Alpine National Park... ...or cow paddock?
MEDIA RELEASE 10 December 2004
New Research Shows Alpine Grazing Doesn’t Prevent or Reduce Bushfires

The latest research on fire in Victorias high country, presented to the Ecological Society of Australia conference in Adelaide this week, has revealed that cattle grazing did not reduce the spread or intensity of the 2003 bushfires on the Bogong High Plains.

Charlie Sherwin, Director of the Victorian National Parks Association, says: This important new science shows that grazing in the Alpine National Park cannot be justified on the false assumption that running cows up there somehow reduces fire risk - it doesn't.

The research, led by CSIRO, supports previous studies and verifies the finding of the Victorian Governments Esplin report, that cattle grazing is not needed for fire suppression in the alps.

Science also tells us that cattle grazing causes erosion, damages the headwaters of major river catchments and spreads weeds through the fragile national park. National Parks should be a refuge for threatened species, but cattle grazing is ruining this park and placing many native plants and animals at risk of extinction.

In this new study, scientists from the CSIRO, La Trobe University and the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation measured the extent and intensity of the 2003 fire, in both grazed and un-grazed areas, sampling along a  total of 80 kilometres across different sections of the Bogong High Plains. The research found that there was no measurable difference in the extent of fire, or the intensity of fire, between the grazed and the un-grazed parts of the High Plains.

Mr Sherwin added that the research underlines two poorly understood effects of grazing in the High Country: Cattle prefer to eat the fleshy-leaved, more fire-resistant wildflowers but they dont like the highly flammable shrubs. If you were going to use grazing to manage fire youd probably need to graze elephants up there, not cattle.

Its time for licensed cattle grazing to be shifted out of the Alpine National Park into less sensitive areas.

For more information on whether cows can reduce fires in the alps, go here.

For Comment:
Charlie Sherwin, Director,  0418 357813,  03 93416504
Phil Ingamells, Alpine Campaign, 0427 705 133, 03 9341 6506


Alpine Cattle Inquiry Welcome

The Victorian National Parks Association is welcoming the announcement by the Environment Minister, John Thwaites, of a taskforce on cattle grazing in Victoria’s Alpine National Park is very welcome.

Spokesman Phil Ingamells says “Over 60 years of scientific studies have shown that cows are damaging waterways and ancient peat beds, spreading weeds and threatening the survival of a many rare plants and animals.”

“Throughout Victoria farmers routinely fence off creeks and streams, yet cattle are free to trample them in Victoria’s Alpine National Park.

“The alps have suffered through 150 years of cattle grazing, many years of drought and one of the worst fires in memory. It is time to give the alpine environment a fair go.

“The mountain cattlemen may care for the High Country, but their cows don’t – science proves that – and it’s costing taxpayers a bomb to manage the damage caused.

“We must find ways to honour the cultural heritage of the alps without further damaging the unique natural heritage of an area that has National and possibly World Heritage significance.

“It’s time for the cows to go home”, says Mr Ingamells.

Further information
Charlie Sherwin
Victorian National Parks Association
(03) 9341 6504
Mob: 0418 357 813