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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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Snowy Mountains

Mountain winter events 2021

Recent snowfalls across the Alps has got every snow lover excited about winter. Here is an initial list of snow related events happening across Victoria, NSW and the ACT this winter.

Please check here for a list of tour guides, all avalanche training providers, and gear hire options.

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‘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?

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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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Please track and report Snow Gum dieback

Snow gums are experiencing dieback in Kosciuszko National Park, largely because of the impacts of the native longicorn (or ‘longhorn’) beetle. These beetles prefer to lay their eggs on moisture-stressed trees and, in warmer weather, the longicorn beetle can hatch and grow up to 75% faster.

According to work published in the Resort Roundup winter 2019 edition (produced by the NSW government), ‘reduced snowfall, high summer temperatures such as January 2019 where temperatures at Thredbo top station were 4.4oC above average, and a reduction in autumn rainfall mean that snow gums are under much greater moisture stress than in the past.’ This means that larger beetle populations are causing more frequent dieback of some snow gum trees.

The SOS Snowgum program is asking people to log instances of dieback in mountain areas.

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We need a national aerial firefighting fleet to protect mountain environments

Australia’s fires over the summer of 2019/20 were unprecedented in scale and level of destruction. Fuelled by climate change, the hottest and driest year ever recorded resulted in fires that burned through more than 17 million hectares, killed up to 3 billion animals, and affected nearly 80% of Australians. This included the tragic loss of over 450 lives from the fires and smoke.

Aerial firefighting capacity – planes and helicopters – are an essential component of Australia’s ability to respond to bushfires. This was demonstrated in the 2019-2020 bushfire season, when an unprecedented use of aircraft occurred. 

However last summer also showed that we simply don’t have enough aircraft to fight fires in a bad season. This puts landscape, people, towns and houses, and fire fighters at risk.

Continue reading “We need a national aerial firefighting fleet to protect mountain environments”

Public Seminar – Snow-gum dieback and forest decline

Many people know the story of the Pine beetle which has been devastating huge areas of forest across North America because of climate change. There is a similar scenario emerging in Australia’s mountain forests, although it is much less known.

Snow gums are experiencing dieback in Kosciuszko National Park, largely because of the impacts of the native longicorn (or ‘longhorn’) beetle. These beetles prefer to lay their eggs on moisture-stressed trees and, in warmer weather, the longicorn beetle can hatch and grow up to 75% faster.

On December 10, Dr Matthew Brookhouse, Project leader of the SOSnowgum program, will deliver a public online seminar on snow-gum dieback. The seminar will focus on recognition of dieback, the research being done into dieback, and a citizen-science program that is providing information on the spread of dieback.

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Main Range backcountry conditions report 22/8

It’s wonderful to have all this fresh snow. With the national parks and resorts in Victoria closed, this is relevant for people from NSW and the ACT who are heading to the mountains this weekend.

If you are heading into the backcountry, be aware that there will be some tough weather and snow conditions.

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Court clears way for Kosciuszko post-bushfire horse removal

A hearing is taking place this morning, Thursday 9 July, in the NSW Land and Environment Court regarding the management of feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park.

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‘FOI reveals feral horse numbers exploding faster than ever in Kosciuszko’

Wild horses, along with other feral species, have inflicted enormous damage on the alpine and sub alpine environments of the Australian Alps 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.

However, the current NSW government has continually failed to act to protect the NSW High Country, by refusing to support horse removal programs. (In a surprise move, the NSW environment minister, Matt Kean, recently announced that ‘about’ 4,000 feral horses will be removed from Kosciuszko national park as ‘part of an emergency response to protect the alpine ecosystem after large areas were devastated by bushfires’).

One of the key points used by opponents of horse removal is the claim that numbers of horses are inflated by proponents of removal. This has been a dominant argument used by pro brumby groups in both NSW and Victoria. Conservation group Reclaim Kosci has just released information received through a Freedom of Information request, which shows the size – and growth – of the horse population in the Northern Snowies.

The following information is taken from the Reclaim Kosci media release on the issue.

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Snowy 2.0 just doesn’t stack up

Earlier this year, it was announced that the next stage of the Snowy Hydro 2.0 expansion had 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 image above (from the NSW NPA) shows work at the Lobs Hole site.

The following is a summary from the NSW National Parks association about why they oppose the Snowy 2.0 development.

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Managing human waste on the Main Range

With COVID-19 restrictions reducing the number of people able to ski and ride in resort, this will certainly be the ‘winter of the backcountry’.

This brings a range of management issues, as inexperienced and, potentially, under equipped, people head out into what can be serious terrain and sometimes crazy weather.

There is also another dimension to this: what to do with the waste that will be brought into the backcountry, including human waste (aka Poo).

The following information comes from the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service:

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Poll shows Eden-Monaro voters want action on feral horses

A new poll of Eden-Monaro voters released today has found that most people want feral horses removed from Kosciuszko National Park, where horse numbers have tripled in the past five years.

Ahead of the July 4 by-election, an independent poll asked 643 Eden-Monaro voters what should be done about feral horses, which are devastating Kosciuszko National Park’s unique plants and animals and destroying its once pristine waterways.

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