Alpine National Park... ...or cow paddock?
A fire report to Parks Victoria

Some extracts from the
Report by the Scientific Advisory Panel on Fire-affected Grazing (2003)

Following the January 2003 bushfire in the Victorian alps, Parks Victoria commissioned a Scientific Advisory Panel to make recommendations as to the decision making process on any return of cattle to fire-affected areas in the Victorian alps.

The panel was asked to look at recommendations in relation to the remaining two seasons of the current grazing licence period.

The report’s prime recommendation is that:

Grazing should be excluded from the areas of the Alpine National Park burnt by the 2003 fires for at least the next two summer seasons. Grazing of unburnt and lightly burnt areas within the fire boundary in the alpine, subalpine and montane sections also poses a risk, as cattle will move into adjacent burnt areas to preferentially graze regenerating plants.

In relation to the affect of cattle on water quality and aquatic ecosystems, the report says:

Every effort should be made to keep cattle away from sensitive areas (particularly riparian zones) and those areas with high connectivity to the stream channels.

In relation to grazing in fire-affected alpine and sub-alpine areas of the park, the report says:

The exclusion of all cattle from all licence areas containing alpine/subalpine vegetation for at least the end of the next licence period (2012) is justified on the grounds of elevated risk to natural values; these increased risks will persist across the landscape for years to decades. Thus there is an urgent need to explore ways to provide financial incentives for affected licences in the alpine areas to find alternative grazing areas in the lowlands, until at least 2012.

In relation to grazing in montane and lowland areas of the park, the report says:

Further risk relates to the potential for stock to introduce exotic plants at a time when their establishment would be most likely, and to a potential for soil compaction and loss to occur in wet places from which stock were previously excluded by dense vegetation, with consequent effects on the conservation of significant species relying on wetlands.

The report also makes many recommendations on the monitoring required before any return of grazing to the park, and estimates that:

A monitoring program and the development of any associated benchmarks would cost in the vicinity of $250,000 to $500,000 per annum for perhaps five years or more. This is a very substantial public cost.

The report was presented to Parks Victoria in October 2003 by the five eminent scientists of the panel:

  • Professor Nancy Millis, University of Melbourne (Chair)
  • Dr Graham Harris, CSIRO Fellow, CSIRO Corporate Centre, Canberra
  • Professor David Kemp, Director, Centre for Rural Sustainability, University of Sydney, Orange
  • Professor Jamie Kirkpatrick, School of Geography & Environmental Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart
  • Dr Dick Williams, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Darwin.