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Impact of alpine cattle grazing on bushfire debate

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“The debate about the impact of alpine cattle grazing on bushfires has re-ignited in the wake of the fires in north east Victoria.”

The President of the Mountain Cattlemen’s Association of Victoria, Doug Treasure said this today.

Doug Treasure said, “Almost as common as the phrase ‘activate your fire plans’ has been ‘bring back the cattle.’

“The Premier, Steve Bracks has dismissed any impact of cattle grazing because cattle only eat green shoots. We suggest the Premier think more carefully about this. If a green shoot is not eaten it becomes a long dry strand of grass – fuel for fires.

Doug Treasure said, “The Premier needs to know that people are incensed by his comments. He would be well advised to leave this issue to a proper post fire review.

“The debate about the impact of alpine cattle grazing on bushfires has re-ignited because a lot of people think cattle grazing reduces the fuel for fires. It goes further than this though. The cattle are the main focus of a land management regime which mountain cattlemen have practised for generations.

“The fuss about Craig’s Hut being burnt highlights the fact that most Victorians still regard mountain cattlemen as key figures in our heritage. In 2003 we had the alpine fires, we had our alpine licences terminated in 2005 and now, in 2006 some of our State Forest licences are burning. Our heritage is going up in smoke. We need a complete review of the whole alpine grazing issue.

“We have never said grazing stops or prevents blazing. All we have ever said is that grazing reduces blazing. It does this by producing areas of short grass which inhibit the flow of any fire. Cattle eat green grass around mossbeds and this effectively insulates these areas from fire. They trim grass on open plains and this also reduces the flow of fire.

“Naturally the drought, weather, wind and lightning all have a massive effect and put together we could probably not expect other than what is now happening. However, fire intensity is reduced as the fuel load is reduced.”

Doug Treasure said “It is disappointing to see the selective assessments by Melbourne-based conservationists. When they wanted to get cattle out of the Alpine National Park, they argued that cattle have a massive impact. When it comes to reducing fire fuel the same people argue that cattle have no impact.

“When we are mountain cattlemen, we seem to be fair game for Melbourne-based criticism. But when we all pull on the yellow overalls of the CFA volunteer we become heroes. We are the same people. Mountain cattlemen are CFA volunteers. We have intimate knowledge of fire, land management and fire fighting.

“After the 2003 fires we hosted the Emergency Services Commissioner Bruce Esplin for an excellent full day tour of fire ravaged areas. Not once did the Commissioner take issue with our view of events. Then with no further reference to the mountain cattlemen, the Commissioner got two academics to write a chapter on grazing and fire. We were not given the opportunity to meet these authors or comment on their work. The cavalier manner in which the views of mountain cattlemen were dismissed is part of the reason why the debate has re-ignited.”

Doug Treasure said, “We are setting about establishing a private study and review of these fires and the issue of cattle grazing would be just one of the aspects to be examined.”

For further information,
Doug Treasure, 0427 456 353, 5145 6353

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Written by Greg Naylor

21 December 2006 at 9:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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