PHIL INGAMELLS says science, not prejudice, should govern park management.
The remarkable Plains Wanderer and other Victorian threatened species need enlightened, well-resourced management, not hype or half-truths.
When Victoria was colonised by Europeans in the early 1800s, the first natural areas to suffer were those places suitable for sheep farming, the once-extensive grassy plains of northwestern and southwestern Victoria.
Today, only a tiny percentage of native grasslands and grassy woodlands remain in anything like their original condition, and that loss of habitat has meant many of Victoria's threatened plants and animals are from these regions, including the fairly defenceless Plains-wanderer.
To protect threatened grassland plants and animals, the State and Federal governments bought farmland southeast of Kerang that had been lightly grazed, and apparently never sown with European pasture grasses. The site was then proclaimed as Terrick Terrick National Park in 1999.
It soon became clear that it would be wise to maintain the grazing while a management strategy was worked out. That meant deciding whether sheep grazing should stay or whether grazing by native animals and restoring an Aboriginal fire regime would be better.
The conservation movement, including the Victorian National Parks Association, has supported sheep grazing over the past decade at Terrick Terrick. Unfortunately, a recent decision to remove grazing temporarily during a period of heavy rainfall proved to be a bad move for the Plains Wanderer.
In Victoria, where our natural areas evolved over 50 million years without any hard-hoofed grazers, the Terrick Terrick solution is unusual. We can't apply a "one-size-fits-all" approach to park management and extend the use of grazing into other habitats without solid, scientific evidence.
Protecting the roughly 100,000 different native species that make up our natural heritage is a complex dilemma.
We can, hopefully, protect that heritage but we have to abandon prejudice.
We need real peer-reviewed science, we need to rapidly build the expertise and skills of our land management agencies, and we must resource them well.
- Phil Ingamells is with the Victorian National Parks Association