Livestock

Mountain cattlemen call for a return to traditional forest management

By Country News

Returning cattle to the Alpine areas of Victoria and an increase in cool burns has been recommended by the Mountain Cattlemen’s Association of Victoria, as a way to reduce bushfire fuel in the High Country.

MVAC made six recommendations for future fire management strategies in its submission to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements.

The recommendations included returning cattle to graze increased areas of the High Country, to change the way residents were able to access their properties after bushfires, and the implementation of back-burning programs based on traditional Aboriginal techniques.

MCAV president Bruce McCormack said cattle grazing was one of the most effective tools to reduce bushfire fuel loads in some areas of the High Country.

“So it will come as no surprise that one of our recommendations includes this — but what the general public may not realise is that controlled burns are not carried out beyond a certain altitude, so in genuine High Country one of the only methods of fuel reduction is Alpine grazing,” Mr McCormack said.

“Our submission and recommendations come not from book learning and sitting behind a desk, but from more than 160 years of our families living and working in the forest.”

Former MCAV president Graeme Stoney undertook research required for the group's submission.

“In 1939, judge Leonard Stretton led an inquiry into the Black Friday bushfires, and much of the current thinking is still based on what he found at the time,” Mr Stoney said.

“It has become clear in recent times that much of what Stretton found was incorrect, such as that lightning starts few if any bushfires — but his report has been held up as something for the authorities and conservation groups to follow ever since.

“As a group we have been constantly calling for a better system based on common sense and practical strategies to reduce fuel loads and therefore the intensity of bushfires.”

To read MCAV’s submission, visit: www.mcav.com.au