Public submissions in response to the Draft Feral Horse Management Plan for Barmah Forest close today.
The plan proposes the removal of horses from the Barmah Forest firstly by using lure and trap techniques over two years, which will commence following the approval of a final plan. The removal program would be reviewed annually and all feral horses are proposed to be removed from the Barmah Forest within five years of the program commencing. The involvement of key stakeholders will be through comment on this draft plan. The feral horse removal program will be managed jointly by the Department of Sustainability and Environment and Parks Victoria.
In a note from Angela Downey of the Great Divide Team:
Earlier this morning we received notification that the Victorian Government and their able assistants, not content with killing the Legend of the Man from Snowy River, by their banning of the Mountain Cattlemen and their Barmah counterparts, it seems now they are set to remove another icon of Victoria’s heritage under the guise of saving the environment and questionable animal humanity reasons.
On Monday members of Parks Victoria will set about removing 150 brumbies from the Barmah Forest which covers an area of 75,000 acres. It is claimed this small number of horses are causing severe damage over this huge area.
A decision was made to remove the animals from the park following this years harsh drought and with another to possibly to follow, with the implication that this small number of brumbies would place the environment and the resident native fauna under undue stress due to competition for feed and water. Many of the horses live in small family groups and are spread throughout the park. No doubt it has been a harsh year for them and many of the other animals.
However no mention has also been made of the contribution to the lack of feed made by other feral animals such rabbits, wild pigs, goats, foxes, dogs and cats all of which inhabit the forest. Such other feral animals often have massive explosive populations and cause direct and monumental damage to the environment.
An option of using helicopters with snipers on board to do the deed was considered but due to the potential of a similar outcry such as the furor over the Guy Fawkes National Park slaughter of 2000. During that episode many horses were shot but died a slow and agonising death from bullet wounds.
The Victorian National Parks propose to round up the Barmah brumbries, destroy any stressed and old animals on site and remove the rest to the abattoirs.
These animals would be obviously suffering due to the current dry conditions as would the native fauna. . They are more than happy to leave the suffering native fauna to their own devices in the Park while also making little impact on the removal of other feral fauna with populations of thousands which happily munch their way through tonnes of native flora and fauna, digging holes, slopping around in bogs, and bulldozing their way around the Park.
The removal of the Brumbies will have little impact on the environment of the Park. One has to question the governments motives in removing this small population of an Australian icon and part of our heritage.
If Parks Victoria are actually so concerned with the plight of the brumbies there are other options out there.
Further recommendations have been made by the Victorian Environment Assessment Council in its River Red Gum Forests Investigation Draft Proposals Paper (which states):
Domestic stock grazing has occurred in Barmah forest for several generations. The average of 2000 (summer) and 800 (winter) head of cattle agisted in the forest has been reduced in response to recent drought conditions, culminating in the destocking of the forest for the 2007 winter term. There are also 7 current grazing licences covering a total of 78 hectares and with a total carrying capacity of 112 Dry Sheep Equivalent that would be included in the proposed national park. Grazing with domestic stock is incompatible with national park status and will not be permitted in the proposed park. As well as domestic stock, Barmah forest is also grazed by feral horses and deer which, together with feral pigs, should also be promptly removed from the proposed national park to protect its highly significant natural values.
In Chapter 4 of the report, Social, economic and environmental implications, a candid expression of economic impact is made:
A team of consultants led by Gillespie Economics was commissioned by VEAC to independently assess the social and economic implications of VEAC’s proposed recommendations. The consultants concluded that the proposed recommendations would result in a net increase in economic value to Victoria of $92 million per year excluding the costs of environmental water. The breakeven price for environmental water would be between $1320 and $2880 per megalitre. Most of the benefits from the proposed recommendations result from non-use values for environmental protection, which are heavily dependent on adequate environmental water. These benefits would accrue mostly to people outside the Investigation area, especially in Melbourne, while the costs of the proposed recommendations would be largely borne within the Investigation area particularly in the areas near where public land timber harvesting and grazing are focussed. The towns of Cohuna, Koondrook, Nathalia and Picola are likely to be most sensitive to these effects, as they would be occurring in the context of the contraction of local economies and populations in these areas that has been experienced in recent years.
This is yet another abrogation of environmental responsibility in a seemingly endless succession, as defined within the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment 1992.
As people and communities are included in the definition of the environment, the threat of serious or irreversible socio-economic damage (as identified by the consultants) should bring the precautionary principle into play. Under the policy principle of intergenerational equity, the present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment is maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations. And, environmental goals, having been established, should be pursued in the most cost effective way, by establishing incentive structures, including market mechanisms, which enable those best placed to maximise benefits and/or minimise costs to develop their own solutions and responses to environmental problems.