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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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land management

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”

New year, old issues 

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:

Continue reading “New year, old issues “

Victorian feral horse plan a win for Alpine National Park

After public consultation, the Protection of the Alpine National Park – Feral Horse Action Plan 2021 has now been released. This is the Victorian Government’s new plan to ‘improve the management of feral horses and reduce the damage they cause to vulnerable natural and Aboriginal cultural values in the Alpine National Park’.

Unlike NSW, which continues to be beholden to demands from some to keep feral horses in the Snowy Mountain national park, Victoria has taken a stronger position.

Continue reading “Victorian feral horse plan a win for Alpine National Park”

North East Catchment Management Authority – another year of looking after the Alps

The North East Catchment Management Authority (NECMA) manages the integrated planning framework for land, water and biodiversity management in North East Victoria.

North east Victoria is gorgeous and contains some of our most beautiful mountains. While it comprises only 2% of the geographic area of the Murray-Darling Basin it contributes 38% of the total water in the Murray-Darling system. This high-quality water resource supports users across south-eastern Australia and needs to be protected.

NECMA has just released its annual report for 2020/21 (available here) and it has some interesting updates on projects happening across the mountains.

Continue reading “North East Catchment Management Authority – another year of looking after the Alps”

Giving back to the Alps

Most of Australia’s High Country is now protected in parks. While there are significant pressures on many of these – for instance plans for a major expansion of commercial development in Kosciuszko national park, and tourism development in wild areas in lutruwita/ Tasmania – there is also the existential threat posed by climate change.

On a day to day basis our parks are generally underfunded and so the Parks Services struggle to deal with invasive species and the impacts of tourism. We need to increase funding across the board for our parks services.

There are also many options to directly support the ecological integrity of our mountain areas through hands on volunteer work. As author Alice Walker puts it nicely, ‘Activism is my rent for living on the planet’, and there are many ways to get involved in hands on efforts in and around the Alps. Here are a few ideas.

Continue reading “Giving back to the Alps”

Lessons from the Tasmanian fires of 2018/19: state has entered a ‘new era of bushfire risk’

Over the summer of 2018/19 huge fires burnt across Tasmania. An independent review of Tasmania’s management of the summer bushfires was released in August 2019. It found inadequacies in the response to the fire burning near Geeveston, and revealed that crews withdrew from the Gell River fire in Tasmania’s southwest in the mistaken belief it was out. The fire then expanded again and became out of control.

The report made a series of recommendations

Now, a comprehensive study examining the 2018/19 and the experience of authorities and affected groups by Insurance Group Zurich has found that the state has entered a ‘new era of bushfire risk’.

“Since the turn of the millennium, climate change and land use change have converged to bring about a new fire regime in Tasmania,” Zurich’s first Australian Post-Event Review Capability (PERC) report said.

More than two thousand dry lightning strikes hit the state during that summer, igniting 70 fires that formed into four massive fire complexes. Over 95,000 hectares of protected land was burnt.

Continue reading “Lessons from the Tasmanian fires of 2018/19: state has entered a ‘new era of bushfire risk’”

Traditional owners concerned with plan to dump spoil in Kosciuszko National Park

Threats to the Snowy Mountains continue: Amendments to the Kosciuszko National Park Plan of Management have been published for public feedback, which set out the ‘desired changes’ to the area over the next 40 years (the submission timeline has now closed).

If approved, the plan would see a huge amount of development, including several thousand extra beds in resorts and new areas, occurring within this precious and fragile alpine park.

Meanwhile, Snowy Hydro pushes ahead with its plan to excavate approximately seven million cubic metres of earth for the project’s tunnels and subterranean power station.

That spoil will then be dumped on 55 hectares across four sites within Kosciuszko National Park.

Now a Traditional Owner representing the Ngarigo Nation in southern New South Wales says she has received no consultation about a plan to dump tonnes of waste spoil on her Country.

Continue reading “Traditional owners concerned with plan to dump spoil in Kosciuszko National Park”

Community views on managing bushfire risk

As governments grapple with the threat posed by climate driven fire seasons, there is an ongoing debate about the role of fuel reduction burning (also called proscribed burning). While many experts agree that fuel reduction does play an important role in fire management, it is growing increasingly ineffective as fires become more severe and more frequent due to the impacts of climate change. While planned burning (and other fuel management techniques) can alter fuel loads, it must be carefully applied to reduce the risk of bushfire.

The Victorian government is currently running a survey about attitudes in local communities about how to manage bushfire risk.

Continue reading “Community views on managing bushfire risk”

Parks Victoria releases feral horse action plan for comment

Parks Victoria (PV) have released an updated draft action plan outlining feral horse management intentions over the next ten years.

You have until Friday 23 April to provide comment on the plan.

Continue reading “Parks Victoria releases feral horse action plan for comment”

Where the Water Starts

Richard Swain loves the bush and wildlife of the southern ranges of New South Wales, where he was born. Richard’s deep connection to country and skill as a river guide led him and his partner, Alison to set up Alpine River Adventures. A successful business is now threatened by low water levels in the Snowy River. They both consider climate change is impacting the environment they love.

Where the Water starts is a film that explores connection to place and the impacts of climate change and feral animals on the Snowy Mountains.

Continue reading “Where the Water Starts”

Dead forests making bushfires worse

We know that climate change is making fire seasons longer and more intense. This is happening globally. It has enormous implications for the landscapes that we love, how we prepare for and fight fires, and even how we live in fire prone areas.

These fires are transforming the landscapes we know and love. Anyone who has driven out of Jindabyne into the Snowy Mountains, or Mt Beauty towards the Bogong High Plains knows what I am talking about – endless walls of grey, dead trees. Only 0.47% of old growth Alpine Ash still exists in Victoria. This has huge implications for the aesthetics of our mountain areas, and significant ecological implications.

Increased fire frequency could see mountain forests like Alpine Ash replaced by wattle woodlands. As recently noted by Brett McNamara, the manager of Namadgi National Park:

Recovery happens but it is “tainted with a sense of what does the future hold for us if we are to experience fire again and again with such intensity. This is where the question is unanswered. What these mountains will look like well into the future?”

The huge volumes of dead trees from previous fires also creates a lot of fuel that is already dry and hence ready to burn in future fires. What are the implications of this for our fire fighting and land management efforts?

Continue reading “Dead forests making bushfires worse”

Increase in lightning strikes expected to ignite more wildfires

Lightning strikes are one of the main causes of wildfire in Australia. As the planet’s temperature warms, the frequency of lightning strikes is expected to grow with it.

Currently, lightning strikes the earth’s surface nearly eight million times a day. This number is expected to ‘dramatically increase’ as global temperatures rise, according to a study published by Science. The U.S., for example, could experience a 50% increase in the number of lightning strikes by the end of the century, if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed.

This increase is already being felt in Australia and has implications for how we plan for, and fight fire. Because they start from a single point, lightning caused fires are initially small and can be easily contained before they turn into blazes, if there are ground crews or planes or helicopters available. As was shown by last summer’s fires, in a bad season, we simply don’t have enough resources to do this.

Continue reading “Increase in lightning strikes expected to ignite more wildfires”

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