This story by Hilary Burden from The Guardian describes some work being done to restore the famous Higgs Track, which climbs through the Great Western Tiers, across Tasmania’s Central Plateau, towards the Walls of Jerusalem. The context is how people from across the land use divide are finding ways to work together.

The Mountain Huts Preservation Society is collaborating with the NGO Environment Tasmania.

The article says:

“Historically, Mountain Huts and green groups such as Environment Tasmania have been foes, ever since the nationwide environmental movement encouraged the removal of mountain huts. Twenty or 30 years ago, manmade sites of historic significance to local communities in Australia’s high country were deemed to clash with a vision of a totally pristine wilderness.

But times have moved on, the Higgs Track is now part of the World Heritage Area, and the former foes are working together to build a bridge” (in this case a literal one, a bridge over a stream).

This story, of former foes finding common cause, is playing out in many places around Australia. The Lock the Gate movement has brought together farmers and regional communities in common cause with environmentalists in opposing coal and gas proposals. In many places environmentalists now have several decades of involvement in local land management and are part of land management agencies. Demographics change, as hinted in the article. The valleys below the Great Western Tiers are full of ‘tree changers’, who bring different values and approaches to landscape and environment. While some industries like tourism are thriving, older traditions like grazing, logging and mining have waned. Yet there is the constant dilemma of how to manage our public lands in a way that balances the various and often competing desires of different groups and the environment itself. Traditionally the green movement has focused on protecting ecosystems in a way that keeps people out of the landscape. Yet often there is also acknowledgement of older traditions and different ways of engaging with and managing land. There is also the need to be involved in management given the cut backs in government funding for parks. This is where collaboration becomes possible.

In the case of the high country, many of the old fault lines still exist: over cattle grazing in the Alps, over 4WD and motorbike access, fire management, and prospecting or hunting in national parks. Often this is a class divide. Increasingly, it seems to me that we are managing to see around the differences and find ways to collaborate. The old tensions do reassert themselves, but there is nothing like working together to understand each others world views.

You can read the full article here.