National Parks not ‘nationally protected’?

A proper ‘National Park” – Yellowstone National Park, USA
© Photo by Jim Peaco, October 1992
[Source: http://www.longislandpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/14566-1.jpg]

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One hundred and thirty nine years ago in 1872, Yellowstone National Park was established in the United States of America, leading the world in national conservation..

Australia supposedly followed suit quickly afterwards in 1879, declaring The National Park just south of Sydney the second national park in the world.  It was renamed Royal National Park following Queen Elizabeth II’s visit  in 1954.

But it is one thing to be seen to be following America in environmental leadership.  It is publicly misleading to be disingenuous about ‘national‘ environmental protection.

A ‘vulnerable’ Royal National Park (New South Wales, Australia)…
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National Parks in New South Wales are currently subject to the whims of incumbent State governments (both Labor and Liberal) and mining vested interests with such demands as to explore coal seam gas mining using fracking and chemical contamination from the likes of Apex Energy and Peabody Pacific’s joint Metropolitan Mine near Helensburgh in 2010.

National parks are typically large natural areas of land that are protected because they have unspoilt landscapes and a diverse number of native plants and animals. This means that commercial activities such as farming are prohibited and human activity is strictly monitored.  The purpose of the ‘national parks’ concept is to protect native flora and fauna and their habitat.

Victorian Alps

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Disturbingly, the powers that be in National Parks have grown a mindset that national parks are created primarily not for altruistic genuine conservation but for tourism – human use, benefit and exploitation.  The sell is that national parks “are also there so Australians and foreign visitors can enjoy and learn about our unique environment, heritage and culture.”

Australia has over 500 national parks covering some 28 million hectares accounting for 4% of Australia’s land mass.  But similarly disturbing is that the Australia legal concept of a ‘national park’ is one typically managed not by the national government, but a custodial responsibility delegated to the States and Territories of Australia. This means that across Australia, national parks are a hollow label for ‘reserve’, or in the case of Victoria’s Alpine National Park, an endless free cow paddock!


Cattle in the Alpine National Park?
© Photo Trevor Pinder Herald Sun 20110412

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The state/territory custodial role for national parks is a left-over legacy from pre-Federation colonial Australia of the Nineteenth Century, in much the same way the Crown Land is a leftover legacy from when the Australian colonies were subservient to Britain.  And sure enough, the management records demonstrate that the spirit of national park protection has not been respected by the state and territory custodial governments.

National Park ‘protection’ in the United States has national clout.  But in Australia the term is politically expedient and superficial.  This has caused the conservation movement to increasingly look to UNESCO World Heritage, because state and territory governments cannoit be trusted.   ‘National park’ status has become meaningless.  Just consider the Kakadu, Kosciuszko, and the Great Barrier Reef national parks and their abuse and mismanagement legacies!


Alpine National Park
10,000 hectares was allowed to burn in 2003
~ so much for National Park ‘protection’, more like ‘abandonment’.

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Media Release by the National Parks Association of NSW:

[22 July 2011]

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‘National Parks to be given national status’

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National Parks Association of NSW CEO, Kevin Evans, has welcomed moves by Federal environment minister Tony Burke to add Commonwealth protection to Australia’s national parks.
“Stronger Federal protection for national parks is a groundbreaking  move that will ensure the long-term integrity of Australia’s most loved natural places and vital habitat for threatened plants and animals,” Mr. Evans said.
“It will also make sure that politically motivated interference in park protection, including proposals for inappropriate tourism infrastructure, mining, cattle grazing and hunting will be more difficult in the future.
“We need to be clear that such proposals are not in the national interest,” Mr. Evans said. “Our protected areas are part of much bigger systems working at a landscape scale as the corner stone of Australia’s biodiversity conservation strategy.”
Speaking at the Sydney Institute on Thursday evening, Mr. Burke said “that there was a principle that once an area was protected there shall be no backward steps”.

He referred to the move by the Victorian government to return cattle to the Alpine National Parks earlier this year as treating a national park like a farm.

“Importantly, if implemented, this proposal would allow Australia to honour its commitment to international treaties designed to protect the world’s natural heritage” Mr. Evans said.
“It won’t change the way national parks are managed but as the minister says, it will make sure that there will be ‘no backward steps’ in that management.
“Most people already assume that national parks have national protection, as they do in most countries of the world. But almost all of our most important natural areas are actually set up and managed under the laws of each state and territory.”
Minister Burke announced last night that he has written to all states and territories seeking their views on a plan to amend federal laws to better protect national parks.
NPA encourages the NSW government to cooperate with the Federal environment minister on his proposal.
“Under the proposed federal law, states will still be in control of setting park boundaries, and there will be no change to existing activities in parks,” said Mr. Evans.
Mr. Evans said,

“What it does mean is that the protection offered by state laws will be backed up by national law.”

Our national parks will be truly part of our national heritage, securely protected by all Australians, for all Australians, for all time.

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Editor’s comments:

This revelation confirms that Australians have been hoodwinked about ‘National Park Protection’ since 1879.

 

It one of the biggest greenwashing cons in Australian history. National Parks are but a convenient propaganda label until alternative land use demands are proposed.

The message is that the States and Territories simply cannot be trusted with Australia’s valuable natural heritage.

So if such jurisdictions are so unrepresentative of Australian values, then why do the States and Territories continue to exist?

Sunrise on Mount Feathertop, Alpine National Park, Victoria
 © http://good-wallpapers.com/places/4689.

 

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Background:

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‘High country ought stay a cattle no-go zone’

by Geoff Mosley, 20110308, The Age

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‘The Baillieu government’s decision to reintroduce cattle into the Alpine National Park not only snubs 80 years of research highlighting the environmental damage they can do, it also undermines co-operative management of Australia’s alpine parks.  This move was undertaken without any consultation with the federal government and, since the Alpine National Park is on the National Heritage List, all eyes are on whether Environment Minister Tony Burke will intervene to protect the area’s nationally significant natural heritage values.

Victorian Premier, Ted Ballieu
 © Sunday Herald Sun, 20110424

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In  deciding,  Burke must take into account strong opposition to the Baillieu government’s move from the Australian Academy of Science and the World Commission on Protected Areas. These organisations have pointed to the bad example it would set when more than 3000 people attend the World National Parks Congress in Melbourne in 2014.

The planned ‘‘study’’ was also criticised by Melbourne University’s School of Land and Environment, whose acting head, associate professor Gerd Bossinger, said in an email: ‘‘much of the work being proposed has already been done’’. This response elicited a threat from the Baillieu government over millions of dollars in research funding.

Burke should also consider the damage that Victoria’s action would do to the co-ordinated approach to interstate management of the alpine parks, which has operated since 1986.

The states have been in charge of public land, including national parks, which by then had been established in several states, since Federation in 1901.  Federation also introduced a possible role for the federal government in encouraging co-operative endeavours in heritage protection.

Co-operation did not come easily. The first initiative for a cross-state national park in the Alps came from the environment movement.

But, in 1943, the Victorian government rejected the proposed ‘Snowy-Indi National Park‘, embracing parts of the NSW  (17,200 ha) and Victoria’s high country (22,000 ha),  because of the ‘‘dangers to which large areas of country would be exposed by prohibiting occupation’’ – whatever that meant.

Instead the individual states established separate protected areas in their territories – Kosciusko State Park in 1944 (which became Kosciusko National Park in 1967), Gudgenby Nature Reserve  in 1979 (became Namadgi National Park in 1984), and the Alpine National Park (formed from several disparate parks) in 1989.

The case for co-operative management of these adjacent alpine parks was obvious but who would initiate it?

The potential for Commonwealth leadership in such an enterprise was  greatly increased in the 1970s with the passage of legislation to protect the national estate and with Australia’s ratification in 1974 of the World Heritage Convention. Apart from Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef and south-west Tasmania, there appeared to be no part of Australia more deserving of such a federal commitment than the Alps.

A clear case in point was the need for a uniform approach to alpine grazing. NSW ended the practice in Kosciusko National Park in 1969.  The ACT followed suit.  But the Victorian government dithered. So in 1984,  I, as then director of the Australian Conservation Foundation, took 15 Victorian MPs on a tour of Kosciusko National Park. The visitors were so impressed by the recovery of the land after the removal of grazing that they agreed on a ‘‘Memorandum of Understanding for Co-operative Management of the Australian Alps National Parks’’, signed on July 15, 1986.

After an extensive review, in 2006 the Victorian government terminated the last of several of grazing licences in the Alpine National Park, bringing the state into line with NSW and the ACT. The Baillieu government’s reintroduction of grazing puts this hard-won co-operation in jeopardy.

Tony Burke’s decision also has consequences for the fate of the world heritage-listing proposal,  in limbo since prime minister Bob Hawke announced in 1989 that the Australian Alps would be assessed.

World heritage listing of the Alps and adjacent forests – the ‘‘sea to snow concept’’ – would give the federal government enhanced power to act as Hawke did in 1983 to stop the Franklin Dam in Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area. Five reports later and nothing has happened. Meanwhile, the presence of cattle in the Alpine National Park could mean that a nomination would fail the ‘‘integrity’’ test for  listing.

Burke has an opportunity to not only protect the Alpine National Park but to advance the overall cause of  national heritage protection.  If the word ‘‘national’’ means anything, he must do the right thing by the people of Australia and send the cattle back down the hill.’

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[Geoff Mosley has been involved with  establishing and management national parks in the alpine areas of ACT, New South Wales and Victoria for 50 years. He was chief executive of the Australian Conservation Foundation from 1973 to 1986 and remains a member of the ACF council.]

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Further Reading:

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[1]   ‘Burke demands a halt to alpine cattle grazing‘, 20110318, ABC Rural, ^http://www.abc.net.au/rural/news/content/201103/s3167854.htm

[2]   ‘High country ought stay a cattle no-go zone‘,  by Geoff Mosley, 20110308, ^http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/high-country-ought-stay-a-cattle-nogo-zone-20110307-1bka1.html

[3]   ‘Cattle Don’t Belong in Parks‘, Victorian National Parks Association ^http://vnpa.org.au/page/bushwalking-and-activities/events/public-meeting-_-cattle-don%27t-belong-in-parks

[4]   ‘Coal Seam Gas Mining Threatens NSW and Australia‘, ^http://www.stopcoalseamgas.com/helensburgh.php

[5]   ‘Wildlife under threat from shooters in NSW‘ (National Parks), ^http://www.animalsaustralia.org/take_action/wildlife-under-threat-from-shooters–in-NSW/

[6]  ‘Uranium mining in Kakadu National Park‘,  ^http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium_mining_in_Kakadu_National_Park

[7]  ‘Great Barrier Reef Environmental Threats‘  ^http://www.workincairns.com/great-barrier-reef/environmental-threats.asp

[8]  ‘Human Impact on the Great Barrier Reef‘, University of Michigan, ^http://sitemaker.umich.edu/gc2sec7labgroup3/pollution

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(All references accessed 20110722)

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22 July 2011
National Parks to be given national status
National Parks Association of NSW CEO, Kevin Evans, has welcomed moves by Federal environment minister Tony Burke to add Commonwealth protection to Australia’s national parks.
“Stronger Federal protection for national parks is a groundbreaking move that will ensure the long-term integrity of Australia’s most loved natural places and vital habitat for threatened plants and animals,” Mr. Evans said.
“It will also make sure that politically motivated interference in park protection, including proposals for inappropriate tourism infrastructure, mining, cattle grazing and hunting will be more difficult in the future.
“We need to be clear that such proposals are not in the national interest,” Mr. Evans said. “Our protected areas are part of much bigger systems working at a landscape scale as the corner stone of Australia’s biodiversity conservation strategy.”
Speaking at the Sydney Institute on Thursday evening, Mr. Burke said “that there was a principle that once an area was protected there shall be no backward steps”. He referred to the move by the Victorian government to return cattle to the Alpine National Parks earlier this year as treating a national park like a farm.
“Importantly, if implemented, this proposal would allow Australia to honour its commitment to international treaties designed to protect the world’s natural heritage” Mr. Evans said.
“It won’t change the way national parks are managed but as the minister says, it will make sure that there will be ‘no backward steps’ in that management.
“Most people already assume that national parks have national protection, as they do in most countries of the world. But almost all of our most important natural areas are actually set up and managed under the laws of each state and territory.”
Minister Burke announced last night that he has written to all states and territories seeking their views on a plan to amend federal laws to better protect national parks.
NPA encourages the NSW government to cooperate with the Federal environment minister on his proposal.
“Under the proposed federal law, states will still be in control of setting park boundaries, and there will be no change to existing activities in parks,” said Mr. Evans.
Mr. Evans said, “What it does mean is that the protection offered by state laws will be backed up by national law. Our national parks will be truly part of our national heritage, securely protected by all Australians, for all Australians, for all time.
“It will be good for nature protection and good for ecologically sustainable tourism,” said Mr. Evans.

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