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Wonnangatta River

Alpine grazing banned

In perhaps the final act of the long running alpine grazing saga, the Victorian government has introduced legislation into Parliament banning grazing in the Alpine National Park, as well as in the River Red Gum national parks.

The introduction of the National Parks Amendment (Prohibiting Cattle Grazing) Bill 2015 will amend the National Parks Act 1975 to prohibit cattle grazing for any purpose in these national parks.

Continue reading “Alpine grazing banned”

Scientific research from alpine cattle grazing trial ’inconclusive’

The following comes from Rob Harris at The Weekly Times. It’s always amusing to see the mountain cattlemen’s association representative bemoaning the fact that the issue has become ‘political’. Does he honestly want to say that it wasn’t a ‘political’ act when the Coalition originally rushed cattle into the Alpine Park in secret without having an actual scientific plan around the grazing trial? Of course not, its been about politics from day one.

What is telling from this report is the fact that the Coalition government classified the first year’s grazing results as being “cabinet-in-confidence”. This makes it difficult for the findings to be put into the public domain. If the results supported the argument that ‘grazing reduces blazing’ why wouldn’t they have made them public?

Continue reading “Scientific research from alpine cattle grazing trial ’inconclusive’”

Victorian government stops Alpine grazing trial

In the latest development in the decades long saga over cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park, the new Victorian government has confirmed it has stopped the grazing trial established by the previous Coalition government.

For background on this issue check here.

The following comes from Rob Harris at The Weekly Times.

Continue reading “Victorian government stops Alpine grazing trial”

uranium mining in the Victorian Alps?

Now, here’s a serious blast from the past (apologies for the bad pun). While looking through some old files I found an article from 1978 from the Friends of the Earth (FoE) magazine, Chain Reaction (number 4(1), 1978) about the threat of uranium mining in the Victorian Alps.

Back in the mid 1970s, a German company called Urangesellschaft had exploration rights to a very large area of the Alps, from near Tolmie near Mansfield, right down almost as far as Bairnsdale. They had a total of almost 6,000 square kilometres of land under license and this included the Avon wilderness area and large sections of the Wonnangatta valley.

Continue reading “uranium mining in the Victorian Alps?”

Alpine park grazing challenged

The following comes from the Victorian National Parks Association,:

Wonnangatta River
Wonnangatta River

Today we took the first steps in our legal challenge against Alpine cattle grazing.

This case marks the first time in our 60 year history that the Victorian National Parks Association has taken the extraordinary step of launching court proceedings to protect national parks – the cornerstone of our conservation efforts – from damaging cattle grazing. 
Represented by Environmental Justice Australia and barristers Richard Niall QC and Andrew Walker, we headed to the Supreme Court of Victoria for a directions hearing on the case. The court set a time in early July 2014 for a further hearing. 
According to Felicity Millner, Director of Litigation at Environmental Justice Australia and part of our legal team, today’s hearing takes us one step closer to getting a decision from the court about whether it is legal for the government to put cattle in the national park. 
At the final hearing of the case, we will be arguing the laws do not allow cattle in the Alpine National Park. 
Ensuring the integrity of national parks is an investment in the future. Whether we win or lose this legal test case, the idea and importance of national parks as a haven for people and nature must be defended.
To fight this campaign we need to raise money from visionary people in Victoria. We are hoping you are one of those people. 
We have to take this legal action now.  In March this year, 60 cattle were rushed back into the Wonnangatta Valley, part of the heritage-listed Alpine National Park, under a flawed fire management trial by the Napthine Government.
The cattle have now left, but will be back next summer, when up to 300 head of cattle will do even more damage.
These ‘cattle grazing trials’ have been roundly criticised as flawed science that will contribute little, if anything, to our understanding of fire management. The evidence speaks for itself, you can read all about it on our website.

challenge to alpine grazing

The following update comes from the Victorian National Parks Association.

Today we lodged papers in the Supreme Court of Victoria challenging the Napthine Government’s reintroduction of cattle grazing to the Alpine National Park.

The whole idea of national parks is to conserve nature for future generations, and for its own sake. These natural environments are irreplaceable – a gift to the present, and a legacy for the future.

But by insisting on putting cattle back into the Alpine National Park the Victorian Government is ignoring the intention of the law that established national parks.

Now that all other avenues of protecting the national park have been thwarted we have been forced to take legal action.

Both the state and federal governments have failed in their duty to protect the Alpine National Park.

This is a legal test case. No one has ever tried it before, so we can’t guarantee we will win.

But in our view there is no other option. We have to take this brave step.

Ensuring the integrity of national parks is an investment in the future. Whether we win or lose this legal test case, the idea and importance of national parks as a haven for people and nature must be defended.

To fight this campaign we need to raise money from visionary people in Victoria. We’re hoping you are one of those people.

This campaign is vital. It’s not just about stopping cattle, it’s also about putting a stop to all the other attempts to exploit and commercialise our national parks in ways that irreversibly damage them for future generations.

We have to take this legal action now.  In March this year, 60 cattle were rushed back into the Wonnangatta Valley, part of the heritage-listed Alpine National Park, by your government as part of a flawed fire management trial.

These ‘cattle grazing trials’ have been roundly criticised as flawed science that will contribute little, if anything, to our understanding of fire management. The evidence speaks for itself, you can read it on our website.

We have to stop them going back in again over the coming 2014-15 summer when more cattle (up to 300) will do even more damage!

The mountain cattlemen have clearly said they want to return cattle to the entire Alpine National Park, and that this ‘trial’ is just the starting point.

With a looming state election, the Napthine Government and the Labor opposition must clarify their policy on these ‘scientific’ cattle grazing trials.

Victorians have a right to know before the next state election if they are voting for a small-scale scientific trial, the full-scale return of cattle grazing to the Alpine National Park or for the exclusion of cattle from the park once and for all.

cattle back in Alpine national park. Ryan Smith’s legacy?

The Age is reporting that:

Image from The Age. Graphic: Jamie Brown
Image from The Age. Graphic: Jamie Brown

Cattle have returned to the Alpine National Park for the first time in three years, with animals released in recent days under the Napthine government’s grazing trial.

It is understood that a little under 60 cows were brought into the park either on Wednesday night or Thursday morning, marking the start of the program.

The move follows the state government getting approval for its grazing plans from federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt earlier this month. The state government says the trial will test whether cattle grazing lowers bushfire risk by reducing fuel loads.

As pointed out by Phil Ingamells of the Victorian National Parks Association:

“the trial was not science, rather a political promise to the cattlemen to protect their privileged grazing rights in the park”.

“Decades of evidence show how much grazing harms the park. But it does nothing to reduce grazing risk,” he said.

Read more in the article by Tom Arup here.

And background on the trial here.

Environmental policy in a time of climate change

Environment Minister Ryan Smith with mountain cattle graziers, Wonnangatta Valley. source: MCAV
Environment Minister Ryan Smith with mountain cattle graziers, Wonnangatta Valley. source: MCAV

The state government has doggedly pursued this grazing trial since it came to power, and the environment minister Ryan Smith has been closely involved in efforts to get cattle back into the park. The first attempt was knocked back by the previous federal government. The current proposal has recently been approved by Coalition Minister Greg Hunt.

Victoria’s environment is in bad shape. Imagine how things could be improved if Mr Smith put as much effort into reducing Victoria’s contribution to climate change. Or protecting Mallacoota from the destructive development at Bastion Point. Or if he acted to protect the habitat of the endangered Leadbeaters Possum which is threatened by logging. Or … (insert any number of other issues here: for instance or check this list from Environment Victoria).

Sadly, he has instead overseen the demolition of the Victorian Climate Change Act. Development of renewable energy has basically stopped on his watch, which can only give benefit to the fossil fuel industry.

Meanwhile, he has pursued this project, widely described as being more about politics than land management.

Will he be remembered as the minister who turned his back on climate action and habitat protection, whose one legacy was to put cattle back into a national park?

VIC map for web

Alpine grazing trial: “If this was a Masters’ project, we’d boot it back to the student”

It’s getting on to four years that the Victorian government has been pursuing its attempt to re-introduce cattle into the Victorian alpine national park. You would think that for an issue they are so committed to they would actually be able to produce a comprehensive and scientifically robust plan.

This has not been the case. The following article from the ABC is just the latest criticism of the trial from a scientific perspective. Journalist is Jeremy Story Carter.

Alpine grazing trial given fail mark

alpine grazingA senior scientist says the proposal for the Victorian National Alpine Park cattle grazing trial would receive a fail mark if it was the work of a student.

Professor Mark Burgman, chair of the School of the Botany at the University of Melbourne, reviewed the proposal as part of a submission to the Victorian Government by the Australian Academy of Science.

“If this was a Masters’ project, we’d boot it back to the student,” said Professor Burgman.

“If it was submission to the Australian Research Council, it wouldn’t get to first base, it would get bounced.”

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt last week approved the trial, which will allow 60 cattle to be released into the Wonnangatta Valley this year, with more permitted over the coming two years, subject to review.

Professor Burgman believes the trial should not be permitted in its current form, as it fails to incorporate years of exhaustive research into the impacts of grazing on alpine regions.

“The science I see in front of me is lacking, and it is an admission that should be redressed before anyone starts to think about doing a trial of any kind,” he said.

“There is a wealth of information that could be used to help design the study, but they didn’t make any use of it. That 50-60 years of research ought to have been used to design the study.

“From a scientific perspective, it doesn’t make any sense to do that.”

He says the trial is too narrow in scope, and there is a potential for its findings to be used in other, broader contexts.

“It is very limited in space and its time – three years, one location,” said Professor Burgman.

“If one were to do this in isolation, it would be very easy to generate a set of results that are misleading, that you are then tempted to extrapolate to other places, other situations, that simply won’t function in the same way or react in the same way.”

Professor Burgman is concerned results from the trial could lead to mismanagement of future grazing regions.

“If you treat this trial in isolation, you will end up with some pretty significant surprises and start to manage the place in ways that will lead to outcomes you would have rather avoided.”

Alpine grazing trial ‘will be a neat demonstration that cows eat grass’

The following update and call out comes from the Victorian National Parks Association.

There was also an interesting report on Bush Telegraph on ABC, with the following quote:

In a report titled Does Alpine grazing reduce blazing? A landscape test of a widely-held hypothesis. Dr Williams found ‘the use of domestic stock to mitigate fire extent and severity at landscape scale under conditions of extreme fire weather, is not justified on the basis of the current scientific understanding of fire behaviour, livestock behaviour and alpine vegetation dynamics.’

Dr Williams says there is no justification for the current trial.

‘It has no scientific justification and the trial as it is set out has very little scientific credibility… it will be a neat demonstration that cows eat grass.

in the Wonnangatta, looking north
in the Wonnangatta, looking north

Don’t let Abbott & Co trash our parks

Today, Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt approved the Victorian Government’s application to trial cattle grazing in the Wonnangatta Valley, part of the National Heritage-listed Alpine National Park.
In a needlessly rushed decision the minister has approved the return of 60 cattle for a few weeks before winter sets in as part of a larger three year trial involving up to 300 cattle.
Sixty cattle, grazing for a few weeks, is by no means a scientific experiment. The same thing can be easily done outside the national park, but this option was not even considered.
The VNPA along with many scientists and members of the community made detailed submissions arguing against the cattle grazing trial, but obviously they have all been ignored.
The so-called scientific trial is a farce, here are just some of the reasons why:
  • There is still no peer reviewed scientific design for the trial.
  • There has been no consideration of a location outside of the national park.
  • The application ignores the considerable scientific evidence that cattle grazing does not significantly reduce alpine fires.
  • More than 60 years of research shows cattle damage alpine wetlands and the headwaters of many rivers, threatening nationally-listed rare plants and animals.
  • The rushed decision means there will be no time to carry out on-ground surveys for threatened and rare species that could be affected by cattle grazing.
Wonnangatta Valley has been in the Alpine National Park for more than 20 years. National parks were created for the conservation of nature, not as cow paddocks for graziers who want to regain privileged access to the park.
The Victorian Government has now wasted more than $1 million of taxpayers’ money on this deeply flawed ‘science project’ to appease its cattlemen mates. 
It is three years since the Coalition first promised to get cattle into the Alpine National Park, but we are yet to see a peer-reviewed scientific design for the project, or be told if any scientists have put their name to the ‘scientific trial’.
The Abbott and Napthine governments seem hell bent on trashing national parks, even though they are cherished by most Australians and envied by the rest of the world.
It’s time to stand up and make some noise for national parks! 
You can help by: 
We love national parks – they should provide a safe and secure home for our natural heritage, our native plants and animals. We use them to walk, ride, camp and relax, but never should they be used as cow paddocks!

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