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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

Mountain Journal magazine #2 published

For the second year, we have produced a print version of a magazine, based on content from the Mountain Journal website. In 2022, the magazine is a collaboration with Mandy Lamont of Lamont magazine. Distribution of magazines across mountain towns and resorts starts on June 7.

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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.

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Victorian backcountry festival 2022 – Lineup announcement

Not great news today with the massive amount of rain that has come through the mountains. However, we have some good news for you. We are excited to announce the program for the Victorian Backcountry Festival 2022

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An update on the Tyndall Range ‘Iconic walk’

The Tasmanian government has long pursued plans to open up protected areas to new commercial development. These are largely focused on new commercially operated walks that have accommodation attached to them. These have been strongly opposed by conservation groups and the walking community.

The Tasmanian National Parks Association (TNPA) provide an update on the planned “Iconic Walk” proposed for the Tyndall Range in the west of the state.

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Is it time for the Mt Stirling Alpine Park?

There has been a long campaign for the Mt Stirling area to be managed as a national park by linking it to the Alpine National Park and handing its management to Parks Victoria. Things have been quiet on that front for a while, but now Friends of Mt Stirling (FoMS) have renewed the call to establish the Mt Stirling Alpine Park.

‘With the transition from Alpine Resort Management Boards (ARMBs) to Alpine Resorts Victoria (ARV) in October, and the development of a Masterplan for Mirimbah, we think it is a good time to re-visit the concept of the “Mount Stirling National Park”.

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Climate change, fire and mountain environments

We know that climate change is already impacting on the Australian Alps. Declining snow pack, hotter summers, and longer fire seasons are just some of the impacts we are seeing. This brings many challenges to land managers, and is changing the mountain landscapes we know and love.

Additionally, local economies rely on the beautiful natural surroundings of the Alps, which attract skiers, riders and others from around the state and the country. Declining environments will impact on the numbers of visitors and hence local economies.

This short seminar will delve into the issue of fire, and how we need to respond to longer and more intense seasons in the Victorian mountains.

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Here we go again: Cable car proposed for Mt Owen

In lutruwita/ Tasmania, there have been various proposals for cable cars up mountains. These include kunanyi/ Mt Wellington, above Hobart, Mt Roland in the north, and a proposed gondola to get tourists in to Dove Lake, below Cradle Mountain.

Now a new plan, put forward by a local businessman, is proposing a cable car up Mt Owen, a rugged mountain near Queenstown on the west coast.

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The Australian Alps Walking Track

There are many incredible long distance walking tracks crossing the mountains of the world. Some, like the Pacific Crest Trail or PCT, which goes from Mexico to the Canadian border, have a high profile and see thousands undertake (or at least start) the journey each year. After the Overland Track, our most famous long distance mountain walking track would be the Australian Alps Walking Track, or AAWT, which stands out because of the smaller numbers of people who undertake it, its relative remoteness, and the fact that long distances of poorly marked tracks can make for difficult route finding. There are not many towns along the way (only a couple of ski resorts) and food drops can be a lot of work to organise and very time consuming (in contrast, along the PCT people mail supplies to themselves in the towns the trail passes through).

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‘Feral horse removals in Kosciuszko must ramp-up significantly’

There has been a long struggle to get feral horse numbers managed properly across the mountains of south eastern Australia. The ACT, NSW and Victoria all manage the issue differently, but in NSW the need to manage numbers of feral animals has been caught up in a culture war narrative that has slowed and blocked meaningful action for many years.

The recent release of feral horse removal data for Kosciuszko National Park since February 2022 has highlighted the need to significantly increase removal efforts to protect one of Australia’s most important national parks.

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What should be in Mountain Journal magazine #3?

For the second year, Mountain Journal appeared as a magazine. This year, the print edition was produced as a collaboration with Mandy Lamont of Lamont magazine. It was distributed across resorts and valley towns during early winter.

The plan is to keep producing a printed annual edition, and I would really appreciate your feedback about this year’s edition and your thoughts on what should be in the 2023 edition.

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Mike Edmondson. Living the Dream.

If you follow social media related to backcountry skiing and riding in Australia, you are probably familiar with Mike Edmondson. His regular posts on touring in the Snowy Mountains are often beautiful and a nice reminder of what it looks like to be ‘Living the Dream’. Mike has a long connection to the mountains, a range of interests, and offers many services for people wanting to explore the Main Range.

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Alpine Odyssey – Toward the start line

Later this month, Huw Kingston will leave on his Alpine Odyssey, a winter crossing of the full length of the Australian Alps Walking Track. As he gets close to the start date, here is an update.

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Plans revealed for Falls Creek Lakeside Development project

The Falls Creek Alpine Resort Management Board (FCARMB) has released details about the proposed development of the Rocky Valley Lake foreshore. This focuses on the old Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE) shed, which needs to be renovated to be usable.

The proposed developments are intended for year round use, meaning that the clearing of the Bogong High Plains road (which currently ends at the gate near Windy Corner) will be extended through to the Lakeside site. This will result in loss of crosscountry skier access, which FCARMB says will be ‘offset’ by an upgraded track to Nordic Bowl and beyond.

The new development will have a number of businesses, parking and public facilities and act as the staging point for winter backcountry touring on the east side of the High Plains.

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Climate change overwhelms the benefits of prescribed burning

We know that climate change is making our fire seasons longer and more intense. This brings up a range of problems and questions, including the need to increase ground and air capacity to fight fire, how we sustain volunteer and career firefighters through longer summers, how we grapple with the chance that we will get less support from overseas in coming years, and how we manage our landscapes and live in forested areas in a way that allows us to minimise the impacts of fire.

 

One of the tools we use to manage the intensity of fire is prescribed (or hazard or fuel reduction) burning. While Australia is a continent adapted to fire, there are ecological impacts, potentially both positive and negative, attached to fuel reduction operations.

 

New research says that the value of prescribed burning is declining as climate change drives more intense fire behaviour.

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