Alpine grazing ignores evidence: society

VICTORIA’S leading scientific society has urged the state and federal governments to abandon plans for a cattle-grazing trial in the Alpine National Park.

It said peer-reviewed evidence showed it would fail to cut fire risk.

The normally conservative Royal Society of Victoria questioned the merits and scientific basis of a trial to test whether grazing decreased fire risk by reducing fuel, in a letter to state Environment Minister Ryan Smith.

About 60 cattle would roam the Wonnangatta Valley for three years if the federal government approved the trial.

Society president Dr Bill Birch said the trial ignored published evidence that grazing had no measurable effect.

But, he said it had serious impacts on the diversity of species in the area.

“The plan for the proposed trial is not clear and shows little evidence of sound scientific structure,” Dr Birch wrote.

He said among the trial’s failings were that vegetation in the Wonnangatta Valley represented only a proportion of that found in the Alpine park, meaning the results could not automatically be applied to the entire region.

He also said wildfires burnt more intensely and moved differently to controlled burns, which would be used in the trial, meaning the effect of cattle on fuel reduction was not be measurable.

“The Royal Society considers the proposed trial as another example of so-called scientific study, undertaken without adequate appreciation or even demonstrated knowledge of the literature and which is characterised by inadequate planning and inadequate scientific rigor,” Dr Birch wrote.

“We suggest that the trial be abandoned.”

Executive officer of the Mountain Cattlemen’s Association, Graeme Stoney said: “There is no doubt grazing reduces fuel in grazing areas.”

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