Life and Nature

National Parks – What is their purpose

Archer and Charlie, the world they inherit

With Australia’s catastrophic fires raging since July 2019, and continuing as I write (7 January 2020), a friend on social media indicated her desire to see tree huggers tied to burning trees.

I questioned the reason for this venomous attack on environmentalists (people who champion our environment and demand to reserve the integrity of our national parks). 

She indicated National Parks should be opened to people who wish to use them, and restricting people like her, a horse rider would impede identifying fire hazards. She said this is the reason for fires and it is the environmentalists who are to blame. 

This comment made me seethe with anger, for the simple reason, she is a vested interest, she and her horse-riding community wish to ride their horses in the national parks. 

National Parks are intended to be safe havens for our protected species, and notably most of our Australian bush is not designated as National Parks, there are State Forests and bushland that is open to the community.  National Parks make up only 8% of NSW.

Here is my point.  National Parks and land not designated as National Park all burnt equally. So why are National Parks targeted for the cause, clearly all the vested interests utilising the land not designated as National Parks, and managed either privately or by local councils, all burnt out, there was not discrimination. The argument suddenly becomes very lame.

My point is, where do you draw the line, the habitat needs to thrive without human interference. Walkers, who arguably inflict less damage, are allowed in the parks on foot and perhaps mountain bikes. However, once you allow horse riding, what about the other vested interests, are you going to discriminate?

The penny dropped! 

Vested interests are lobbying Governments, and the more they blame tree huggers and Greenies for the demise of National Parks, the more opportunity they may have to gain open slather access, to get in there and do whatever they bloody well please.

Here I have a list of vested interests wanting access to National Parks, (of course some politicians are looking after those vested interests and actively publishing fake news in order to support the case.

Shooters – A local we know loves to shoot wildlife, he shoots kangaroos, wombats, wild pigs, ducks, deer, rabbit, fox and whatever else I have no idea. He is not a land holder, but claims he has friends who are. His excuse for his love of shooting animals is that he is doing farmers and the environment a service.

Campers – There are designated areas for campers, however people would love access deeper into the national parks and camp beside creeks and rivers. The biggest problem about campers I am told is the trash, litter and risk of fire from careless people.

Horse riding, as indicated above, often venturing off the beaten tracks and ploughing through native vegetation.

Cattle grazing, with the excuse of clearing the undergrowth, as if the undergrowth is unimportant to the ecosystem, but so called assisting the national parks in reducing fire hazard.

Trail bikes. There are plenty of these in the bush around me, annoying the crap out of the animals, mountain bike riders and walkers alike.

Farmers, to be allowed to do their own hazard reduction near their farms but within the National Parks. Every important inch of their land to be preserved but the national parks are too insignificant to be of concern.

Wood cutting for fires in winter. I have seen close hand at the bush near me, people coming in cutting down perfectly good green trees, and coming back later when the trees are dry to chop them up for their fires.

Fishing.

Logging.

4WD’s, in the scrub, through creeks and on the beaches.

Mining – oh yes these create jobs; national parks are a hindrance.

Fracking – very popular amongst politicians.

Housing – oh yes, Harry Triguboff wants to create huge developments in National Parks.

“NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean will not allow cattle to graze in national parks, putting him at odds with the Nationals who want farmers to have access to the fire-prone land. The Coalition is again split over bushfire policy, with Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall renewing calls for grazing to be permitted in national parks to help manage fuel loads. But Mr Marshall has stopped short of supporting a push from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party to allow farmers to conduct hazard reduction burning in national parks.”

The Federal LNP feel we need a Royal Commission into the catastrophic fires sweeping across Australia. Another time-wasting exercise, when immediate action is required. 

What has changed since the Victorian Royal Commission into the 2009 Black Sunday fires, it found that under story was irrelevant. And now in the 2019 – 2020 catastrophic fires, Victoria is devastated yet again. 

The Royal Commission found on extremely hot and windy days such as the current fires, the fire doesn’t creep across the forest floor and climb to the top of the trees, it “Crowns”. Eucalyptus on extreme days, exhale a vapour that contains eucalyptus oil. Very volatile. It means the fire races across the top of the forest. Faster than you can drive a car. That traps people who were not expecting the fire to arrive so soon. 

This data shows why global warming is making our bush fires more dangerous, act Scott Morrison, make some hard decisions and stop with your incessant love of a lump of coal.

State of the Climate Australian Government:

What has our NSW LNP counterpart learnt from the Royal Commission: 

Shadow Minister for Environment, Penny Sharpe has today warned that the bushfire risk in NSW has grown as a result of Berejiklian Government cuts to the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Figures obtained by the Opposition through Budget Estimates show that cuts to staff show that the Service is struggling to complete hazard reduction burns and maintenance of fire trails in the State’s national parks.

There are 870 National Parks and Reserves in NSW and the National Parks and Wildlife Service are responsible for and manages over nine per cent or eight million hectares of the land in the state.

Since 2011, over $100 million has been cut from the NPWS and there has been loss of 500 full time positions, equivalent to a 25 per cent cut in the National Parks and Wildlife Service with many of the staff leaving taking decades of firefighting experience and knowledge.

The figures provided by the Office of Environment and Heritage show that hazard reduction burning has dropped to its lowest level in 2016/2017 while fire trails have not been maintained or the Rural Fire Service has had do the work in a rush to get ready for this year’s very dangerous fire season.

Blue Mountains National Park was visited by 8.43 million people last year, according to an extensive survey conducted by Roy Morgan Research.

The 2018 park visitor survey, commissioned by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, found that Blue Mountains was the most popular.

It was followed by Royal National Park (6.08m), Ku-ring-gai Chase (3.9m), Kosciuszko (3.27m) and Sydney Harbour National Park (2.42m).

We have the example in America, the warning is, as evidenced by a letter from four conservation groups asking President Trump to “fully fund the government” to bring employees back to work or else close all parks and public lands “to prevent irreparable harm to our nation’s conservation heritage.”

“Without professional staff on site to manage these properties, we have witnessed a rash of destructive acts and habitat degradation, including illegal dumping, off-roading, vandalism of buildings, cut locks, rammed gates, and human waste left beside closed bathrooms, or along trails and in habitat — the adverse impacts upon our nation’s cherished lands and waters could take years to recover,” said the letter, sent by the National Wildlife Federation, the National Wildlife Refuge Association, the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Retirees Association.

Brian Gilligan writes: Hazard reduction debate simply frustrating. During my time as head of NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) from 1998 to 2003, I laboured repeatedly to explain the complexities of fire management and the limitations of hazard reduction. Today, I worry that the ill-informed commentary that passes for debate is rolling around again 20 years on.

On a walking track in bush, this barrel filled with rubbish some kind walkers collected.
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