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?

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