UPDATE: CATTLE will graze in the Wonnangatta Valley for the first time in 26 years after an alpine grazing trial application was approved.
The trial will however be subject to strict conditions, with 60 adult cattle to be introduced onto 262 hectares of land, previously known as Wonnangatta Cattle Station.
Federal Environment minister Greg Hunt approved the application, and said up to 300 head may be introduced in two future trials if further approval was granted.
“Strict measures to contain the cattle have been imposed, including temporary electric fencing and a requirement that stock must be supervised by experienced cattlemen at all times,” he said.
“The first trial is expected to begin shortly and run until the end of May. The trial will compare the effectiveness and impacts of livestock grazing regimes.”
Mountain Cattlemen's Association of Victoria (MCAV) president Charlie Lovick said they will use the trial to demonstrate how the cattlemen’s conservation methods can be used in conjunction with Parks management and other users.
“We are prepared to be judged, not by what we say, but what we do,” he said.
Mr Lovick said the Wonnangatta plays an important role in the history of the mountain cattlemen, and has been grazed for 118 of the past 144 years.
“We left it in very good condition, in the 26 years since we were removed the Wonnangatta Valley, like many other parts of the High Country, has degenerated into a scrubby and pest infested state,” he said.
At the conclusion of the first trial the Victorian Government will undertake more surveys on threatened species, communities and local heritage before further cattle were to be introduced.
But Minister Hunt has “rushed his decision” according to the Victorian National Parks Association.
“Sixty cattle, grazing for a few weeks, is not in any way a scientific experiment,” spokesperson Phil Ingamells said.
“The same thing can be easily done outside the national park, but this option was not even considered.
“The entire scheme is a farce.”
Victorian Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie welcomed the decision, however, and said she looked forward to seeing cattle grazing in again in the Wonnangatta Valley.
“There are many people who live in Victoria’s Alpine areas and right across the nation, who value mountain cattlemen and women as pioneers, as guides, as contributors to fire suppression activities, as skilled land managers and environmental stewards,” she said.
“We can get the balance right between protecting and enjoying our national parks. Caring for and using our natural resources do not have to be mutually exclusive concepts.”