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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

There is still time to protect the Little Dargo

The fires of 2019/20 burnt huge areas of north eastern Victoria. The remaining unburnt forests are more important than ever. One of these areas lies in the headwaters of the Little Dargo River, just south of Mt Hotham. It is a pristine area, without roads, and containing mature forest, much of it dominated by Alpine Ash. It is an area of state forest that lies right next to the Alpine National Park.

The state government logging agency, VicForests, intends to log a total of 11 “coupes”, or sections, of mature forest in the upper Little Dargo River, probably this spring. These coupes are located in a series of clusters, where separate sections of bush will be harvested, creating a large zone of cleared land over time. Extensive roading networks will be needed to access the coupes.

One coupe has already been logged. The remaining coupes have not yet been scheduled for harvesting. There is still time to stop this ecological disaster – if we act now.

Continue reading “There is still time to protect the Little Dargo”

Forum: Threatened species and fire recovery

Upper Ovens Landcare are hosting a one day forum with the focus of ‘sharing stories from the Upper Ovens Valley’ about species recovery after fire. It will be held at  Dingo Dell, Mt Buffalo national park on Saturday 30 April 2022.

Continue reading “Forum: Threatened species and fire recovery”

Another year. Still no national air fleet.

Aerial firefighting capacity – planes and helicopters – are an essential component of Australia’s ability to respond to bushfires. This was demonstrated in the 2019-2020 bushfire season, when an unprecedented use of aircraft occurred. This summer was mild in the east but Western Australia saw months of terrible fires.

Australia has a nationally co-ordinated fleet of about 150 planes and helicopters in an average fire season (with up to 500 aircraft available on call when needed). These are used for firefighting, winching fire crews into remote areas, intelligence gathering and guiding larger aircraft in their operations (called Air Attack Supervision).

Continue reading “Another year. Still no national air fleet.”

Fires are getting worse. We need extra firefighting capacity to stop small ones becoming blazes

As we head towards winter, now is the time to think about next summer and the fires that may come after two wet, mild years. There are many things we need to do to be ready for the climate change driven fires of the future. Here is one of them: Victoria should set up a volunteer remote area firefighting team, which can work alongside the government paid fire crews. This would increase our capacity to stop lightning strikes from turning into massive blazes. It’s a good idea. It just needs a bit of political will and money to make it happen.

Continue reading “Fires are getting worse. We need extra firefighting capacity to stop small ones becoming blazes”

The Little Dargo: a pristine catchment threatened by logging

The state government logging agency, VicForests, intends to log a total of 11 “coupes”, or sections, of mature forest, much of it dominated by Alpine Ash, in the headwaters of the Little Dargo River. This area of state forest in north east Victoria  lies right next to the Alpine National Park. These coupes are located in a series of clusters, where separate sections of bush will be harvested, creating a large zone of cleared land over time.

This area is especially important because the upper catchment of the Little Dargo is in a pristine condition, without roads. It has not been burnt in recent decades, whereas much of the surrounding area has been devastated by repeat fires.

At this point it is very difficult to get in to the upper Little Dargo catchment. However, a rough route has recently been opened into the area to allow visitors to see the area before logging starts.

Continue reading “The Little Dargo: a pristine catchment threatened by logging”

Documenting loss of Snow Gums in the VIC Alps

The recent The IPCC WGII Sixth Assessment Report included details about the threat posed by climate change to Snow Gum woodlands (story here). Mountain Journal has been recording the local loss of Snow Gum woodlands across the Australian high country for several years now.

In a welcome sign, the last two summers have been mild and wet, and this has led to reseeding in some previously burnt areas of Snow Gums after years of no growth. However almost every trip to the higher mountains reveals new areas that have been burnt to the point of ecological collapse.

Continue reading “Documenting loss of Snow Gums in the VIC Alps”

The 10th Mountain Climate Project

The 10th Mountain huts are a remarkable network of backcountry huts spread through the mountains of the Rocky Mountains of Central Colorado. They have long been famous among backcountry skiers and riders. Using the network of huts, it is possible to ski from Aspen to Vail (a distance of roughly 150 kilometres, depending on which route you take) and from near Edwards all the way to Leadville. Check here for a Mountain Journal story on the network and backcountry touring in the Central Rockies.

Built over several decades the huts are mostly log cabins, with bunks, lovely communal spaces, and well fitted out kitchens. They have micro solar systems for lighting. 10th Mountain is a not for profit organisation and huts are booked online. They are popular both in winter for skiing/ splitboarding and summer for mountain bike riding.

Last winter they launched a climate project.

Continue reading “The 10th Mountain Climate Project”

Climate change driven fire threatens Tasmania’s forests

While the summer of 2021/22 has been a mild fire season in the east of the country, there have been a small number of significant fires in lutruwita/ Tasmania that have threatened World Heritage Areas (including one that threatened an incredibly significant Huon pine forest). This is because the west of that state has been experiencing a prolonged and extreme drought, with some areas receiving their lowest rainfall on record.

As reported recently in The Conversation, “this drought fits an observed drying trend across the state, which will worsen due to climate change. This is very bad news for the ancient wilderness in the state’s World Heritage Area, where the lineage of some tree species stretch back 150 million years to the supercontinent Gondwana’.

The drying trend has seen a steady increase in bushfires ignited by lightning, imperilling the survival of Tasmania’s Gondwanan legacy, and raising profound fire management challenges.’ Continue reading “Climate change driven fire threatens Tasmania’s forests”

Alpine plants are on the move

We know that climate change poses an existential threat to the mountains that we know and love.

A new study, looking at 36 species of alpine plants, looks at one aspect of the changes that are already underway. It shows that ‘elevational shifts’ are occurring rapidly in the Australian alpine zone. Plants are moving higher (a number are also moving downslope) to find optimal conditions to grow. The authors of the report Alpine plants are on the move: Quantifying distribution shifts of Australian alpine plants through time say that ‘this may allow species to persist under climate change. However, if current warming trends continue, several species within the Australian alpine zone will likely run out of suitable habitat within a century’.

Continue reading “Alpine plants are on the move”

Guided walk to the Little Dargo River

The fires of 2019/20 burnt huge areas of north eastern Victoria. The remaining unburnt forests are more important than ever. One of these areas lies in the headwaters of the Little Dargo River, just south of Mt Hotham. It is a pristine area, without roads, and containing mature forest, much of it dominated by Alpine Ash. It is an area of state forest that lies right next to the Alpine National Park.

The state government logging agency, VicForests, intends to log a total of 11 “coupes”, or sections, of mature forest in the upper Little Dargo River, probably this spring. These coupes are located in a series of clusters, where separate sections of bush will be harvested, creating a large zone of cleared land over time. Extensive roading networks will be needed to access the coupes.

One coupe has already been logged. The remaining coupes have not yet been scheduled for harvesting. There is still time to stop this ecological disaster – if we act now.

Join us for a walk to experience the beauty that is the Little Dargo.

Sunday April 24, 10 am – 3pm.

Continue reading “Guided walk to the Little Dargo River”

Tasmanian Wilderness Guides Association calls for halt on developments within World Heritage Areas

The South Coast Track travels 85k m from Melaleuca to Cockle Creek along the coastline of south western lutruwita/ Tasmania. It traverses wild beaches and mountains and feels like one of the most remote places on earth. The landscape that the track passes through is a part of the massive Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) that protects most of the south west of the state.

As part of the state government’s agenda to see more private development within World Heritage and national parks, a seven-day guided walk has been proposed for the South Coast Track, which would include six walkers’ privately operated huts built.

Continue reading “Tasmanian Wilderness Guides Association calls for halt on developments within World Heritage Areas”

‘Giving back to the mountains’. A call out for content

The winter 2022 edition of Mountain Journal magazine will be published as a collaboration with Mandy Lamont of Lamont Magazine, and will be distributed across southern capital cities and mountain towns in early winter. We welcome contributions to the 2022 edition. You can find a pdf of the 2021 edition here.

The theme this year is ‘giving back to the mountains’. We are looking to feature short profiles (400 – 600 words) of people who are doing great things in the hills – ecological restoration, volunteering, campaigning, building community. If you know of people with a connection to the mountains of south eastern Australia or lutruwita/ Tasmania, who would be good to profile, please get in touch (or please feel free to send a story for inclusion).

In particular we would love to hear from firefighters – career or volunteer – who have been involved in firefighting in the mountains.

Continue reading “‘Giving back to the mountains’. A call out for content”

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