The latest legislation to ban cattle has to be seen in a wider context. The death knell for grazing in the Alpine National Park was sounded in 2005 when the Bracks Labor Government introduced Legislation to cancel all licensed grazing areas in the Park. This caused widespread outrage among the supporters of good management of the High Country. That fallout and angst continued until the 2010 election when two seats changed hands and the Labor Government fell after the MCAV campaigned against the grazing ban in those seats. The grave concern for the future of the High Country continues to this day among people who understand the bush.
When the Andrews Government won office in 2014 the new minister cancelled the existing Wonnangatta three year trial and introduced legislation to stop cattle for any reason entering the Park. The legislation passed last week by one vote tidies up an alleged “loophole” in the previous 2005 legislation.
It is important to understand that in reality nothing has changed since 2005 when general Alpine grazing was legally banned.
The only thing that has happened since 2005, has been two sets of grazing trials instigated by the Coalition Government in 2011 and 2014 which used controlled numbers of cattle under trial conditions.
Those trials unleashed savage political activity against the MCAV. The Federal Labor Government, the Victorian National Parks Association, and one group of scientists all collaborated their efforts to prevent the introduction of general Alpine grazing. Obviously the opponents of grazing feared that the trials would have shown that grazing reduces fuel. Of course they would have shown that!
The MCAV has always claimed that grazing in the grazing areas of the High Country reduces the intensity of wildfires, thus especially protecting the snow gums. It bases that opinion on intergenerational observation and hands on experience with the behaviour of wildfire.
The latest legislation bordered on the bizarre with one group of scientists obviously quite happy that legislation was introduced to cut off any options for scientific work with cattle in the Park by future generations. What objective scientist would allow that principle to become law without protest?
To their credit, other eminent scientists spoke up against the principle and other aspects of the issue, including the veracity of some science that the Government was relying on to justify the Legislation.
The Governments (and the VNPA) actions are regressive and are based on ideology. Grazing is being used as a tool for restoring land health around the world. Why not in Australia?
Some Mountain Cattlemen still hold State Forest grazing licences which the MCAV will strongly defend if they now come under attack.
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