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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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environment

Mountain forests miss out on protection

 

In November 2019 over 96,000 hectares of Immediate Protection Areas (IPAs) were announced by the Victorian government alongside the Victorian Forestry Plan which will see an end to native forest logging by 2030. IPA boundaries for four areas have now been finalised.

However, there has been no additional protection of forests threatened with logging in the Victorian high country.

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‘Forests, Snowpack and Wildfires Appear Trapped in a Vicious Climate Cycle’

Fire is becoming an increasingly destructive force in mountain areas. This has many environmental and economic impacts. A new study from the USA investigates how extreme wildfires in 2020 affected the water cycle in key mountain forests that store water in the form of snow pack that is released through spring. The findings are consistent with earlier research in the Australian high country.

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Seminar – Climate change, fire and the Victorian Alps

A report from the ‘Climate change and the Victorian Alps – preparing for the fires of the future’ seminar, which was held as part of the speakers program for the 2022 Victorian backcountry festival at Mt Hotham on September 2.

Speakers included an academic, a local landcare representative, Parks Victoria and DELWP.

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As the northern hemisphere burns, what are the lessons for Australia?

The northern hemisphere summer has been terrible. Heat waves have killed many thousands, from Iran and India to Portugal and France. Flash flooding has closed the Grand Canyon, while ‘Lake’ Mead, a massive dam on the Colorado River, is almost empty. Across the northern hemisphere, from Siberia and Alaska to normally temperate countries like England and even Ireland there have been devastating wild fires.

Droughts, which are exacerbated by a warming climate, are making wildfires more frequent, destructive, and harder to fight in many places. Firefighters in temperate countries are often not equipped or trained in dealing with landscape scale fires. There are not prepared for potentially months long seasons. In one month, wildfires tore through Portugal, Spain, France, England and Germany, which had all seen record-high temperatures. Greece and Turkey also burnt. This challenged the fire fighting capacity in each country. For instance, in mid August, a wildfire broke out in France’s Gironde region. The fire grew to more than 15,000 acres in a short time and 8,000 people were evacuated. Local firefighting capacity was overwhelmed. Firefighters from a number of countries, including Sweden and Italy, were mobilised to support local efforts.

[Header image: Geoffrey Browne]

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Climate change, fire and mountain environments

We know that climate change is already impacting on the Australian Alps. Declining snow pack, hotter summers, and longer fire seasons are just some of the impacts we are seeing. This brings many challenges to land managers, and is changing the mountain landscapes we know and love.

Additionally, local economies rely on the beautiful natural surroundings of the Alps, which attract skiers, riders and others from around the state and the country. Declining environments will impact on the numbers of visitors and hence local economies.

This short seminar will delve into the issue of fire, and how we need to respond to longer and more intense seasons in the Victorian mountains.

If you can’t attend the event, it will be livestreamed via the event facebook page.

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This tax time can you support campaigns to protect our mountain environments?

Mountain Journal is one of my passions. Along with things like my involvement in the backcountry festival, Protect our Winters, and the Mt Hotham Dinner Plain CFA, there are many ways I try to share my love for the mountains. One of my other passions is my work as campaigns co-ordinator for environmental group Friends of the Earth (FoE). In the last few years FoE has started to do substantial work in support of mountain environments.

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After two mild summers, burnt snow gum forests are recovering.

Over the past couple of years, various people have been tracking the localised loss of snow gums in the Victorian high country due to more frequent and intense fires. We know that snow gums are, like many Australian trees, fire adapted. But we also know that they enjoy a decent gap between fires and that with climate change already increasing the frequency and intensity of fires, that we are starting to see localised loss (‘collapse’) of these woodland communities.

Given my connection to the Mt Hotham/ Dinner Plain/ Dargo High Plains area, initial investigations started there. Sadly, there is no shortage of localised collapse in that area, where repeat fires have killed off both parent trees and seedling regrowth. But through advertising via Mountain Journal and the Snow Gum citizen science facebook page, we started to get reports from across the Victorian Alps, from Mt Clear in the ranges south west of Howitt to Mt Pinnibar, in the far north east of the state. Thanks to everyone who contributed content.

Having greater numbers of people looking has given a wider sense of where loss is happening. But it has also given us an understanding that, in many areas, the trees are now starting to come back.

This is wonderful news.

Continue reading “After two mild summers, burnt snow gum forests are recovering.”

Giving back to the mountains

Some chats with mountain people

These stories are taken from Mountain Journal #2, a magazine which is distributed across the mountain and valley towns of south eastern Australia (available as a pdf here).

This year we thought we would focus our stories on people who are actively doing good in and for the mountains. This is just the tip of the iceberg: there are the park rangers, the weather forecasters, the fire tower watchers, the garbos and mechanics and road clearers who keep the resorts open, the snow makers, and all the folks who keep the mountain communities open and thriving. But this is a start.

For many more stories and profiles please check here https://themountainjournal.com/interviews-profiles/

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This election, vote for the mountains

Global temperatures have risen about 1C since 1900, overwhelmingly due to greenhouse gas emissions. In Australia, the average increase has been 1.4C. It has been linked to unprecedented bushfires, rainfall events that have caused catastrophic flooding and four mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef since 2016. Skiers and riders know that this has already had a negative impact on our snowpack, which has been in decline since the 1950s.

We know that national leadership on climate change has faltered under the Coalition. The federal election is an important opportunity to demand that all parties commit to decisive action to reduce emissions, and hence play our part in protecting winter.

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More mountain forests at risk from logging

In February 2022, VicForests released its proposed 2022 Timber Release Plan (TRP). The TRP outlines the forest areas it intends to log. Community groups are able to submit submissions to the process, but TRPs are generally then ‘rubber stamped’ despite calls for specific high conservation areas to be protected. The comment period for the TRP has now closed.

While there were very significant forests in the Central Highlands and South Gippsland scheduled for logging (such as at Tanglefoot picnic ground in Toolangi, the Wallaby catchment in the Kinglake National Park, Snobs Creek Valley, a large coupe near Noojee, and 14 coupes between Cambarville and Matlock), there are also a number of areas proposed for logging in the high country.

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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.

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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”

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