Now that we know that ski resorts will be open at least for some of the winter we can really get on with our planning. In NSW an announcement on the ski season is expected this week, and the season will start in VIC from June 22. I hope this helps with your planning for trips and events. Here are some events that I am aware of. Please feel free to send in details on others.
Recently, the Australian Brumby Alliance (ABA) lost a long-running Federal Court case against Parks Victoria. The ABA had objected to plans to cull feral horses in the Victorian Alps. Parks Victoria will now begin culling horses in the alps, where horse numbers have soared over the past five years. The biggest herds of wild horses are in NSW’s Kosciuszko National Park. However, due to NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro, wild horses enjoy heritage protection in that state, and they continually move across the border into Victoria and boost numbers there.
What has happened since then?
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.
Alpine Ash, a quintessential tree of the Australian Alps, which is restricted to higher elevations, mostly between 900 m and 1,450 m in Victoria and southern New South Wales, has had 84% of it’s range burnt since 2002. Fires have burnt 84% of the bioregion’s 355,727 hectares of alpine ash forest, with 65% burnt in 2002/03 in the north of the Alps, 30% burnt in 2006/2007 in the south, and a smaller area (2%) burnt in 2009. Four per cent of the forest area was burnt twice within five years. And last summer, additional areas were burnt in the east of the state. This has led to scientists warning that large sections of Alpine Ash forests are on the verge of collapse.
And world renowned forest researcher David Lindenmayer says that only 0.47% of old growth alpine ash is left in the state of Victoria. Let that sink in for a moment.
In a significant outcome, The Australian Brumby Alliance (ABA) has lost a long-running Federal Court case against Parks Victoria. The ABA had objected to plans to cull feral horses in the Victorian Alps. Parks Victoria will now begin culling horses in the alps, where horse numbers have soared over the past five years.
Back in 2003, massive bushfires exposed a rich Aboriginal heritage across the Victorian Alps. 1.1 million hectares of land was burnt, and it led to the discovery of huge numbers of artefacts and sites linked to indigenous habitation of the High Country.
As one example, at the Dinner Plain airport site, on the high ridgeline that leads from Mt Hotham to Cobungra, and which is recognised as an ancient travel and trade route, more than 46,000 artefacts were found. As a result of the fires removing so much vegetation, in total 350 new sites were found across 14 alpine areas in Victoria. This sparked a rethink of how First Nations people had lived in the Alps.
It highlighted the fact that life in the alps was good pre invasion: as an archeologist said at the time, “people were up here eating very, very well’. Foods included bogong moths, daisy yams, emus, kangaroos, wallabies and lots of fruits and berries. As a result, large numbers of people lived in the high country during the summer months. It also highlighted the number of travel routes into the mountains from surrounding low land areas and the fact that people klived for much of the year in some high elevation sites
The fires of 2019/20 also burnt large areas of the high country, and will have exposed additional artefacts.
On New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2019, a front brought a smattering of rain across the Victorian mountains, barely enough to damp down the dust. But the associated lightning storm started dozens of new fires in a long belt from Mt Buller to the NSW border.
Forest Fire Management crews swung into action and many of these were quickly put out. Aerial bombing dealt with others. But there were simply too many, and some grew into massive blazes, including the fires that went on to devastate the forests and landscapes of East Gippsland in coming weeks.
This raises the question: Do we need a new remote area volunteer firefighting force in Victoria who could help suppress lightning strike fires before they take off?
In late November, fires started in East Gippsland as a result of lightning strikes. As noted by Peter Gardner, these went on to become major blazes. On new year’s eve, lightning storms started fires across the Victorian mountains and fire season came to the Alps with a vengeance.
Since then, huge areas of the Victorian Alps and Snowy Mountains have burnt. As at January 14, many of these are still going and, of course, the key priority is containing them.
But once it’s all over, we will need to count the ecological cost of these fires. Some areas in the Alps have now burnt three times in about 15 years. There is no doubt that longer fire seasons, driven by climate change, are already impacting on mountain and foothill environments.
The short answer at this stage is that we just don’t know what the full ecological impacts of these fires will be.
The following is a fairly random collection of reports on local impacts of the fires on mountain areas. It focuses on ecological values and impacts. Of course, this does not mean that human and economic impacts don’t matter. The narrow focus here is simply to try and share some information about what the impacts will be on natural systems, as the other stories are already being told widely in mainstream media. It will be added to as areas are re-opened to the public. I would welcome your reports for inclusion: please email text and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org
Act on Climate Victoria, the climate change campaign at Friends of the Earth Victoria, has launched an interactive map which shows details of climate change impacts on local communities, businesses and landscapes across the state.
It notes that snow cover has declined across the Alps since the 1950s. You can submit your observations of climate change impacts for inclusion in the map.