As we move into a new year, things are looking good in the mountains. A second mild and wet spring has led to a mild summer, with no significant fires in mountain areas so far (there were two fires in lutruwita/ Tasmania earlier in the season – at Mt Rufus and the Eldon Range). As heatwaves bake much of the north and west of the continent, the mountains of the south east and lutruwita/ Tasmania are a cool refuge from the heat. As always there is so much to do and wonderful places to visit. And, as always, there are threats to the mountains that we will have to deal with this year.

Here’s some of them:

Climate change.

Of course, climate changes poses an existential threat to the mountain environments we know and love.

The report An Icon at Risk, Current and Emerging threats to the Victorian High Country, produced by Friends of the Earth highlights the many risks faced by the Alps, including the potential loss of the Snow Gum forests. An additional threat to Snow Gum communities stems from the increase in dieback, which is caused by a native beetle but which appears to be supercharged by global heating. Climate change is driving more intense fire seasons and drying out the alpine and valley environments. Other threats identified include invasive species such as deer and horses, logging, and commercial development.

If you see local loss of Snow Gum forests due to wildfire, please log it here.

If you see death of individual Snow Gum trees due to dieback, please report it here.

Please consider signing this letter to the Victorian government, asking them to act on the recommendations in the report.

Logging and failed regeneration

A shocking report has exposed that 1 in 3 areas that have been logged have failed to regenerate after logging. For Ash type forests (including Alpine Ash, which is found across much of the south eastern mountain areas) half of logged areas have failed to regenerate after 3 years. The report, After the Logging, Failing to regrow Victoria’s forests was co-published by 19 environment groups from across Victoria, and shows the catastrophic impact logging is having on forests across the state.

Development in World Heritage

Around the country, state governments continue to pursue commercial development in protected areas.

This has been a particular issue in Tasmania, where the government has been pursuing an agenda to open up new areas of protected reserves for commercial tourist development. Ideas have included a new ‘iconic walking track’ through the remote Tyndall Ranges in the west of the state, and a new track near Federation Peak in the south west. The proposal that has generated the most controversy has been a proposal to allow ‘helicopter tourism’ and a small commercial operation which would facilitate a ‘luxury camping experience’ inside the Walls of Jerusalem national park in Central Tasmania.

Halls Island is located in Lake Malbena, in a remote section of the Central Plateau. Sustained opposition has seen conservationists, walkers and fly fishers join forces to oppose the plan to allow up to 120 helicopter flights a year on to Halls Island. Its been a big year in this campaign – the developer lost in the Federal Court, the proposal was refused by Central Highlands Council at Local Govt Level. It was sent back by full bench of the Supreme Court at State level. While the proponent says they will keep pursuing it, we are much closer to a win than we were a year ago (check here for updates).

Thankfully, the proposed cable car on kunanyi/ Mt Wellington is looking less likely.

In Victoria, the state government continues to push ahead with an extension of the Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing, which would see new tourist infrastructure being developed which would be run by commercial tourism operators.

Invasive species

Invasive species, including deer and horses continue to be an issue of considerable concern across the Alps and Tasmania. It has become clear that deer are increasingly spreading into remote protected areas in Tasmania.

The Victorian government needs to get on with removing wild horses from alpine areas now that it has released its final Feral Horse Action Plan.

A crazy idea that got knocked back

In some good news, plans for a rifle range on a remote mountain in central Tasmania was knocked back by the local council (details here).

Action is always the antidote to despair

Get active on climate

If you don’t already, join and support a climate action group. Without meaningful action on climate change, the impacts on the Alps will continue. Here’s a few ideas:

Protect Our Winters Australia

Outdoors People for Climate Action

School Strike 4 Climate Action

Friends of the Earth

Alpine advocacy groups

Alpine parks need additional funding. The Victorian National Parks Association is campaigning for additional funding. Their website is here.

The Snowy Mountains are threatened by the NSW government’s unwillingness to act to reduce the numbers of feral horses in the Kosciuzko national park. Reclaim Kosci is leading the campaign to have horse numbers reduced.

Background story here.

The Snowies are also threatened by the Snowy 2.0 hydro scheme and massive new tourism developments.

Commercial development threatens a growing number of areas in lutruwita/ Tasmania.

Check Fishers and Walkers Against Helicopter Access.

Get active in a ‘Friends’ Group or program

These groups to practical work in the Victorian High Country.

Friends of Baw Baw

Friends of Bogong

Friends of the Cobberas

Friends of the Mitta Mitta

Benambra Dinner Plain Omeo Landcare

Parks Victoria runs a volunteer program to eradicate Hawkweed from the Falls Creek and Alpine National Park, a highly invasive weed which out competes natural vegetation.

Conservation Volunteers runs many bushfire recovery programs. Find out more here.

This is just a start – please send me details on the groups and projects I have missed.