Whatever I want to do, I’m doing it for “scientific research”

The Baillieu government gets down to business: pissing off environmentalists (and if that doesn’t earn them the support of certain polemicists at large city tabloids, what will?):

CATTLE grazing has controversially returned to the Alpine National Park, under the banner of scientific research, after a five-year ban.

“Scientific research”? Wait, I seem to recall some other use of that expression as lame cover for another destructive practice, what was it? Ring any bells for anyone else?

The National Parks Association is outraged by the return of the cattle, and the potential for full-blown grazing.

”The state government’s highly secretive return of cattle grazing to the Alpine National Park is the terrestrial version of Japan’s scientific whaling,” spokesman Phil Ingamells said.

Oh, yes. Japan’s restaurant-friendly “scientific research” excuse for eating as many whales as they can slaughter, to hell with the species being endangered.

Well, Liberals, “Mountain Cattlemen” – you’re in fine company with that line…

You know, it wouldn’t cost the Baillieu government all that much to set it up as a real study, with independent researchers collecting evidence with open minds, prepared to find against the graziers if that’s what it shows – but do you really think they’ll bother? I wouldn’t be surprised if they just left it up to the cattlemen. In five years: hey, guys – has it reduced the bushfire risk? Oh, definitely, we’re sure it has. There’s certainly much less native vegetation where the cattle have trampled. Okay then! CASE CLOSED.

ELSEWHERE: Talking of the natural environment, the latest Pure Poison Podcast is up, this week talking about (what else?) floods and firearms.

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4 responses to “Whatever I want to do, I’m doing it for “scientific research”

  1. This really pisses me off.

    The alpine region is incredibly sensitive and fragile country, and although grazing will reduce fire risk, it does so by removing the understory of grass and shrubs. Without the understory, native bushland is more susceptible to disease and pests (die back)

    The grass grows back quickly, replacing the fuel load in no time, but the seedling trees and shrubs take several years to reach a size where they can survive grazing.

    Allowing unrestricted grazing will reduce fire risk by destroying the forest ecosystem.

    Short periods of grazing with large stock numbers on an rolling 3-5 year rotation might allow the understory to survive, but would have no effect on the fuel load, so would be a waste of time.

  2. It’s worse than that – the research has already been done! After the 2003 fires, alpine researchers surveyed extensive areas on the Bogong High Plains and found

    – no effect of cattle grazing on the likelihood or severity of burning
    – heathland (shrubby, dense, unpalatable to cattle) was much more likely to burn than grassland (full of delicious daisies)

    You can read about it on the CSIRO website here:

    http://www.csiro.au/resources/AlpineGrazingAndFire.html

    or download the actual paper (actually there’s a Word version that comes up if you google it)

    Richard J Williams, Carl-Henrik Wahren, Ross A Bradstock and Warren J. Müller. 2006. Alpine grazing reduces blazing: A landscape test of a widely held hypothesis. Austral Ecology, Volume 31, Number 8, pp. 925-936(12)

    This is in addition to all the research since the 1950s that demonstrates cattle grazing changes the plant community, ruins bogs and contributes to soil erosion. We know more about the effects of cattle grazing than almost any other scientific issue in Australia!

  3. nice work, antechinus:
    ‘Long-term data shows that cattle have very little or no impact on shrub cover (and hence fuel loads) in the heaths.’

    It might also be worth pointing out that the last time the DSE conducted research into grazing in alpine national parks, they appointed a research taskforce that stated:
    ‘The Taskforce concludes that cattle grazing does not make an effective contribution to fuel reduction and wildfire behaviour in the Alpine National Park.’

    The report can be found here: http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/CA256F310024B628/0/40F041D6FF296024CA25700B001D3D77/$File/Alpine+Grazing+Taskforce+Report+complete.pdf

    I would be very interested in seeing the research proposal that suggests that it is necessary to revisit these questions, if anyone has it.

  4. Pingback: Really? | An Onymous Lefty

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