. In a significant development, in February 2020, NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean announced emergency post-bushfire measures aimed at reducing horse numbers in three areas in northern Kosciuszko that are being damaged by horses – Boggy/Kiandra, Nungar and Cooleman plains.

This was done with the support from NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro. However, now Mr Barilaro has reneged in his support for bushfire emergency horse removal measures, calling for horse removal from Kosciuszko National Park to stop.

Continue reading “Barilaro calls for horse removal from Kosciuszko National Park to stop”

‘Mega’ fires more frequent in Victoria

In Victoria, the frequency of ‘mega’ fires (those greater than 100,000 hectares) has grown significantly over the past century.

  • 19th century – 2 mega fires
  • first half of 20th Century – 4 mega fires
  • 2nd half of 20th century – 7 mega fires
  • In the first 20 years of the 21st century – at least 8 mega fires

This is in spite of the huge advances we have made in fire fighting technology over the past 50 years.

Continue reading “‘Mega’ fires more frequent in Victoria”

Logging increases fire risk

For those willing to look, the evidence has been available for years: logging increases fire severity. Industry advocates continue to claim that ‘logging reduces fire risk’. But it should be obvious to any impartial observer that ‘removing large established trees actually increases the amount of flammable fuel, with unshaded stumps and new-grown saplings dried out by the sun and wind serving as ‘kindling’ for the flames’.

This has been backed up again by range of prominent scientists.

Continue reading “Logging increases fire risk”

A 170 km long firebreak in East Gippsland?

The ABC is reporting that ‘fire-affected communities in eastern Victoria are calling for a permanent firebreak running 170 kilometres along both sides of the Princes Highway to the New South Wales border’.

Continue reading “A 170 km long firebreak in East Gippsland?”

What mountain species were impacted by last summer’s fires?

We know how devastating last summer’s fires were on local economies across the country. The ecological impact becomes ever more clearly understood, although some on ground research has been slowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In February 2020, the Federal Environment Department released an initial list of threatened ecological communities which have more than 10% of their estimated distribution in areas affected by bushfires in southern and eastern Australia between 1 July 2019 and 11 February 2020. What are the known impacts in mountain environments?

Continue reading “What mountain species were impacted by last summer’s fires?”

Work starts on Snowy Hydro 2.0 ‘Segment Factory’

Back in 2017, the Federal Government announced a feasibility study into the possible expansion to the Snowy Hydro Scheme in the Snowy Mountains of NSW (‘Snowy Hydro 2.0’).  It was billed as being a circuit breaker in the ‘fossil fuels vs renewables’ energy debate because it would be renewable energy that will provide baseload capacity. The project would greatly enhance the pumped hydro capacity of the existing hydro scheme, meaning that water can be used multiple times to produce electricity.

While some environmentalists gave in principle support to the project, many wanted to see the details on what the physical environmental impacts of the project would be. Since then, as the environmental impacts of the project became more obvious, the movement became increasingly opposed.

Recently, a group of energy experts called on the state and federal governments to stop work on the Snowy Hydro 2.0 project.

It has also been reported that the next stage of the Snowy Hydro 2.0 expansion has been given the green light, with approval for construction of the project’s ‘Segment Factory’.

Work has now started on the facility: Snowy Hydro has already started clearing native bushland for the construction site at Lobs Hole in the heart of Kosciuszko National Park.

The NSW National Parks Association says ‘This is just the beginning. Snowy 2.0 will permanently destroy 1000’s of hectares of Kosciuszko, and dump 20 million tonnes of contaminated tunnel spoil, the equivalent of covering Sydney Harbour Bridge and its surrounds’.

The NSW Minister Planning, Rob Stokes, and NSW Minister for the Environment and Energy Matt Kean is expected to make their final decision on approvals for the project ‘any day’.

Check here for additional information on the project from the NSW National Parks Association (NSW NPA).

Take Action

The NSW NPA is asking people to send a letter to the NSW government urging them to not sign off on final environmental approvals.

 

 

 

Logging in a time of COVID-19

While we are all patiently sitting at home in order to do our bit and ‘flatten the curve’ of COVID-19 infections, logging continues at full speed in the forests of Victoria. And Tasmania has just signed over up to 356 000 hectares of forests that should be in reserves to now be available for logging.

Continue reading “Logging in a time of COVID-19”

Snowy Hydro 2.0 gets approval for factory

Just a week or so after a group of energy experts called on the state and federal governments to stop work on the Snowy Hydro 2.0 project, it has been reported that the next stage of the Snowy Hydro 2.0 expansion has been given the green light, with approval for construction of the project’s ‘Segment Factory’.

Continue reading “Snowy Hydro 2.0 gets approval for factory”

Mountain Journal highlights – March 2020

This summer it was all about fires. Then, as the mountains started to open up and the weather cooled down, along came the Coronavirus, and things are locked down again.

Here is the monthly summary of key stories that have been featured on Mountain Journal. Enjoy.

Continue reading “Mountain Journal highlights – March 2020”

‘Australia’s Environment Report’ identifies impacts on alpine areas

The annual Australia’s Environment Report summarises a large number of observations on the trajectory of our natural resources and ecosystems. It is prepared by the Centre for Water and Landscape Dynamics at the Australian National University (ANU).

As part of their report for 2019, they prepared an assessment of alpine areas. With hot weather, terrible fires, and dry conditions we already know how bad summer was for the mountains. This report quantifies some of the impacts.

Continue reading “‘Australia’s Environment Report’ identifies impacts on alpine areas”

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