People working together for the Australian AlpsAustralian Alps Liaison Committee
…to another issue of news from the alps, the twice yearly publication which reaches across state and territory boundaries and brings together news from the agencies under one banner. Interviews, information, resources, and regular columns – if you’re connected in some way with the Australian Alps there’s a lot here worth reading.
This issue’s main feature explores the thinking and methods behind feral horse control in the Alps. We take a brief look at how things are fairing following the decision not to renew cattle grazing licences in the Victorian section, then move on to look at what’s been happening all over the Alps – from MacKillops Bridge to Yankee Hat to Mt Buffalo to Thredbo…it’s been a wonderful six months.
The regular columns are here too – take a look at sharing the knowledge, international perspective, around the alps and the diary.
And just before you head off and start reading, I’d like to mention an historic moment – the official signing off of a section of state boundary between New South Wales and Victoria, 136 years after it was originally surveyed. As the two respective Governor Generals – John Landy and Dr Marie Bashir – shook hands at a point where the line crosses the Orbost and Bonang Highway, it emphasised the notion that it’s not about defining the line, but rather blurring the line – it’s about co-operation across state boundaries that matters.
Happy reading. Gill Anderson program manager and Editor
P.S. If you know of a story worth telling, just let us know – we’ll do all the work if you’ll just give us the interview.
A big thankyou for those who have given their time for interviews and provided images. Without this support News from the Alps would not be possible.
Colleen Nagle describes the relationship many people have with the brumby. “My mother lives in the west of New South Wales, a long way from the Victorian Alps. And when I say we’re working to control feral horses, straight away she says, “You’re not going to hurt them are you?” People who have never seen a brumby in their lives don’t want you to interfere with them.”
Colleen, a ranger in the Alpine National Park, East Alps Unit at Omeo sums up the cultural connection some people have with an introduced species – one that is putting incredible pressure on a range of fragile alpine ecosystems, from bogs through to the treeless alpine zones. These horses are like any of the other feral species, all of which must be managed as part of our stewardship of the alps. The fact that they come with a culturally-linked mythology, á la The Man from Snowy River, only makes the job more complex.
Controlling horses in Victoria relies on the strength and openness of a partnership between Parks Victoria and the Alpine Brumby Management Association. “There are all sorts of people in the association, and they all have a high interest in horses and their wellbeing,” explains Colleen. “We know because we meet with them regularly and subcontract some of the members, because of their skill, to run and catch the horses.”
Behind this partnership arrangement is a structured process. The bottom line is that all control measures must conform to the Alpine National Park’s Management Plan which sets the welfare of the animals as its first priority. There are also strict rules about safety (as you’d imagine given the challenging nature of brumby running) and protecting the environment that you’re running through. As well as this, data must be collected – both the number of capture trips and horses caught.
“We’re trying to keep the paperwork as simple as possible, but we really do need detailed information about what animals are caught.” This information is the point of feedback in a loop which begins with surveying brumbies – which, like in New South Wales and, historically, the ACT – has been from the air.
“Last April Enzo Brotto a ranger from Bright, and I did some training with Michelle Walter (an expert on brumbies) on how to survey them from a helicopter. We took photos, looked out for the mobs, took note of any distinguishing marks, tried to work out the group dynamics and also counted them.” Based on this survey, it was estimated that there were between 800 and 1,000 horses in the area covered by the East Alps Unit.
“The subcontract we put out in June asked for between 10 and 12 per cent to be taken out. By looking at the reports we get back following a run, we can monitor our progress. We’ve taken about 50 out since July, and while we’re a little behind at the moment, that’s probably due to summer being a busy time.”
In areas that are especially sensitive to the effects of horses – trampling fragile plants, polluting high altitude streams, destroying delicate localised ecosystems and causing increased erosion of the broader landscape – the aim is to have all the horses removed. Managing running – so that it’s done solely by those with permission – is one of the issues.
“We use trip intention forms to set out the location and the names of those involved. We’ve also produced magnetic signs for contractor’s vehicles to help identify them.” The other reason the process is so tightly controlled is to ensure it’s humane. “Though these are feral horses, you have to treat them fairly and look after them.”
This is the motivation behind looking at better methods – like the trials being carried out up in the Bogong High Plains where the country is too rough for running.
“We set up some yards with a salt lick to get the horses used to coming in and out, but it was a bit of a failure because some people came and disturbed the animals. But we will give it another go at a different location.
” Another transect survey is due in April when Enzo and Colleen with be joined by Dean Backman of the Alpine Brumby Management Association. “We’ll be flying 100 metres off the ground at 100km an hour along lines ranging from a couple of kilometres to over 30 kilometres long.”
This will be yet another good opportunity to talk shop. “We’ve an open relationship with the Association – we’ve always been able to ask do they have any problems, do we have any problems. It’s a really good partnership.”
Perhaps it’s not surprising that despite a border lying between Victoria and New South Wales, the states share many of the same issues. “The Management Plan we’re currently working with is the first for New South Wales.” And in saying so, Pam O’Brien (Area Manager Snowy River Area) alludes to the same cultural attachment which has hampered manage-ment everywhere up until now.
“Prior to the 2003 fires there would have been approximately 3,000 animals in Kosciuszko National Park, the figure being more than halved by the fires.” This was the ideal moment to move, but community consultation was just as critical here as in other states, so that by the time the Plan was approved and trapping began, numbers had risen again to over 1700. The aim now is to remove no less than 80 horses from the southern end of Kosciuszko National Park (15 per cent of the population) each year.
Management of feral populations must be performed to strict guidelines, with complete transparency to groups such as the RSPCA . “Removing horses is not our livelihood and agency staff are concerned with the humane treatment of these animals.” New South Wales use a combination of methods and are always on the look-out for ways to improve upon these.
“We do use roping in specific instances – when we have a mare outside the yard which is holding her foal, if an animal is injured, or if it’s aggressive. But our main means of catching horses is to use yards around salt or molasses.” Horse dealers are contracted to do the trapping and they must take all the animals in the yard – some are sold as pets, some are broken in and sold as riding ponies, and others end up at the abattoir.
“The broader community, who we’ve established relationships with through the process of public consultation, are getting used to the idea of trapping and removal.” Open consultation has been the catalyst to ease the process into acceptance. “They can appreciate the damage these animals are doing above the tree line – when numbers increase horses are driven further up and into these less-than-ideal areas – and they are also beginning to see the impact the horses are having throughout the Parks.”
None of this management process is done in isolation. “We’ve a network of staff involved across the Alps; we share information, co-ordinate aerial counts (and share contractors and equipment), tell each other what we’re planning to do so that there are no unexpected negative effects. We work together.”
Brett McNamarra, District Manager, Namadgi National Park in the Australian Capital Territory agrees. “If feral animals such as horses don’t recognise political boundaries, why should park management practices also stop at a state or territory border.“ With so few horses to deal with in the ACT – “We’re talking about a dozen here and a handful there” – working in partnership with other alps agencies makes a great deal of sense. “We work with New South Wales in a co-operative manner, together managing the adverse impact these animals have on these sensitive subalpine environments.”
In particular, Brett is referring to Namadgi’s many sphagnum bogs. “These are prime habitat for the endangered Corroboree Frogs (Pseudophyrne corroboree), and one of the largest areas, Ginini Flats is recognised internationally as a RAMSAR site – a wetland of International Significance.
“When horses enter these areas, their hooves compact the bogs, further stressing an already stressed vegetative community”. Much of this fragile environment was severely burnt in the 2003 Bushfires. Following on from this devasting event, Environment ACT developed a comprehensive Feral Horse Management Plan for the Park. One of the guiding principles of this plan is to provide a high degree of protection to the bogs and frogs. Post fires, both rangers and scientific researchers from across the Alps agencies have been working together in rehabilitating this environment, yet pests such as pigs and horses have the potential to undo much of this good work.
And there’s more, for the potential ramifications of the impact of feral horses extend further – much further. “The Cotter catchment, which supplies 80 per cent of Canberra’s water, lies within the Park, and the sphagnum bogs perform an important function – purification.” Damaged, compacted bog areas aren’t as effective, as the run-off from the snow melt isn’t able to filter slowly through the sphagnum mossy bogs.”
To some extent the feral horse story in the ACT is controllable. “Here in the ACT we don’t have a resident population, and our techniques are aimed ensuring none become established. We’re also protecting the areas most at risk.”
The Feral Horse Management Plan, makes good use of the best practice methods and techniques in place in neighbouring New South Wales. In its simplest form it’s about monitoring, fencing, trapping and working with neighbouring agencies.
“We’ve identified pressure points on the border where the horses cross, where and when required we can put up temporary barriers. We’ve also done the same at key points around the bogs as well as set up yards to trap the horses.”
With such small numbers, using further control measures is rare, and only employed as an absolute last resort.
“At the end of the day, horses are feral animals, impacting upon a sensitive environment which must be managed for its natural values.”
If you work in the Alps, at some point you’re certain to come up against a strange request. And this must be the current winner – a Swedish artist’s plea to have a diminutive sculpture of an angel placed on Mt Buffalo as part of an international art installation and symbol of peace.
Parks Victoria Chief Ranger for the Alpine District, Peter Jacobs received a call from the Alpine Shire in July 2005 who in turn had been contacted by a Swedish artist Lehna Edwall requesting if they had a suitable location. Peter, being the culturally aware ranger that he is, jumped at the chance to host the angel and had just the place in mind.
Felicity Brooke, Ranger In Charge at Mt Buffalo initially thought he was joking but quickly realised that the angel was real and Peter was serious. “Of course he was. Where else would you put an angel of love and hope but on Mt Buffalo?”, said Felicity. “But we couldn’t put an angel just anywhere – it would have walked.”
Happily, by the time the cast concrete sculpture had arrived, (according to its Swedish couriers, it caused some interest at customs) a lovely spot within the Chalet’s gardens had been set aside. “If you know where to look, you can see her, and she’s safe.”
The angel at Mt Buffalo is one of the first to be positioned – each a gift to one of seven chosen places and peoples. There’s an angel in the Ural Mountains, Russia; another at Mount Nansen, Yukon, Canada; one in the Sacred Valley, Urubamba, Peru; and in Kita in Mali; Kaula Farm, Hawaii; Emae, Vanuatu; and here in Australian on Mt Buffalo.
Why angels, and why dot them around the world? It’s Lehna Edwall’s response to 2004, a year of war and natural catastrophes that she found overwhelming. The initial helplessness was overcome with the concept of the Unite Hope Project – to cover the world in a network of angels, manifestations of “love, hope and light”.
Forty-two other angels are in the process of being placed and the finished piece will symbolise endless and uniting love around the world.
“We’re not turning a blind eye to illegal activity in national parks.” Peter Jacobs, Chief Ranger of the Victorian section of the Australian Alps said, in response to the recent protest organised by a group of people supporting the re-introduction of cattle to the Alpine National Park. “We certainly don’t want to have unnecessary conflict, but we also can’t condone what is now an illegal activity – grazing cattle in the Alpine National Park. It requires careful management.”
In August last year, cattle grazing licences were not renewed, a situation that lead to the protest held early this year. Prior to the Mountain Cattlemen’s Association of Victoria annual get-together, held in early January at Rose River, two groups of protesters drove cattle through the Alpine National Park. “We’d heard that a protest was being planned, and rangers met the protesters as they approached Wonnangatta Valley, an old cattle station, one where there’s been no grazing since the 1980s. One of the groups had travelled from Mansfield and other was from the Dargo area – they’d been out for at least six days and had pushed about 15 head of cattle 100km through the Park.”
Parks staff were well briefed and prepared with a response strategy. The protesters were informed that it was illegal to bring or be in control of cattle into a national park and they were asked to leave. They chose not to immediately, but proceeded, and met to hold a media conference in the valley – three helicopters flew media in and the event was televised.
Ranger Adam Whitechurch from Dargo was there on the day. “It was a very challenging task as our presence became the focal point for the three commercial media organisations present as well as the MCAV who were putting together a documentary about cattle grazing. It was not easy having cameras and tape recorders recording your every move and word for the best part of seven hours, and this is while you’re trying to do your job and interview people. I think that the staff present on the day performed extremely well under the circumstances and managed to complete the task that we had set out to do”.
Overall, dealings remained pretty amicable and the cattle were removed at the end of the protest. “We didn’t go in to inflame the situation – just establish and enforce that the activity is now illegal. We need to maintain good rela-tionships, to help present the cultural traditions associated with past cattle grazing in the Alps – and we’d like to work together on this to do it well.”
Each time the Alps’ Cultural Heritage Working Group* meets, a field trip is organised. Each one is designed so that everyone in the group – which is working to build an increasing awareness of cultural sites across the Alps – can get a close look at what they are working with.
From a primary school run by the Aboriginal Community near Tumut, to rock art sites at Namadgi, Mount Pilot and Walwa, there is nothing better than being there, especially when some good interpretation is thrown in.
In February, Adrian Brown, Ngunnawal descendant and Aboriginal Liaison Officer for Environment ACT (Namadgi), took the other members of the Group to look at the rock art site below the mountain named after a Confederate soldier’s hat in the American Civil War – Yankee Hat, Namadgi National Park.
“It’s a place where four different tribes in the area would meet. From the paintings we can see what they came to discuss – trade, marriages, initiations and other cer-emonies. Not everyone from the tribes would sit at the rock shelter. This was only for the bosses from each tribe. They would discuss what was to be traded who would be married and discuss which young men would go through initiation to learn more lore. We know which tribes came because of the paintings. There’s kangaroo for the Ngunnawal, turtle for the Wiradjuri, dingo for the Ngarigo and Bustard (a bird now not seen in these areas) for the Yuin.
With help from Adrian, complex messages are made more clear – that the figures with bow shaped markings symbolise initiations which took place on the highest peaks. “You get more from being at a site like this if you have someone to tell the stories.” Regardless of whether a cultur-ally rich site is significant to Aboriginal people or recent settlement, Adrian makes a good point. “It’s important to have the community behind the work of groups like this. You need Aboriginal people participating in the management of national parks to ensure our stories are still being told.
*members: Ray Supple (convener), Jennifer Dunn, David Foster, Dean Freeman, Megan Bowden, Ricky Mullett and Adrian Brown.
The kit…what’s inside…
There’s an introduction and teacher notes with curriculum links; and sections on Geology and Geomorphology, Soils, Climate and Weather, Vegetation, Fauna, Flora, Fire, Aboriginal People, Minerals and Mining, Water Catchment, Rec-reation and Tourism and Conservation.
After two years of hard work, the revised Australian Alps Education Kit is now out. roduced by the Australian Alps Liaison Committee, (through the Community Relations Working Group) this resource for teachers and students was distributed to secondary schools in the Alps region in December.
Based on an existing kit, the new one is a well thought-out revision, making the best use possible of many Alps people and their expertise. The content’s been updated to refl ect current issues affecting the Alps – for example, feral animals and fire – and the Aboriginal content has been written and approved by the Aboriginal sub-committee. And while the kit is designed for teachers of years seven to 10, in Geography, History, Aboriginal Studies and Science, it’s also really useful for those organising field trips to the Alps. Basically it’s a great general resource – for tour operators, Parks staff working in the Alps, and as a general reference guide.
“The wording is friendlier”, says Lois Padgham (Interpretation Officer, Conservation and Land Management, Environment ACT), who together with Pat Darlington (Education Officer, Kosciuszko National Park), managed the revision. “And where the old kit was printed, black and white with some accompanying slides, this new version benefits from the technology that makes it so accessible – it can be downloaded from the Australian Alps website http://www.australianalps.deh.gov.au and it’s available as a CD.” With its colour images, diagrams, well-organised format, and links to related resources, it’s a great resource. For information about how best to get a copy – visit the web site.
The Victorian State Government having committed to $7.5 million for restoration of the Alps, it’s not surprising that Environment Minister John Thwaites paid a visit to see more of the landscape that will be benefiting.
Flying in to Mount Beauty, the Minister was driven in to see one of the ecosystems which plays such a vital role in naturally managing water quality.
Says Kevin Cosgriff, (Ranger, Parks Victoria, Mt Beauty), “Alpine mossbeds are the kind of unloved environments that for years have been trampled upon, heavily grazed, driven over and, most recently, severely burnt.
Yet these unprepossessing ecosystems play a key role not only in the health of the mountains but in the downstream health of our rivers.”
Located at the very top of the catchments and headwa-ters of north-eastern Victoria’s major rivers, healthy alpine mossbeds retain and slowly release water, reducing erosion, and naturally filtering water.
Of course all this is well known to the Minister and his Department, and it was the fragile state of these bio filters that led ultimately to the decision to remove cattle from the Alps. As John Thwaites said on the day, “We now have a once in a lifetime opportunity to preserve and ensure a healthy and sustainable future for the Alpine environment.”
Seeing a moss bed close hand on a beautiful day in the Alps is inspirational, but what also impressed the Minister was the scale and scope of volunteer support for the restora-tion works taking place. “By the end of the visit, in meeting these people, and seeing what they are doing, the Minister was very aware that we wouldn’t be able to make a difference without them.”
And those wonderful volunteers are – Charles Sturt University students (Albury), LaTrobe University students (Wodonga), Conservation Volunteers Australia, Landrover Owners Club and Pajero 4WD Clubs (part of 4WD assoc-ciation of Victoria), Federation of Victorian Bushwalkers, Victorian National Parks Association, Falls Creek Landcare Group, Bogong Restoration Alliance, Melbourne University Mountaineering Club. Thank you also to AGL Hydro (formerly Southern Hydro) for their financial contribution.
News of workshops, reports and other forms of useful information
More on the front line
At the November Frontline of the Alps workshop in Thredbo, there were, as expected, more people from the ACT and New South Wales than from Victoria. Interestingly, compared with the previous workshop held at Mt Buffalo in May, there were also more people from the three Parks agencies than tour operators and non-agency visitor centre staff.
“Our aim is to equip people with a better understanding of the Alps and their management”, explains Rod Atkins, currently Manager of Public Programs & Marketing at the Australian National Botanic Gardens. And the two day work-shop, held at The Denman Lodge, was designed to do just that. “Of course the agency people already had a good idea of the fundamentals of park management, but they weren’t as familiar with the Alps-wide cooperative management program as you’d think.”
Regardless of knowledge or background, the workshop offered a carefully constructed content – talks on flora and fauna unique to the region, geological formation of the Alps, and the effort moving towards management of the Alps by the three separate Parks agencies as, essentially, one park with consistent standards.
There were also presentations by a representative from each of the Parks agencies who offered their top ten spots. Amongst them – Danny Corcoran (NSW) spoke of the diversity of southern Kosciuszko National Park, from Australia’s highest mountain to the rare remnant rainforest gullies down near the Victorian border; Lisa McIntosh (ACT) offered Mt Ginini, the highest peak in the ACT; and Wayne McCallum (VIC) presented Lake Tali Karng, an iconic bushwalking site.
Outdoors, the participants took part in a practical ses-sion designed both to build communication skills but also to gain an appreciation of Indigenous culture and its intrinsic links with the natural landscape. “Pat Darlington and Dan Nicholls of the Kosciuszko Education Centre, together with Rod Mason, an Indigenous ranger, took us all on a walk as if we were a tour group. It was a great way to learn how they interpret natural history and the Indigenous and non-Indigenous culture in the Alps.”
Demand was high for both the Frontline workshops held last year, places filled quickly and some people missed out. If and when the next workshop is publicised, be sure to get in quickly.
Bogs, mossbeds or peatlands?
Whatever they’re called, these distinct ecological systems are in need of restoration. Any means by which information, on how to do this most effectively, can be spread, is a bonus. Last December, when a second workshop was held on the Bogong High Plains (Alpine National Park) and Mt Buffalo National Park in Victoria, it confirmed what many had experienced at the initial workshop held in New South Wales and the ACT the year before.
“Prior to that”, explains Kevin Cosgriff, (Ranger, Parks Victoria, Mt Beauty), “we hadn’t had an opportunity to gather together. These people are specialists in this field. They’re interested and informed and obviously found the workshop very useful simply because they could become very focussed.”
A year later and nothing has changed in terms of how effective the second workshop proved to be. “We all have varying techniques and work with different materials, but the set of principles guiding the process remains the same – to restore the ecological function of these systems.” To achieve this, gaps in knowledge of ecology and restoration need to be identified.
A robust system can restore itself – however years of negative impact from sheep and cattle grazing, feral and domestic horses, and previously inappropriately located roads and walking tracks have made them vulnerable to the point where even a naturally occurring event, take the 2002/3 fires as an example, degrades these systems even further.
Happily, in a forum created by these workshops, open, frank and detailed discussion of what works and what doesn’t, is possible. In an effort to support these systems to self-repair, participants shared whatever they had. “Here in Victoria we’re working with bark-filled geotextile socks to create mini weirs, and revegetating with sedges and rushes for the same reason – to trap silt within the eroded channels.
In New South Wales and the ACT they’re transplanting plugof material from healthy sites to those in need of regeneration. They’re also trialling the shading of large areas in an attempt to slow the evaporation and drying of the beds.
These workshops look likely to be held every two years, supported by a very healthy on-going dissemination of information via other channels in the meantime. And for the record, the Victorian’s like to use the term mossbed, the Taswegians would rather call them peatlands preceded by the dominant vegetation type (eg Sphagnum dominated peatland) while the New South Welshmen and their allied cousins from the ACT prefer the term bog.
Living the theory
For those who like learning, and love the great outdoors, here is the ultimate workshop – Leave No Trace. Mark Abernethy, a Discovery Ranger at Kosciuszko describes what’s involved to get what ends up being a two part qualification; a master qualification with both the Leave No Trace and the National Outdoor Leadership School organisations – which also includes several Certificate 4 modules; Implement Minimal Impact Environmental Practices, Plan for Minimal Impact Environmental Practices and Train Small Groups.
With a small group of participants and two instructors (Graham and Karen Neilson), much of what evolves in this short course depends on the collected backgrounds, each person making an active contribution – in this instance, two outdoor educators involved in running programs for schools, two people linked to retail sales of outdoor trekking products, and three agency rangers – Ollie Orgill (Namadgi ACT), Annie Leschen (Mansfield Vic) and Mark.
“Seven of us met at Mt Beauty to devote the first day to gaining an understanding of the curriculum. By the next day, as we headed out to spend three nights in the field, (walking in a circuit around Falls Creek), we had most of the theory mapped out.”
Walking three to fours hours each day, each member of the group was expected to take one of the seven Leave No Trace principles, and, making use of references and personal experiences, make a presentation. As well as this, along the way, they had to put theory into practice.
“Most of us had a fair amount of experience, so the debates were well informed and often fairly animated. For example, where we were lead off the track, we were confronted with the question of how best to reduce our impact – to go single file, or to spread out?”
Over the next few days the seven principles were thoroughly explored. The group:
- established how effectively adverse impact can be reduced simply by planning ahead and being prepared;
- they identified the best places to walk and camp (a good site is found not made);
- immersed themselves in the many fascinating facets of waste disposal;
- explored the varied ways people don’t leave things alone (from building bush furniture to taking rocks home);
- looked at best practice around campfires;
- how to respect wildlife; and
- to simply be considerate, both of your hosts (the Indigenous peoples and the rangers), and others who are also out there doing their best to Leave No Trace.
News, big or small on Alps-based projects, people and events
From New South Wales… news from Kosciuszko National Park, Stuart Cohen – Queanbeyan
The NSW Government’s new winter surcharge – for entry to the State’s ski fields – will raise more than $250 million over the next 30 years and lead to the biggest upgrade to infrastruc-ture and tourism facilities in Kosciuszko National Park since its creation in 1944.
The surcharge, which will see an increase from $16 to $28per vehicle next year, is one of three recommendations made by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) following a major review of the cost to the State’s taxpayers of operating Perisher’s infrastructure. As a result funding will be increased through a developer levy on new ski resort beds, a change in the rating structure for resorts and lessees, an $11 winter surcharge for entry to the NSW ski fields and $105 surcharge for an annual pass to enter Kosciuszko.
Aerial baiting for wild dogs, suspended in the mid 90s for fear of negative impacts on Kosciuszko’s endangered tiger quoll population, has resumed. (Research conducted by the Depart-ment of Environment and Conservation in northern NSW and the Byadbo wilderness in Kosciuszko National Park, as well as a similar study in Queensland, has led scientists to think baiting poses no risk.)
Working with neighbouring landholders and the Cooma Rural Lands Protection Boards, a limited and strategic aerial baiting program has been introduced to some trouble spots where landholders were experiencing unacceptably high numbers of sheep being lost to dog attacks.
The NPWS is now well advanced in an ambitious multi million dollar project aimed at rehabilitating a large number of sites within Kosciuszko National Park which were disturbed during the construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme. Following the corporatisation of the Scheme and the subsequentcreation of Snowy Hydro in 2002, the NPWS took over respon-sibility for the rehabilitation and management of these sites with the help of $32 million provided by Snowy Hydro. The task will be enormous a total of 36 major sites and more than 300 minor sites which will need to be rehabilitated and is expected to take at least 20 years to complete.
(And talking about enormous tasks…) Just a few weeks ago in March Genevieve Wright had twin boys, Sean and Luke, congratulations!
From Victoria… news from the Snowy River National Park, David Burton, Orbost
After roughly 12 months of works (thanks to a funds provided by the Regional Infrastructure Funding Programme), the upgrade of facilities at Little River Falls has been completed. A re-de-signed car park, pump-out toilet, new signs and a safer lookout now greet visitors who come to look at the falls. Overall, the Little River Falls precinct now offers a sense of arrival, a fitting gateway to both the Snowy River and Alpine national parks.
Two more male Brush-Tailed Rock Wallabies have been re-leased to join the existing population at Little River Gorge, and monitoring using remote sensing cameras indicates they’ve settled in. This Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) managed captive breeding program, is being supported by rangers through intensive baiting for wild dogs and foxes as part of the ongoing predator control program. Part of the Good Neighbour program, the controls are not only helping native fauna (we’ve loads of wallabies and Long-footed Potoroos) but also helping adjacent properties who run sheep and cattle.
And stay posted for developments around the New Guinea II archaeological site. Parks staff, Aboriginal Affairs Victoria and the Moogji Aboriginal Council are working together to develop a management plan which will keep visitors safe, the bat breeding colonies secure, whilst protecting the Indigenous cultural heritage values of the site.
News from the Alpine District, Bart Smith, Whitfield
This summer started with a rush with the Minister on the Bogong High Plains to reaffirm the Fresh Start Healthy Future Program and recognise the contribution of volunteers, extensive media coverage of the Mountain Cattlemen taking their cattle through the Alpine National Park, and several small fires across the district.
It has also been a busy time with fires outside of the Alpine District and many staff attending some very serious fires across the state.
The High Country Initiatives is part of a funding package for the Fresh Start Healthy Future Program and particularly targets areas where grazing has been removed. It involves nearly three million dollars for pest plant and animal control and mossbed rehabilitation, over a three year period. As part of that, two new staff, plus contractors, are dedicated to pest animals.
In conjunction with the High Country Initiatives Program a new state wide initiative, the “Pest Plant Roving Crews” have started with 2 staff joining the Omeo team but responsible for tackling pest plant problems right across the District – particularly where the park had been previously grazed.
Rangers in the eastern Alps have been very busy this summer balancing patrolling and emergency work including assisting the locust management team in Swifts Creek.
The control of English Broom continues to be the major pest plant program. Staff are continually evolving new and innovative methods including the use of a pontoons and rafts on the Mitta Mitta River (with funding provided by the North East Catchment Management Authority) giving access to previously inaccessible English broom and willow.
Other works include the replacement of the leaking water tank along the Australian Alps Walking Track at Mt Wills, and delivering information to school groups – one of these programs being the Alpine School’s new Indigenous Program.
Cath Kent successfully won the Ranger In Charge position for the Bogong Management Unit (she has been acting in the role for over 15 months); Peter Duncan, ranger from Heyfield has crossed over the divide on a six month secondment to assist the hard working staff at Bright; and Kevin Cosgriff is the new team leader ranger based at Mt Beauty (he also has a new son, three boys now, well done Kev!).
The upgrade to Ropers walking track, a short popular track close to Falls Creek (Bogong High Plains) is now complete and been well received by local residents as well as visitors. Costing $70,000 (fire recovery funding) all materials were sourced from outside the park and fl own in by helicopter.
An extensive baiting program across the Bogong High Plains, Mt Hotham, Barry Mountains and the Buckland Valley is targeting wild dogs and foxes. Approximately 206km of bait trails have been laid with initial uptakes of baits as high as 70% in some areas. Blackberry, Oxeye Daisy and English Broom have been major pest plant targets this season.
Mossbed rehabilitation and willow control work is in full swing. Parks staff and volunteers from organisations such as 4×4 clubs, universities and interested individuals are working hard to remove willows from Mossbeds and to stabilise and raise water levels to help the recovery process. To support this further, contractors have been engaged to poison willows along water courses and their tributaries both on and off the high plains.
Volunteers from the Victorian High Country Huts Association completed a post-winter inspection, repair and clean up of huts on the high plains – though freezing winds, rain and snow im-peded outside work and checking of the more remote huts.
In the King-Howqua Unit area, Nigel Watts has returned from his ranger exchange in the wilds of Kakadu, and we farewell Anna Pickworth who returns to Kakadu.
Road and walking track maintenance works continue to keep everyone busy repairing and clearing storm damage. Another interesting project is the restoration of the historic Fry’s Hut (made from hardwood slabs), where rangers and volunteers are working together to replace some of the fl ooring, walls and roof.
Mt Buffalo National Park, has had another busy summer with park visitors – thankfully assistance was provided by volunteer Track Ranger’s and Camp Hosts and of course Brian Catto, a very experienced Canadian ranger on a Parks Victoria seasonal exchange program for six months.
Pest plant management remains a priority with a number of contractors as well as staff out tackling a range of species, Himalayan Honeysuckle and Willows in particular. Isolated weed control will also begin shortly to protect Spotted Tree Frog habitat along the rugged terrain of Buffalo Creek.
Summer vegetation growth has kept brush cutters in use with ongoing walking track maintenance works continuing throughout the park. Park staff have been ably assisted by a number of walking groups participating in weekend track construction and maintenance works, with some outstanding rock steps and drains being constructed.
Baw Baw National Park, rangers have had a busy summer being involved initially with battling the large Moondarra wild fire (Moondarra State Park, south of Baw Baw National Park) and now with ongoing fire recover efforts.
News from the ACT… Lois Padgham,Tuggeranong
The realignment process to integrate Environment ACT and ACT Forests has progressed with the establishment of CALM (Conservation and Land Management). Hilton Taylor is the newly appointed Director and comes with a wealth of experience in forest and land management.
Concept plans for the new Namadgi Visitor Centre display are nearing completion with the project expected to be finished by August. The current display is 14 years old and is best described as very tired. However, later this year, visitors will be enjoying interactive experiences designed to give them an understanding of the both the cultural values, and also how best to protect the natural ones. Recordings from stakeholders – among them Ngunnawal elders, park rangers, members of the Kosciuszko Huts Association – will help people see the Park from different perspectives. There will also be a display about the Australian Alps walking track with experiences from track walkers and a “What’s in the back packâ€¦?” with such items as dried food, a toilet digger and a fuel stove to help illustrate the theory of Leave No Trace. And there will even be a ranger’s ute, the gear in the back giving clues to the role and work of those people who look after the Alps.
The new playground at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is ready for its official opening by ACT Chief Minister and Minister for the Environment Jon Stanhope in late April. Suitable for all ages, highlights include a big slippery slide, a hand pump supplied water feature which runs through the playground, a jumping pit (can you jump as far as the Park’s Brush-tailed Rock Wallabies?) and a rammed earth ruin – a reference to the two rammed-earth historic cottages (Nil Desperandum and Rock Valley) at Tidbinbilla, both reduced to ruins after the 2003 bushfires.
Googong Ranger in Charge, Monica Muranyi, who made a wonderfully active contribution to the Community Relations Working Group, has left the Alps to work amongst the glaciers of New Zealand (see “where have they gone?”).
After a lengthy involvement with the Australian Alps as Work-ing Group Convener, Program Coordinator and more recently the ACT agency representative on the Australian Alps Liaison Committee, Brett McNamara has stepped down from these more formal roles to concentrate on his role as Manager of Namadgi National Park and to have a well earned break. Being a dedicated and passionate advocate for the Australian Alps, it’s not surprising to note that he will maintain his connection with the Alps in a supporting role. Brett will be replaced by Odile Arman who convened the Community Awareness Group from 1998 – 2000 as the ACT agency representative on the Australian Alps Liaison Committee.
And from the Department of the Environment and Heritage, Rod Atkins, Canberra
On 15 November 2005, Senator Ian Campbell directed the Australian Heritage Council to assess the Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves for National Heritage listing for its natural and cultural values. On an operational level, the Alps will be considered as three separate places – the Great Divide parks, Mt Buffalo and Mt Baw Baw. Public comments on the proposal were received until 28 March, but late submissions may be accepted. The publicly available database records contain some information about each place (see webpages at http://www.deh.gov.au/cgi-bin/epbc/heritage_ap.pl?list=NHL&name=asst&state=&limit=9999&text_search= ). Whereas DEH staff will be as-sessing natural and Indigenous values largely in-house, a team of consultants (led by Marilyn Truscott) have been engaged to document historic heritage values of the Alps. All is currently on track for assessment to be completed by November 2006.
Due to position changes, a couple of DEH staff have, unfortunately, had to step down from Alps Working Groups. Greg Plummer, who has been a member of the Natural Heritage Work-ing Group, is now working on project management tasks and Rod Atkins, who has been the convener of the Community Relations Working Group, is now working in the Invasive Species Section of the Department. The search is currently underway to find replacements for Greg and Rod and to fill other DEH places on working groups.
You can take the Ranger out of the mountains but you can never take the love for the Mountains out of the Ranger …
After a long illness, Amanda is now at peace. To many of us she was a very special person. Full of life and vitality, energy and passion, enthusiasm, vigour and strength – Amanda was truly inspirational.
I first met Amanda well over 12 years ago. Back then she was a mad keen runner. In 1993 she was selected to represent Australia in the World Mountain Running Championships in France.
She trained by doing long runs up the biggest Mountains she could find. Entranced by the sheer beauty of the magnificent subalpine environment, Amanda began to ask about employment opportunities within the Park Service. In those days like today, it’s a highly competitive field; Amanda wasn’t perturbed by this news. I’m sure she saw this as a challenge. She enrolled in Uni, joined the local Friends of Tidbinbilla Group, joined the National Parks Association and threw herself into study. Juggling a young family, pursing her dreams and contemplating a change in career she achieved academic excellence, in graduating with Distinction from Charles Sturt Uni.
In 1996 she joined the Park Service, after a highly successful career as an Intensive Care Nurse. Amanda often recalled that it was from the ICU windows at Canberra Hospital, when the sun rose at the end of a long night shift, that she knew one day she would work in the Mountains.
Amanda had a strong spiritual connection to the moun-tains of Namadgi; a place she called home for a number of years having lived and worked at Glendale Depot as the Local Area Ranger.
Amanda was involved with a number of key projects during her time at Namadgi and her legacy is a rich and lasting one. She worked with the local Ngunnawal Community on the management of their art sites within the Park, and played an instrumental role in guiding the removal and regeneration of the Boboyan Pines. As a Ranger Amanda undertook a variety of roles and functions some of which included liaising with the academics on scientific research projects, coordinating a number of monitoring programs and co-authoring several scientific papers.
Perhaps her most lasting legacy is her involvement with the Alpine Sphagnum Bogs. After enduring the heartache of losing her beloved home at Glendale to the fires of January 2003, Amanda once again threw herself into her job, this time assisting with various post fire monitoring programs and then taking the lead in coordinating our response in the rehabilitation of the Sphagnum Bogs – she became known as the Bog Ranger. Amanda provided the energy and passion in overseeing this vitally important work.Yet again her highly developed organisational skills her charm and engaging, bubbly personalty ensured that the job got done.
Amanda was heavily involved with Australian Alps national parks program as the Convenor of the Natural Heritage Working Group. Amanda embodied the spirit of cooperation and goodwill that the Alps program is renowned for. Her highly tuned organisational skills and leadership will be sorely missed.
Still more names and faces who’ve had a connection with the Alps Program, who, while they’ve moved on, still keep an active interest in the Alps…
Bob Jones. Appointed as the first Chief Ranger Alpine in 1993, Bob was the Victorian representative to the AALC. Bob enjoyed the cooperative program involvement, as it offered park staff opportunities for innovation and stimulation beyond the normal boundaries.
After his alpine role, he managed a major flood restoration program for eastern Victoria and working with Ricky Mullett, established the Indigenous Community Relations program for Park Victoria’s East Region.
Retired in December 2001, Bob has established a consultancy operation from his home in Mt Beauty. He works in various roles including project management, Indigenous community liaison and cross cultural awareness training, and as a workshop and conference facilitator. email@example.com
Monica Muranyi. Past enthusiastic member of the Community Relations Working Group. Monica started as a temporary ranger in 1996 at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Over the next nine years she went on to work at all the ACT reserves (Tidbinbilla, Namadgi NP, Murrumbidgee Corridor and Canberra Nature Park),holding the position of Senior Ranger at both Tidbinbilla and Googong Foreshores.
In January 2006 Monica joined the Department of Conservation (DOC) in New Zealand, working as a Visitor Information Ranger. Based at the Westland Tai Poutini NationalPark Visitor Centre she talks to over 140, 000 visitors a year.
Monica is thrilled to still be working in an alps environment, namely the Southern Alps of South Island New Zealand. It is even more amazing being in an area where the mountains and the glaciers are on the edge of rainforest before meeting the sea. She is looking forward to exploring the region and learning about conservation management New Zealand style.
There are many wonderful opportunities for DOC staff and Monica would encourage anyone who has been thinkingof taking up new challenges to consider spending some timein New Zealand. Alternatively, drop in for a visit next time you’re over her way. firstname.lastname@example.org
Virginia Logan (aka Gin). Virginia has been floating around the Australian Alps National Park since first setting eyes on the Alps while studying in Canberra in the late 80’s. (Having grown up in the flat country of western NSW she was immediately captivated by the beauty and life of the mountains.) Working first for Environment ACT as a ranger , by the late 90’s she was Manager of Namadgi. Between 2001 and 2004 a love of the mountains and its people led to the role of Australian Alps Program Coordinator out of the NSW Jindabyne office.
Virginia left Environment ACT last year, after working briefly as a community extension officer involved in off-park conservation programs. She has spent the better part of the last 4 months relaxing, catching up with family & friends and working on her golf swing. However, Gin recently returned to the mountains and is currently doing project work for NSW Parks back in Jindabyne – drop in and see her if you are passing. email@example.com
When participants at the recent Frontline Workshop were asked to work out a way to present some information in an interesting and unusual way, Lyn Macoustra, Sharon Peters, Verionca Collins, Lisa McIntosh, Daniel Williams and Lois Padgham from Tidbinbilla came up with a song.
To the clicking of fingers and backing vocals by Lyn, Sharon, Verionca, Lisa and Daniel, star rapper Lois put it out there. And for those who missed it, here’s what she sang. (For best effect, you’ll have to click your own fingers as you read on…)
Now here’s a story all about a frog,
only 1.5 cm long and he lives in a bog.
He barracks for the Hurricanes, dressed in yellow
and when you call ‘Hey Frog’, he answers back
His scrawny legs are very, very small,
not like other frogs, he prefers to crawl.
He makes a cosy chamber in the Sphagnum bog
then sings a lovely song for the female frogs.
She lays 26 eggs in the Sphagnum den.
He grabs her round the waist to fertilise them.
The eggs get bigger absorbing all the water,
Then the tadpoles hatch and fall where they
orta…in the water.
With the melting snow and the water warming,
the tadpoles start growing…and growing…and
They drop their tails and grow tiny limbs,
then crawl to the woodland where their winter life
With global warming they have no place to go,
stranded in their bogs high in the snow.
There may be salvation for the iconic beast though,
‘cos Tidbinbilla’s got 1000 frogs ready to go!
Education Kit The new Alps Education Kit (CD) has been distributed to schools around the Alps. It is also available from the Kosciuszko Education Centre and on line http://www.australianalps.deh.gov.au .
ABC stories The ABC are seeking additional funding (internally) to expand this project into a digital TV series as well as stories for radio.
CSA The production of new Community Service Announcements (previous CSAs have all been highly acclaimed for their beauty and professionalism) to be shown as ‘fill ins’ on TV. These will be a while yet as the company wants to undertake some additional high quality digital filming over winter.
Alps Image CD A CD of images from across the Alps depicting a range of scenery, activities and values is nearing completion. Images will be able to be used freely by Alps staff and the Alps program for presentations, publications etc.
AAWT web page Additional Alps track information has been developed for an Australian Alps Walking Track web page. This information, along with a “walkers’ comments book” has been uploaded http://www.australianalps.deh.gov.au .
Recreation and Visitor Facilities
Leave No Trace camping brochure Work has started to develop a minimal impact camping (snow, vehicle based and bush walking) brochure.
AAWT interpretive/promotional signs Small interpretive signs will be developed for up to nine popular visitor nodes with vehicle access along the Alps Track. The AAWT signs will highlight Aboriginal heritage and custodianship, the “One Park” concept and site specific values and/or walks along the Alps track. Further consultation is taking place with Traditional Owners to ensure references to Indigenous cultural heritage are appropriate.
One Park Welcome to Country entry signs Initial discussions with Park Managers about draft concept designs and location options took place over summer. Thanks to all staff for their help and excellent feedback. Traditional owner and custodian guidance and consultation will be ongoing during the project. As this is a scoping project it is not intended to produce and install any signs at this stage.
Alps Rehabilitation Manual Roger Good has prepared the revised and very comprehensive alpine ecological rehabilitation manual. Expected to be completed, printed and distributed by May 2006.
Alps Fire Ecology Plots Work is still underway finalising data collation analysis and reporting on the vegetation plots burnt in the 2003 fires.
Alps Invaders Sainty and Associates have the contract to revise (including the addition of at least 30 weed species) and print this useful and popular publication. A number of Alpine Resorts, Shires and CMAs have assisted with sponsorship to print the booklet.
Post Fire Biodiversity Workshop and Feral Pig Workshop – Proceedings from the Feral Pig Workshop have been distributed. Biodiversity Workshop proceedings are still being compiled but will be available by May.
Bog/Mossbed/Peatland Rehabilitation Workshop Successfully held on the Bogong High Plains (Alpine National Park) and Mount Buffalo to look at the various techniques being employed on bog rehabilitation post fire. Workshop notes have been produced.
Wild Dog (Special Group) This operational group continues to meet, share expertise and provide advice to the AALC on important aspects of wild dog control.
Remembering Lost Places This publication concentrating predominately on historic hut and mine sites lost during the 2003 fires is undergoing design and layout. Tim Fischer has written the foreword. We hope to launch this small but fascinating book in May.
First People’s Gathering DVD The Koori Heritage Trust is in the process of incorporating some additional interviews with participants from NSW and the ACT. It is expected the DVD will be distributed during April 2006.
Best Practice Historic Hut Skills Workshop Presenters, participants and program for the historic hut maintenance and conservation skills workshop (involving both volunteers and park staff) have all been finalised. There has been a fantastic response to this practically oriented workshop – we could have filled the 40 places twice over.
Cultural Heritage Banner An interpretive banner has been developed to compliment the three existing Alps display banners. The cultural heritage banner has been designed to stand alone or be displayed with the set.
Research Partners Expressions of interest to undertake cultural heritage projects in partnership with the Alps program have been received from a number of tertiary institutions in Victoria.
Integrated Landscape Management
Keep Winter Cool Climate Change Campaign The Alps program and the Alpine Resorts Coordinating Council are jointly coordinating a project to raise awareness about global warming, potential impacts on mountain environments (snow!) and how visitors to the Alps can reduce their energy use.
Science / Management Forum With the assistance of IUCN WCPA (Mountains) the AALC are running a forum for Alps managers and applied researchers to workshop the management implications of the post fire research findingsâ€¦what have we learnt and what does this mean for park management? This workshop is being held immediately preceding the Alps Operational Group meeting to ensure attendance by the greatest number of park managers. The key themes are Biodiversity Response, Catchment Stability and Fire Regimes.
National Heritage List nomination The Alps program will continue to progress the draft National Heritage List nomination through the relevant agencies.
In December last year, on an overcast wet, drizzly day, around three hundred and fifty people came along to celebrate this milestone in time – a few of them being locals who were around when the bridge was first opened. Sir Albert Lind, the Minister for Lands at the time, was responsible for the reservation of five of Victoria’s National Parks, cut the ribbon on December 6th in 1936, and it was his grand-daughter, Jane Smith who repeated the act late last year.
The bridge was built before the Snowy Hydro Scheme and with the annual thaw and summer rains the river level would rise to be a roaring torrent. “Long term locals said that the volume of water coming down the Snowy River was so great you could feel the earth vibrate miles away. It was during these events that the Snowy River flood plain at Orbost, burst it banks and flooded, which restricted movement from Orbost to Newmerella. It was a long wait for the river levels to drop or a long ride up to the small town of Dalgety in NSW to cross the river.
Not that building the bridge was straight-forward. The engineers underestimated the thaw so that two weeks prior to the planned opening, the seven-pillared, freestanding bridge was washed down stream. It took two more years to rebuild, this time six metres higher. When it opened it had a big impact, culturally and economically. It brought together areas which had been isolated from each other socially and it was used for moving stock to markets at Bairnsdale and Cooma.
It’s not surprising then, to see such an appreciative turn out to celebrate this landmark in the East Gippsland region. Members of the Deddick Valley Isolated Community Group and Tubbut Resource Centre organised the event, with many local groups helping with activities and displays. There were many photos – of the bridge construction and opening, of family picnics in the 40’s, 50’s to present day, social events, and the fires of 2003.
And just to show it’s worth to the local community is ongoing, many local pastoralists carried on with the celebra-tions and the catching up long after the official ceremonies were over.
A regular update from Graeme Worboys* – drawn from a worldwide pool of mountain protected area conservation and management expertise – useful for anyone who works within the Australian Alps.
There are two invaluable references which I would recommend to anyone associated with the Alps. The first the quarterly newsletter Update which is generated by our Mountains Biome editor, Emeritus Professor Larry Hamilton. There is nothing else like this newsletter available around the world. It brings together into one ‘easy read’ publication the very latest on mountain protected areas and their management. The Australian Alps has a special deal with Larry, and electronic copies can be made available through Gill Anderson . Make sure that you access this gem of a publication and place hard copies in your tearooms and on your notice boards so that all mountains staff can benefit from its news.
The second relates to a new four year strategic plan being developed by IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas. This plan is in its final stages of development and will soon be posted on the WCPA website (see the URL below). The plan is of relevance to the Australian Alps. It advocates (amongst many matters) greater efforts be made by countries around the world to achieve continental scale connectivity conservation initiatives. The Australian Alps – with its north south connectivity of natural lands across two states and a territory, and its interconnection with the natural lands along the Great Escarpment of Eastern Australia – is one possibility on Earth for such continental scale connectivity. This Australian connectivity conservation corridor has been described by Ian Pulsford and his co-authors and I can provide a pdf copy for any one who would like to read about this concept.
Reference: Pulsford, I., Worboys, G.L., Gough, J. and Shepherd, T. (2004). The Australian Alps and the Great Escarpment of Eastern Australia conservation corridors. In Harmon, D. and Worboys, G.L. (eds) Managing mountain protected areas: challenges and responses for the 21st Century. Andromeda Editrice. Colledara. pp 106-114.
*Vice Chair of IUCN’s (The World Conservation Union) World Commission on Protected Areas (Mountains Biome), one of IUCN’s six global Commissions (ie networks of technical, scientific and policy experts).