Time to stop grazing in National Parks
NPAQ strongly supports the move from rolling to fixed term leases under the proposed amendments to the Nature Conservation Act.
On 5 February 2016 the Agriculture and Environment Committee reported on the Nature Conservation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015. The primary objective of the Bill was to reverse a number of amendments made by the previous government. Of note to NPAQ are changes to revert rolling term leases for agriculture, grazing or pastoral purposes within nature conservation areas and specified national parks back to term leases. This enables the lands to be “protected for the purpose that they were intended”.
This viewpoint is reflected in a recent statement from the Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles. Dr Miles stated “grazing leases on national parks are inconsistent with the management principles for national parks”. In a similar vein, Dr Miles spoke about the impacts of grazing on protected areas stressing “cattle cause substantial compaction and erosion to these native habitats so the longer you leave cattle within these areas, the more opportunity there is to do damage to those rare and threatened species populations”.
National Parks constitute 5% of land in Queensland. It is unnecessary and unreasonable to continue to allow cattle to graze in these areas. Removing grazing livestock has been proven to be highly valuable in halting local biodiversity decline.
Damage to native vegetation and ecosystems can be extensive. The Department of Environment (2016) lists the impacts of grazing on biodiversity including:
- direct removal of some species
- changes in structure and species composition of grasslands
- alterations to habitat in and mid and lower storeys of forests and grasslands, and
- changes to soil structure and water infiltration (compaction etc).
In addition, grazing by introduced herbivores (cattle, sheep, etc) can cause widespread damage to waterholes. By trampling the banks, fouling the waters and spreading weeds, cattle (and other introduced herbivores) can have a detrimental impact on natural areas. The result can be long-lasting and devastating to natural systems.
Once the damage has occurred, rehabilitating these areas can prove difficult, expensive and time-consuming for national parks staff. This work adds to the management cost of the national park and existing workload. NPAQ believes that resources would be far better spent on conservation endeavors and protecting the natural values of the park.
Graziers have been given notice to cease grazing, and therefore time to make other arrangements such as alternative sources of pasture or feed and selling cattle to take advantage of preferred prices.
NPAQ continues to support the amendments in the Bill including the phasing out of grazing in National Parks in line with the Cardinal Principle. The Cardinal Principle is to provide, to the greatest possible extent, for the permanent preservation of the area's natural condition and the protection of the area's cultural resources and values.