Science behind alpine grazing questioned

The plan to reintroduce beef cattle into the Alpine National Park as a scientific trial has been shown by local environment groups to be a poorly masked political move.

The Gippsland Environment Group applied for documents under the Freedom of Information Act. When these were finally obtained they showed that Parks Victoria warned the government that past scientific research as well as economic and social evidence did not support alpine grazing.

John Hermans from GEG said this was before the Baillieu government sent the beef cattle back into the Park last summer. The advice was ignored.

“It was just a matter of days after Baillieu’s government was sworn in that the cattle were let loose in the National Park again.” he said “There was no planning of the so-called scientific trial. It was clearly a political promise to mates. In all past studies, there has never been any evidence found that cattle reduce the risk of bushfires.”

The 2005 grazing ban was brought in after a Victoria government review, using previous scientific research, found that cattle didn’t reduce wildfires.

“These fires rarely occur in this natural alpine environment. If they want to carry out trials to see if beef cattle eating and trampling alpine vegetation will reduce fires, they’d be much better carrying out trails where it has more effect, such as closer in to settlements with more flammable vegetation, outside of the alpine park”, said Mr Hermans. “Most of these sites suggested by Parks Victoria were ignored in favour of lush grazing inside the Park”.

“The fact that Graham Stony, past president of the Cattlemen’s Association is also Ted Baillieu’s brother in law, has to be seen as a part of this whole embarrassing fiasco the state government now finds itself in.”

“Our local politicians are being forced to defend the decision and its pseudo science, but it’s clearly a farce”, said Mr Hermans.

Environment groups have also questioned the credibility of the six year trial.

“The Victorian Environment Minister Ryan Smith put out a media statement late on a Friday afternoon last year; the favoured time to hide news stories. It says the so-called first leg of the scientific trial was assessed by independent consultancy, URS”, said Jill Redwood of Environment East Gippsland.

“The URS report showed nothing new and that major damage is still going on in sensitive wetlands and alpine meadows. URS was contracted to do this report after the cattle were taken out, and had to work in the snow, looking for cow pats. The cattle’s whereabouts was never known – a major failure of the so-called science. No base-line data was collected and no trial was designed before they were let loose”.

“This is another huge waste of our taxes to try to save face for the government. The Baillieu government doesn’t realize that the majority of its voters are not necessarily happy with having beef cattle back in our public parks. This decision was taken without much thought and clearly favours a small group of beef farmers only. The Federal Government is right to be very suspicious of the trial.”

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