If we care about the environment, we must also care about rural and regional Australia because this is where most of our environment is.
A lot of people in the bush (I use bush in the broadest context to include even rainforest dwellers) are extremely unhappy with how national parks are being managed/not managed.
The banning of cattle grazing in the high country has become a catalyst for the coming together of different groups in Victoria and the new Country Voice website.
This site includes an expert opinion on grazing in the Alpine National Park from x-University of Melbourne botanist Peter Attiwell. He writes:
“It is now critical that Parks Victoria clearly define goals for management of biodiversity. A critical goal for future management is the definition of appropriate burning regimes. The question should not be one of grazing or no grazing. The critical question is: what are our goals for management of ecological diversity and of fire?
The critics of alpine grazing use science to support the basic tenet that grazing is incompatible with use of the land as a national park, as encapsulated in the slogan ‘National Park or Cow Paddock?’. The slogan is totally misleading. A cow paddock, once abandoned, will never return to the ecosystem that was destroyed to create it.
In contrast, there is no evidence that cattle grazing in the High Country has eliminated rare and threatened species, nor has species composition or diversity been irrevocably altered. Indeed, 170 years of controlled cattle-grazing has left by far the greater part of the High Country in excellent condition. Clearly, at the long-term and landscape levels, cattle grazing over some part of the High Country can be accommodated within management plans to achieve specific goals without an irreversible deterioration in biodiversity.
There is no doubt that the opponents of grazing use science to achieve their end of stopping grazing completely (just as the opponents of timber harvesting in native forests will continue to pursue their aim until there is no harvesting in native forests). That is, there is no point of compromise, despite the fact that both the intensity and extent of cattle grazing has reduced dramatically over the years.
… Cattle-grazing in the Alpine National Park now covers less than 15 per cent of the area. Let us now stop quibbling and taking the high moral ground offered by this or that bit of science. The record stands for itself – the quality of the ecosystems of the High Country has not been destroyed by grazing over the past 150 years, and the cattlemen are hallowed within the image and folklore of Australia.”
While Attiwell’s opinion is respected, and on the Country Voice website, there is a lot of anger with ‘expert scientists’ generally as expressed in the following comment:
“As a long time resident of the Licola area, a landholder and a fire Brigade Captain with landholders adjacent and surrounded by the Alpine National Park to look after, I am just appalled at the level of scientific debate supporting the removal of Alpine cattle grazing. The so called science to support this has been non existent, less than honest or shonky at best, with I believe deliberate efforts to mislead.
After the Caledonia fire of 1998, plots were fenced off around rocky outcrops, dead limbs, fallen bark and places where little grass ever grew, then monitored to see how they would grow. Botanists placed transect lines beside active wombat and rabbit burrows and on areas last burnt out decades ago as there was so much grass on the areas under study. “Expertise” was bought in from the NSW National Parks and Wildlife service – who had been repeatedly burnt out.
Decisions on grazing in burnt areas were made with vegetation surveys consisting of two drafts and a summary, all unsigned. A “Draft Internal Working Paper” was passed off as “scientifically credible information needed to determine management options for the area.” This had no finding or conclusion, no indication of who did the work, or their qualifications and no references from text books on the methodology, which in places could have been little more than guess work.
The science was so bad even their own people on the “expert” panel to recommend on the return of grazing were critical “is the PV draft proposal a joke? Its appalling! I have read both drafts of the proposed methodology and, in their current state, neither would pass as first year biology assignments”.
Grass fuel on areas burnt in 1998 is now at dangerous levels around sphagnum bogs, ancient single trunk snow gums and private land holdings and in two years would have carried a hotter faster fire. The risks from snow grass on places like the Wellington Plains can only be measured in how many times it is off the fire intensity scale over the extreme category. Much of this country that did not burn in 1998 because of grazing, would now carry a frightful fire from 4 to 16 times the extreme intensity. This is on areas where grazing was banned and not allowed to continue because of claims it had not regenerated enough, as there was too much bare ground.
A few years ago we were told by alpine ecologists that fires were not part of the ecology. Now that their management has failed, with the 2003 fires, we are told fires are a one in a hundred year event. If this is the best we are getting out of our universities they should close down the environmental sections and concentrate on turning out engineers, chemists and bushfire scientists where they have an impressive record.”
L.Ralph Barraclough Target Ck Rd. Licola Ph 5148 8792. 14-6-2005
I am keen to post some text/opinion from those against grazing in the Alpine National Park, or perhaps the Macquarie Marshes?
Kye Andersen says
As an owner of a property in the Bundara Valley I am amazed at the time and effort spent by anti grazing protestors. Their resources, energy and time should be spent campaigining both State and Federal governements to help protect our Parks from devestating bushfire. Our government needs to triple the current spending, double the facilities and manpower used to combat our “blaze” prone regional areas. If the anti grazing protestors were to do this then there may actually be a National Park left to be used by them. Only then could you even remotely consider cancelling the god given rights of our farmers and their need to use natures resources to feed our country.
Also, with the recent announcement of the development being established at Dinner Plain and Mount Hotham, where are the protestors objecting to that?