Well, we’re on the other side of New Year. Phew. I hope that you’re enjoying some good mountain time over summer and getting a recharge. There’s lots to do this year.

There are a range of environmental issues that have been bubbling away over the last year, and each of them have campaigns which could use some extra support if you have the time or resources. Here’s a sample of what’s going on. 

The cable car proposal on kunanyi/ Mt Wellington. There are long running plans to build a cable car up the face of this beautiful mountain, which sits above Hobart.

To get involved in the campaign against the cable car, get in touch with Respect the Mountain – No Cable Car (RTM). RTM is a community concerned with protecting and preserving the ecosystems, geodiversity, physical and cultural landscape, and natural beauty of the Mountain. ‘We are opposed to the proposal for a cable car across the Organ Pipes and pinnacle development’.

Commercial developments in world heritage and national parks.

This is a problem in both lutruwita/Tasmania and Victoria. While there are a number of plans for commercial development within the parks and World Heritage in Tasmania, the one that has had the highest profile are the plans for ‘helicopter tourism’ at Lake Malbena on the Central Plateau. This is possible because in 2016, the Hodgman state government changed the management plan for World Heritage Areas, rezoning various sections of what was once Wilderness zone, into ‘Self Reliant Recreation’ zoning, which allowed proposals for private development such as Helicopter landings to take place.

This is being resisted by an alliance of environmentalists, bushwalkers and recreational fishers. Check the campaign here.

And in Victoria, plans to develop a commercial campsite very close to the summit of Mt Feathertop are well underway. The upgrade of the Falls to Hotham Crossing will see it extended to a five day walk, re-routed to climb Diamantina Spur and then visit the Feathertop summit. This will be supported by commercial ‘eco pod’ campsites which will be run by a commercial operator. For a background on this issue, please check this story.

Managing feral horse numbers in the alps

As noted recently by Xavier Anderson on the We Are Explorers website:

‘Kosciuszko National Park in NSW is the largest conservation area in the Australian Alps, and is also the most impacted by feral horses. Despite this, in 2018 the NSW government passed the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act which seeks to protect the invasive species. Since then, debate has been fierce. 

‘Today, stakeholders on both sides keenly await the draft long-term wild horse heritage management plan, which is due to be released before the end of 2020. The plan has been advised by both a Scientific Advisory Panel and the Community Advisory Panel in an attempt to represent all stakeholders’. 

Reclaim Kosci is the group leading the campaign to see meaningful reduction in horse numbers in the Kosciuszko national park.

Xavier also notes that ‘the ACT, at the northern end of the Snowy Mountains, currently has the most effective management strategy’. 

In Victoria, there are plans for ‘ground shooting as one of its control measures, which is already being used to manage feral pigs, deer and goats’. This has been held up by a series of court cases in 2020. It’s worth checking the Victorian National Parks Association website for info and updates on the horse issue in the Victorian mountains.

Stop ‘salvage’ logging burnt forests

The Victorian government has approved widespread ‘salvage’ logging of areas that were burnt in last summer’s fires. Much of this is occurring in Alpine ash forests in the Tambo region and north east of the state.

Leading conservation biologist Professor David Lindenmayer says it would take more than 100 years for wet and damp forests to recover from the ferocity of last summer’s fires. We need to manage forests to allow them to be restored, not subject them to continued unsustainable logging regimes.

Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) is doing important work highlighting the ecological impacts of ‘salvage’ logging. You can check their campaigns, and support their efforts, via their website.

Mining in Valley areas. There are a growing number of mining exploration licenses being put forward in Valley areas such as the Ovens River in north east Victoria. These are all being resisted by local groups, for instance, the No Gold Drilling in the Upper Ovens group. 

Climate change

And, of course, unmitigated climate change poses an existential threat to mountain environments in Australia and around the world: longer and more intense fire seasons, less stream flow, sustained dry seasons, less snow and shorter snow seasons are all impacting on mountain environments.

If you don’t do so already, please consider financially supporting, or getting involved in, one of the many hundreds of climate change action groups around the country.

And there are some practical things we can do to increase our fire fighting capacity to stop fires in the high country. Two obvious ones are:

To establish a publicly owned air fleet, which can be used by states and territories to fight fires (letter to the PM available here)

Victoria should set up a volunteer remote area firefighting team, as NSW and Tasmania have done.