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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

Mountain Journal print edition #1 now available

The Mountain Journal website started back in the summer of 2010. Inspired by great magazines like Mountain Gazette, the plan had always been to produce a print version. But I never got around to it – until now!

The first print edition is hot off the press, and will be (covid lockdowns permitting) surfacing in cafes, mountain huts and public spaces across the Alps soon.

You can read the journal as a PDF here, but if you enjoy print, I can also post you a copy.

Continue reading “Mountain Journal print edition #1 now available”

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An Icon at Risk: current and emerging threats to the Victorian Alps

Snow Gums (Eucalyptus pauciflora) are the classic alpine tree of the High Country, generally growing at heights between 1,300 and 1,800 metres asl. Anyone who has visited the Australian High Country will know – and probably love – these trees.

In recent decades, wildfire has been devastating huge areas of the Snow Gum forests, with significant fires in the Victorian High Country in 1998, 2002/3, 2006/7, 2013 and 2019/20. More than 90% of Snow Gum habitat has been burnt at least once in the last 20 years.

The species can survive fire. However, climate change driven fire seasons are leading to more frequent fire, which is causing more death of trees and changes to forest structure. In some instances, localised collapse of Snow Gum woodlands is now being observed. As climate scientist Michael Mann describes it, we are now seeing climate change play out in real time.

We must ask whether we are now seeing the start of the collapse of Snow Gum woodlands, one of Victoria’s iconic vegetation communities.

Continue reading “An Icon at Risk: current and emerging threats to the Victorian Alps”
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Climate change and rise of the ‘mega fire’

Recent research by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, shows that climate change has driven a ‘significant increase’ in Australia’s forest fire activity over the last three decades.

A lengthening of the fire season towards Autumn and Winter were also identified, along with an increase in fire activity in cooler and warmer regions including alpine forests in Tasmania and tropical rainforests in Queensland.

This is not really ‘new’ news. The impacts of climate change in terms of length of fire season and intensity of fire is well documented (for instance, the head of the firefighting agency for Victoria’s public lands, Chris Hardman, notes that there has been a 170% increase in bushfire ignitions over the last 50 years, a 20% reduction in spring rainfall, and a 40% increase in very high and severe fire risk days.

What is especially interesting is that this research, which was published in Nature Communications is the first of its kind in that it combines analysis of previous forest fire sites with eight ‘drivers’ of fire activity including climate, fuel accumulation, ignition and management (prescribed burning).

Continue reading “Climate change and rise of the ‘mega fire’”

Parks Victoria Hawkweed program – summer 2021/22

This summer, Parks Victoria (PV) will continue its volunteer program which is working on eradicating the invasive Hawkweed from the Bogong High Plains.

Hawkweeds are a highly invasive pest plant species which could cause major environmental damage in alpine and sub-alpine areas of Australia if not eradicated early.

PV have now added some volunteering dates for this summer. There will be four one day sessions available on the following dates;

Friday 7th January, 2022

Friday 14th January, 2022

Friday 21st January, 2022

Friday 28th January, 2022

Continue reading “Parks Victoria Hawkweed program – summer 2021/22”

Three ways to watch the Backcountry Film Festival

Presented by Winter Wildlands Alliance each year, the Backcountry Film Festival screens stories of outdoor stewardship, grassroots policy and advocacy work, backcountry adventure, and snow cinema by human-powered advocates, athletes, activists, and outdoor enthusiasts.

The 2021 festival will run from DEC 3 – 13 and features 14 films over two hours.

The festival is shown around the world. In Victoria, Friends of the Earth is the local host.

There are three options to watch it this year.

Continue reading “Three ways to watch the Backcountry Film Festival”

Calling mountain firefighters

You may have seen that we are now producing occasional print runs of a Mountain Journal magazine. The first one came out in August this year, is slowly being distributed, and available as a PDF here.

The themes of the first edition were First Nation Voices and Living with Fire. Based on feedback, a popular section was the ‘Around the Campfire’ pages, which feature chats with a number of people.

The second edition will also have a focus on fire but coming from the human side of the story. That’s where I hope you might come in.

Continue reading “Calling mountain firefighters”

A Rifle Range on Maggs Mountain?

Many remote area walkers and fishers access the Central Plateau of Tasmania/lutruwita via the Mersey Forest and Maggs Roads, which lead to the trailheads for places like the Walls of Jerusalem, Arm River Track, Chalice Lake and Cathedral Mountain, etc.

There is a proposal to place a high powered rifle range on top of Maggs Mountain (900m), which is located above Lake Rowallan and across the valley from Clumner Bluff to the east and the February Plains to the west.

Meander Valley Council needs to decide whether to grant approval. You have until 5pm on Monday 29 November to put in a submission expressing your view on the proposal.

Continue reading “A Rifle Range on Maggs Mountain?”

‘Atmospheric rivers’ threaten snow pack

We are all familiar with the impacts of climate change on snow in Australia. For instance, the snow pack has been in decline since 1957. And a report commissioned by the Victorian government suggests that the end of natural snow could be as close as a couple of decades.

One obvious phenomena we have seen often in recent years has been weather coming down from the tropics in north western Australia. These rains are often ‘snow killer’ events which can massively impact on the snow base.

Continue reading “‘Atmospheric rivers’ threaten snow pack”

Climate change & fire. The more we learn, the clearer it gets

Its mid November, just a couple of weeks until the start of winter in the northern hemisphere. After a horror summer of fires across the North of the planet, fires continue to threaten communities and landscapes in many areas. This week, mandatory evacuations were announced in the area of Estes Park in Colorado, as some ski resorts in that state prepare to open. The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office announced “evacuate the area immediately and as quickly as possible. Do not delay leaving to gather belongings or make efforts to protect your home or business.” Meanwhile, the city of Denver is getting close to its record for latest First Snow of the season. And after a summer of extreme weather, the north west of North America has been hit by massive floods.

What we do know is that climate change influences wildfire now. The evidence for this is so widespread and compelling that there is really no point in even trying to argue its not a real phenomena. Here is a quick recap of some of the most recent research into climate change and wildfire.

Continue reading “Climate change & fire. The more we learn, the clearer it gets”

Climate change is coming for the Places we Love

We all remember the terrible fire season of 2019/20. Among the huge range of impacts on people and landscapes, one significant detail was that the tourism season basically didn’t happen across much of the south east that year. Mountain towns, ski resorts, even valley communities were evacuated. Lots of people missed out on summer holidays. And many workers and businesses suffered terrible economic losses (compounded soon after by covid lockdowns).

It makes you wonder what the future looks like for communities that rely on beautiful natural environments to attract visitors, who then underpin the local economy. With forecasts of longer and more intense fire seasons, and more erratic snowpack in winter, it is hard not to see a future where ecosystems and local economies don’t struggle to adapt to the changes that are coming.

This problem is likely to occur everywhere. For instance, recent research, published in Global Environmental Change, looked at how the use of state and federal public lands in the United States may change in the next 30 years under two different warming scenarios.

The biggest changes, they found, will come during the summer months. Their research showed that by 2050 it will ‘simply be too hot to have fun outdoors in many places’.

Continue reading “Climate change is coming for the Places we Love”

Backcountry film festival screening in Bright, DEC 1

The Backcountry Film Festival is produced each year by the Winter Wildlands Alliance as a celebration of the human-powered winter experience and a gathering place for the backcountry snowsports community.

The 2022 season is screening early and will be an online festival. You can get tickets here.

However, Bright Brewery will be hosting a screening on Wed, Dec 1.

Continue reading “Backcountry film festival screening in Bright, DEC 1”

Can ‘super seeds’ reduce the risk of local extinction of Alpine Ash?

Fire has always been a part of life here in Australia (well, at least for the last 60 million years). And as a result much of our vegetation is fire reliant or fire adapted. But climate change is changing fire seasons, making them longer and more intense. And this is having a terrible impact on many fire sensitive vegetation communities. The Alpine Ash is one of these.

After a series of fires in the early 21st century, the Victorian government had to intervene to ensure the survival of Alpine Ash communities through a ‘forest recovery program’ (source). Since 2002, more than 85% of the Alps bioregion has been burnt by several very large fires. Alpine Ash require around 20 years between intense fires in order for regrowth to be able to produce seed (source), and more frequent blazes are threatening the viability of this vegetation community across the Alps.

This restoration initiative has been an effective program which sources seed and then aerial sows areas which have been devasted by wildfire.

However, the program is being stretched by more regular fires and a review of the 2019/20 fires found that it doesn’t have enough seed stock to deal with bad fire seasons.

Now, Greening Australia and Minderoo Foundation have joined together to find ‘super seeds’ from the Alpine Ash which are suited to a changing climate.

Continue reading “Can ‘super seeds’ reduce the risk of local extinction of Alpine Ash?”

The Backcountry Film Festival is back. DEC 3 – 13

Presented by Winter Wildlands Alliance each year, the Backcountry Film Festival screens stories of outdoor stewardship, grassroots policy and advocacy work, backcountry adventure, and snow cinema by human-powered advocates, athletes, activists, and outdoor enthusiasts.

The 2022 season festival will run early, from DEC 3 – 13, 2021 and features 14 films over two hours.

The festival is shown around the world. In Victoria, Friends of the Earth is the local host.

Due to the difficulty of finding a suitable cheap venue, this year we are screening the festival as an online event.

Continue reading “The Backcountry Film Festival is back. DEC 3 – 13”

Victorian feral horse plan a win for Alpine National Park

After public consultation, the Protection of the Alpine National Park – Feral Horse Action Plan 2021 has now been released. This is the Victorian Government’s new plan to ‘improve the management of feral horses and reduce the damage they cause to vulnerable natural and Aboriginal cultural values in the Alpine National Park’.

Unlike NSW, which continues to be beholden to demands from some to keep feral horses in the Snowy Mountain national park, Victoria has taken a stronger position.

Continue reading “Victorian feral horse plan a win for Alpine National Park”

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