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.