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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

Major cost blow out in Snowy Hydro 2.0 scheme

The proposal to build Snowy Hydro 2.0 to strengthen capacity for energy storage seemed like a good idea at first. But as the details of the project emerged, especially the likely direct physical footprint of the project, more and more people and groups started to oppose it. (Background stories on the issue are available here).

After the release of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) the NSW National Parks Association said that the plan ‘proposes a completely unacceptable level of damage to Kosciusko National Park’.

However the federal government continues to pursue the proposal. The project received all approvals and is now being constructed.

Now it has emerged that there has been a significant cost blow out in the project, related to one of the major transmission links that is key to deliver its storage services to the rest of the grid.

A new report suggests different that different grid routes could be considered to either save costs, or increase benefits, including a new connection point that will reduce the environment impact on the national park.

Continue reading “Major cost blow out in Snowy Hydro 2.0 scheme”

Big win for campaign against Lake Malbena ‘helicopter tourism’ proposal

In big news, the campaign against the proposal for a controversial ‘helicopter tourism’ development in a remote part of lutruwita/ Tasmania received a significant boost today.

The Wilderness Society, supported by the Environment Defenders Office, has won an appeal against the proposal.

The proposal will now return to the Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal (RMPAT), who will be asked to reassess it and take into consideration its impact on wilderness world heritage values.

For background on this proposal, please check here.

IMAGE: Dan Broun.

A cable car to Dove Lake?

The following story comes from the Tasmanian National Parks Association (TNPA).

‘Everybody had thought that the most preposterous aspect of the 2016 Cradle Mountain Master Plan – the cableway from the visitor centre to Dove Lake – had long been forgotten. Unfortunately the nightmare of another major intrusion into the naturalness of Cradle Valley is turning into reality with the Coordinator General recently announcing it to the annual conference of the Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania as a fait accompli.

Continue reading “A cable car to Dove Lake?”

Pack rafting the Central Plateau

Pack rafting is the sport of hiking and rafting using a portable raft carried on one’s back. Pack rafts are designed to be light enough to be carried long distances. It is a relatively obscure recreation here in Australia, although growing in popularity.

Combining pack rafting and paragliding on the Central Plateau in lutruwita/ Tasmania is probably even more obscure. But it makes for a good adventure.

Jason MacLeod reports on a recent walking/ pack rafting/ paragliding adventure intended to mark his 50thbirthday.

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National Threatened Species Day 2021

Every year on September 7, National Threatened Species Day is commemorated across Australia to raise awareness of plants and animals at risk of extinction.

There are currently 457 species of fauna and 1348 species of flora listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered under Australia’s Environment and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Many of these are found nowhere else in the world.

This is a summary of some of the threats facing mountain species.

Continue reading “National Threatened Species Day 2021”

Feasibility study into Tyndall Range walk released

In 2019, the Tasmanian premier, Will Hodgman, announced that ‘Tasmania’s wild West Coast’ had been chosen as the preferred location for the state’s next ‘Iconic Walk’.

The area selected is the remote Tyndall Range. This ‘iconic walk’ will be similar to the Overland and Three Capes Tracks, where private hut networks have been built and tours are run by commercial operators.

The Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service (P&WS) has announced that the ‘findings of a feasibility study into a new overnight experience in the Tyndall Range on Tasmania’s west coast ‘proves the proposal is feasible and will deliver a new and iconic multi-day walking experience’.

Continue reading “Feasibility study into Tyndall Range walk released”

VIC backcountry festival 2021 online program

Covid restrictions have forced the organisers of the Victorian Backcountry Festival to cancel the 2021 event. Since we can’t get to meet on-mountain for the festival this year, the organising team has pulled together an ‘on-demand’ pack of films and talks for your viewing pleasure over this weekend (September 4 and 5).

The content available from tonight at https://www.backcountry-festival.com/festival-program/

Continue reading “VIC backcountry festival 2021 online program”

Ecological recovery in Namadgi National Park

In January and February 2020, the Orroral Valley Fire burnt more than 80% of Namadgi National Park in the ACT, leaving large areas blackened and apparently lifeless.

Monitoring the recovery of Namadgi National Park from the Orroral Valley fire has occurred since the fire. This is managed by the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate within the Department of Environment, Heritage and Water. They have just released a great visual report on the recovery of animals and vegetation communities in the park. It is mostly good news.

The report is available here.

Some highlights from the report:

Many Candle Bark forests and Snow Gums are recovering quite well.

The rate of recovery appears to be strongly affected by moisture availability.

Wetter sites, such as Snow Gum woodland near Mt Franklin Road, are recovering faster. Snow Gums on drier and rockier sites are demonstrating less recovery.

One exception to the general pattern of good recovery is Alpine Ash (Eucalyptus delegatensis), which is killed by intense fire and must regenerate from seed.

It is uncertain how well Alpine Ash will recover after two intense fires only 18 years apart; Conservation Research ecologists are currently assessing the degree of fire impact and the extent of recovery in Namadgi’s Alpine Ash forests.

Fortunately, some important stands of Alpine Ash were not affected by the Orroral Valley fire. A total of 2,415 ha, or 33% of the Alpine Ash forest in Namadgi, did not burn in 2020.

Some species can benefit from burning.

By killing shrubs, removing leaf litter and creating areas of bare ground, the fire resulted in ideal conditions for the germination of short-lived herbs and grasses.

Billy buttons (Craspedia sp.) covered the burnt slopes of Mt Gingera in November. Later they faded and set seed, to be replaced by other brightly-coloured species. By February, bluebells and paper daisies (Xerochrysum spp.) were the dominant flowers.

We may not see another flowering event like this for years or decades.

How are fauna populations recovering?

Although the fire took a heavy toll on animals, many survived, either in unburnt or lightly-burnt patches or by taking shelter beneath the ground.

The first teams onto the fire ground found a surprising number of birds (click unmute background audio to listen), mammals, invertebrates, frogs and reptiles,

Preliminary results are encouraging. The burnt areas of Namadgi still ring with an impressive array of singing birds.

VIC backcountry festival cancelled – here’s to 2022!

With the announcement from the Victorian government that the current lockdown will be extended beyond thursday September 2, the organising committee have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2021 Backcountry Festival at Mount Hotham. Given the extended COVID-19 restrictions, we have no option but to cancel.

We have set the dates for next year – September 2, 3 and 4, back at Mt Hotham.

We are, of course, deeply disappointed to have to make this decision. A huge amount of effort goes into planning events like this and it has been especially hard with a constantly changing situation with lockdowns. Many businesses and individuals have come on board to back the event and we thank the Mt Hotham community for the support and good will they have offered the festival.

Continue reading “VIC backcountry festival cancelled – here’s to 2022!”

Bushfire review is a chance to protect Alpine Ash forests

In March 2020, just a few months after the devastating 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires, state and federal governments rolled over the controversial Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) which give logging an exemption from federal environment laws.

A new clause has been introduced where a significant event (like the 2019/2020 bushfires) can trigger a Major Event Review (MER).

The review was announced last year, but since then logging in critical habitat for threatened species has continued, and there have been no changes to logging schedules. The review is now open to public consultation and submissions will be accepted until 31 August 2021.

You can find out more about this review here.

Continue reading “Bushfire review is a chance to protect Alpine Ash forests”

Citizen science project: tracking loss of Snow Gums

As we know, Snow Gums face a massive threat from the spread of dieback which is caused by a native beetle, but which is now being super charged by climate change.

There is another emerging issue: localised collapse of snow gum woodlands due to more frequent fires.

Friends of the Earth recently released a report called An Icon at Risk: current and emerging threats to the Victorian Alps (available here), which points out that climate driven fires are starting to lead to localised collapse of Snow Gum woodlands where regular fires have caused death of parent trees and seedlings.

These forests are fire adapted and can recover from fire. But the dilemma we face is that , since the turn of the 21st century, fires are becoming more frequent and pushing this vegetation community towards ecological collapse.

No one knows the scale of this problem.

That’s where you come in.

Continue reading “Citizen science project: tracking loss of Snow Gums”

‘High-risk bushfire days set to soar this century’

There is no doubt that climate change is driving more intense fire seasons. The world has warmed as a result of human activity and now all fire events occur in a warmer environment. We have known this for years. Back in 2008 the Garnaut Climate Change Review’s final report, said that predictions “suggest that fire seasons will start earlier, end slightly later, and generally be more intense” and that “this effect increases over time, but should be directly observable by 2020.”

New research by the CFA and Bureau of Meteorology underscores this fact yet again.

Continue reading “‘High-risk bushfire days set to soar this century’”

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