I’ve just seen the news report about a protest by Victoria’s Mountain Cattlemen – leading cattle, in defiance of the new laws, into the mountains in the Wonongatta Valley in the east of the state. I know it’s romantic, and it’s been going on for over a hundred years, but I’m afraid – at least in my opinion – they’re wrong!
Most of us have never been to the areas that the cattlemen graze, but as a reasonably keen fly fisherman, I have tramped many, many miles along streams in areas that have been grazed and areas that haven’t. I’m not setting myself up as any sort of expert, but the difference is not hard to spot. Creeks cop it particularly hard in areas grazed by cattle, they come to drink in numbers, collapse the banks, silt up the waterway (shit everywhere!), it’s pretty sad. Another problem high on the list is insects: specifically, flies. The comparison between grazed and non-grazed areas is like chalk and cheese. Sure, there are still insects (including flies) in the non-grazed areas, but we’re talking an increase of huge proportions – that is not a symptom of a healthy environment.
Finally, there is the battle for hearts and minds. There has always been an uncomfortable relationship between landholders and visitors, whether it’s leaving gates open, leaving rubbish or starting fires, visitors have done (and will continue to do) dumb and inconsiderate things. On the other hand, landholders don’t make themselves very lovable or approachable either. I can’t help thinking if they did a little more by way of welcoming visitors to their own land, (styles over fences, clear signs to indicate who to contact when seeking permission, acknowledgement of a visitor’s right to access waterways) they would have a lot more friends when it comes to stating their cases.
Anyway – this has been a bit of a rant – mainly because it’s a topic close to my heart. None of what I’ve said is meant to suggest that the new approach is correct, but the cattlemen can’t seriously defend their claim that they ‘looked after’ the high country, for them it’s simply been a resource that they’ve used, and in many ways, abused.
Mate, as a fly fisherman I have no doubt the grazed areas you’re referring to are on freehold land and no doubt you’re right – in many cases the consequences of over grazing are sad.
But on the high country runs that’s not the case. We’re talking about one cow per 80 ha and if you can sustain allegations of damage on that basis I’ll be very surprised.
The hypocrites in the Bracks government are in a lather over 8000 well managed cattle razing in the alps for 16 weeks of the year while they’re busy defending the presence of 200,000 feral deer that are wallowing in moss beds, browsing on native plants and generally wreaking havoc.
I’m a mountain cattleman and I know. I was on the protest drive last week.
You’ve suggested yourself that you’ve never been on any high country run so your rant is from a base that lacks any personal observations. Mountain Cattlemen have cared for the high country – my licence area on The Bogongs survived the January 2003 fires soley due to the fact that it was grazed.
Invariably it is mountain cattlemen that discover and inform parks administrators about new feral invaders, weed species etc. We range far and wide through our licence areas and are the only human presence over most of the area meaning that we don’t limit ourselves to bushwalking tracks.
I’d encourage you to get out and have a look around for yourself, and while you’re out there observe the damage done by the ever exploding population of deer that are encouraged by the Victorian Government and even protected in water catchments.
And when you’ve seen all that come back and tell us about the hypocrisy of our well heeled, Melbourne Grammar educated Labor Minister for the Environment, John Thwaites.
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