The Telegraph is reporting that the state government proposal to cull almost the entire population of wild horses in the Snowy Mountains is set to be shelved after a government deadlock.
Sadly it seems that the ‘horses are a cultural icon and must be protected’ interests have won out (for the time being) over sensible land management. For a summary of the environmental impacts of wild horses, check here.
Linda Silmalis writing for The Sunday Telegraph says:
Snowy brumby cull plan to be shelved with a ‘brumby bill’ proposed to protect the horses
“Work is under way on an alternative plan to manage the estimated 6000-plus horses.
Consultations have already begun with locals.
It has been two years since the state government announced it would cull wild horse numbers to 600 within two decades to reduce the damage they were causing to the fragile Kosciuszko National Park.
The draft five-year management plan was to have been finalised in December, with the horses to have been sterilised or shot this year.
However MPs have not agreed on what to do, with Nationals leader John Barilaro, whose seat of Monaro is home to many pro-brumby activists, among the plan’s most vocal critics.
In a bid to break the impasse, Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton, who took over the portfolio from Mark Speakman in January, has been forced to meet key stakeholders to work on changes to the plan to ensure the issue is resolved well before the state election in 18 months.
It can be revealed the amended management plan being discussed includes a less aggressive reduction of wild horses, while also removing the unpopular method of ground shooting.
It is likely a new plan will continue the use of trapping horses, which has been the longtime removal method.
However a senior government source said the negotiations were yet to overcome the “sticking point” of what the acceptable number of horses to remain should be.
While the proposed plan had advocated reducing numbers down to just 600 over two decades, the revised number was likely to be “in the thousands”, the source said.
“Everyone agrees the horses have to be managed, the question is how many can be left in the park without causing environmental damage.”
Central to the debate has been the actual number of horses currently in the park, with Mr Barilaro and other activists refuting the figure of 6000 asserted by the state government-commissioned reference panel.
Under NSW environment laws, the government is legally obliged to remove the horses because they are “feral pests”.
To overcome this, Mr Barilaro is drafting legislation to give recognition to the horses’ cultural significance.
The proposed “brumby bill”, put forward by former Nationals MP Peter Cochran of the Snowy Mountains Bush Users Group, will give the horses legal protection to remain in the park.
Mr Cochran said the brumbies should be regarded as culturally significant, given their links to explorers, settlers and the Light Horse Brigade.