NSW WILDERNESS RED INDEX

Published by the Colong Foundation for Wilderness Ltd (September, 1999)
2/332 Pitt Street Sydney NSW 2000 ph 02 9299 3741; fax 02 92995713
email keith@colongwilderness.org.au web site colongwilderness.org.au

NAME: Jagungal
NOMINATED BY: The Colong Foundation for Wilderness.
LOCATION: 105 km south west of Canberra and 55 km west of Cooma.
SIZE: 98,000 ha (approx. 1999 nomination)

(includes the 18,700 ha (approx size of Western Fall -

Wilderness Assessment Study Area (WASA))

TENURE: Nominated Indentified

Kosciuszko National Park 92,400 ha under assessment
Crown land 4,070 ha under assessment
Freehold land 1,530 ha under assessment

Wilderness Declared:

Jagungal Wilderness within Kosciuszko National Park;

Size: 66,300 ha
Percentage of entire nomination: 68%

Wilderness Not Declared (NSW):

Kosciuszko National Park;

Size: 26,100 ha
Percentage of entire nomination: 27%

Crown land;

Size: 4,070 ha
Percentage of entire nomination: 4%

Freehold land;

Size: 1,530 ha
Percentage of entire nomination: 2%

DESCRIPTION:

The geology of most of the high country of Kosciuszko National Park comprises a complex of granites which have intruded sandstone and other sedimentary rocks. The associated folded bands of metamorphic rocks of quartzite and shale run along the Dargals, Grey Mare and Main Ranges. Since their emplacement 300 million years ago these intrusions have been subjected to repeated cycles of uplift and erosion. In the north, igneous rocks of diorite, gabbro and hornblende form a number of mountainous tops, including the crouching form of Mount Jagungal. The gradual uplift of the Kosciuszko "plateau", which rises gradually from the eastern tablelands and plunges sharply to the west, occurred over the last 40 million years. This uplift, in conjunction with volcanic activity and the creation of basalt lava formations around Tabletop and Round Mountain, occurred along a number of fault (or fracture) zones which were gradually eroded by streams into deep valleys and gorges cutting into the plateau edges. During the last Ice Age a number of cirques were created by glacial activity and producing the beautiful small alpine lakes of today.

The wilderness contains the highest peaks of Australia, including Mount Kosciuszko (2,228m), Mt Townsend (2,210m), Mt Twynham (2,196m) and Mt Jagungal (2,061m).

The vegetation of the area displays considerable altitudinal and climatic variation. Alpine grassland and bogs predominate above the treeline (about 1,850m). Below this (about 1,850m - 1,400m), sub-alpine woodlands of Snow Gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora ssp. niphophila) with the most common dominating understorey a Oxylobium ellipticum / Podocarpus lawrencii alliance. The winter snow line is currently at about 1,600m, above which snow covers the ground for several months each year. Between 1,400m and 1,100m are found the montane forests of the Snowgum alliance, including E. pauciflora, E. dalrympleana, E. rubida, E. viminalis and E. stellulata. In the wetter south and south east aspects, wet sclerophyll forests of E. delegatensis occur. In the tableland areas below 1,110m open low woodlands are common, dominated by E. melliodora but on exposed sites the two peppermints E. dives and E. radiata prevail.

Of faunal significance is the Mountain Pygmy Possum, (Burramys parvus), which until 1966 was known only from fossil relics. This animal is listed as threatened in the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. Parts of its very confined habitat have been severely affected by the ski developments at Mount Blue Cow and Charlottes Pass, and is further threatened by proposals mooted in the Ski 2000 report and the subsequent Perisher Range resorts development.

Creeks on the eastern side of the divide flow into the Snowy River catchment, while those on the west are tributaries of the Murray River. The whole area has become a major catchment for the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme.

LAND USE HISTORY:

Aboriginal Aboriginal occupation of the area was seasonal and associated with the Bogong feasts of the summer months. Winter refuges were in frost-free valleys: the Djilamatang in the Upper Murray; the Walgalu in the Tumut; the Jaimathang in the Omeo; the Ngarigo in the Lower Snowy Gorge and the Ngunawal in the Upper Murrumbidgee.

Mining

1852 Geologist and clergyman W B Clarke comments on the likelihood of gold in the area after hearing reports from stockmen.
1859 November: gold struck in Kiandra (10 km north of wilderness area). Officially reported in January of the following year. New strikes follow at Tabletop Mountain, and the Four Mile and the Nine Mile Creeks.
1861 Major rush over by autumn. Crushing of gold-bearing quartz, hydraulic sluicing and dredging in the Eucumbene River continued until 1949.
1894 Gold discovered at Grey Mare. Reef mining continued sporadically until 1952, with access facilitated by the construction of the Grey Mare Fire Trail in 1934.

Throughout this period a number of huts were established within the Wilderness Area by miners.

Grazing Grazing occurred in the Kiandra area as early as the 1830s. Cattle were also grazed along the Tumut River from 1858.
1889 New South Wales Government introduces the Snow Lease system to prevent alienation of land and maintain the area for the use of all graziers during drought periods. This system was never effectively implemented and a "collective monopoly" by pastoral companies and local individuals arose.
1894 Naturalist Richard Helms criticises graziers for their burning practices and warns against soil erosion and loss of humus.
1930-32 Attacks on grazing practices intensify with criticism of leasehold monopolies (F. Craft 1930) and use of fire (B. Byles, Commonwealth Forestry Bureau).
1943 Department of Lands begins major review of Snow Lease system, the summit of the Main Range being withdrawn completely and stock limits set elsewhere.
1950's Lobby against grazing intensifies with scientists increasing their criticisms: 1952 W. R. Brown’s David Memorial Lecture; 1954 A. B. Costin’s Study; 1957 Australian Association for the Advancement of Science Report recommends elimination of grazing to protect catchments; 1958 Soil Conservation Service and Catchment Areas Protection Board attempt to veto renewal of leases.
1969 Former Director General of Agriculture recommends total abolition of grazing within the newly created Kosciusko National Park.
1974 Kosciusko Management Plan eliminates grazing other than "for special management purposes".

Graziers construct a number of huts within the Wilderness Area throughout this period.

Hydro-electricity

1941 Premier William McKell makes the development of water resources of the Snowy Mountains part of his election policy.
1944 Kosciusko State Park Act passed, by which 75% of water catchments for the proposed hydro-electric scheme are conserved within the Park. Conservation of water resources for irrigation and power is the major reason behind the preservation of the park and the demise of grazing.
1949 - 1974 Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority (SMHA) founded by Act of Federal Parliament in 1949 for the implementation of the scheme. Construction involves seven power stations, a pumping station, 17 large dams and 225 km of aqueducts and channels. Total storage capacity is 7,000 gigalitres. The centre of the scheme became Lake Eucumbene, 5 km west of the wilderness area, which collects the runoff from the headwaters of the Snowy, Eucumbene, Tumut and Murrumbidgee Rivers.

The Tooma and Geehi Rivers which flow through the Wilderness Area are dammed. The Tooma Reservoir, at the northern end of the area is excised from the area. Further destruction of wilderness values occurs along the Geehi River, in the southern section of the area, with the construction of a reservoir and aqueduct. Further aqueducts are constructed along the Munyang River and the south eastern edge of the area. A 60 MWph power station is constructed at Guthega.

The stored waters are redirected from their natural catchments to flow through tunnels, whence they are discharged into the Murray and Murrumbidgee river systems for agricultural irrigation.

SMHA constructed a number of unsightly huts within the Wilderness Area throughout the period.

Cloud Seeding In May 1993 the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority released an environmental impact statement for its Snowy Precipitation Enhancement Project. This would involve increasing snow precipitation over the Snowy Mountains area by releasing silver iodide and indium sesquioxide from generators placed in 16 sites approximately 4 kilometres apart along a north-south line extending from Cabramurra to Mt. Youngal.
National Parks are dedicated to protect natural values. It is not acceptable to have humans tinkering with natural conditions and the climate in a National Park or wilderness area. The Wilderness Act 1987 requires that a wilderness "evolve in the absence of significant human interference".

The proposal involved 32 generators on trailers, 2 radiometers, 1 radar, 2 particle probes and snow sampling apparatus, 30 vertical snow sampling sites and a weather station. Installation, maintenance and operation will involve many visits by 4WD, skidoo, and helicopter. None of this equipment, or these journeys, is appropriate to a wilderness area. Helicopter visits for snow sampling are unacceptable in the Jagungal Wilderness and in the National Park generally.

The snow seeding proposal was rejected by the Commonwealth Government following a submission by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) that it was incompatible with the National Park Plan of Management.

1997
Snowy Hydro
Corporation
Under the provisions of the Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Act 1997, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority will become the Snowy Hydro Corporation and privatised once the environmental flows for the Snowy River are determined.

The proposed Corporation will be granted a 75 year lease by the NPWS for a rental of $0.5 million a year. Further long term leases will also be granted to Transgrid for its powerlines that dissect the park. A Snowy Management Plan will regulate the activities of the Corporation many of which cause widespread and on-going environmental problems. These activities include: quarries; exotic plantings on prominent roadways; inappropriate roads; many powerline easements, artificial stream flows; and stream diversions that are an impediment to wildlife.

Tourism

1860 - ca. 1910 Snow shoeing and skiing originally used by Kiandra miners becomes a major recreational activity with the establishment of the Kiandra Snow Shoe Club.
1909 Kiandra eclipsed as a tourist destination with the construction of the road to the summit of Mt Kosciusko and the opening of the Kosciusko Hotel by the Government Tourist Bureau at Diggers Creek.
1927 First ski crossing of the Jagungal area.
1930 Succumbing to pressure from the Ski Club of Australia, NSW Government constructs Charlotte Pass Chalet (rebuilt 1938).
1937 Oliver Moriarty, trenchant critic of national parks and champion of grazing rights, establishes major commercial venture, the Alpine Hut, below the peak of Big Brassy. This venture declines by mid 'Forties.
1952 Kosciusko State Park Trust turns over responsibility for resort development to private interests. Hut building is replaced by large-scale commercial ventures with significant environmental impacts. Perisher Valley's first lodge constructed.
1956 Snowy Mountains Authority builds road along Thredbo Valley. Resorts follow in the same and subsequent years.
Late 1950's Further resorts follow at Smiggin Holes and Guthega. Perisher re-vamped and installed with a T-bar tow in 1959.
1962 NSW Government grants lease to Kosciusko Thredbo Pty Ltd.
1964 Longest ski lift in the world, clearly visible from the Wilderness Area, constructed from the Thredbo Valley to Charlotte Pass. Due to high winds and technical difficulties it is closed after one season. Major construction at Thredbo and Perisher during this period.
1974 NPWS Management Plan sets accommodation and day visitor limits at 16,460. Development of day facilities advocated rather than additional overnight accommodation. Visitor levels remain static in 1982 Plan. Sewage treatment and disposal recognised as a significant environmental problem, particularly at Perisher (Spencers Creek).
1982 Mount Selwyn developed as a day ski resort. Crackenback, Blue Cow and Kings Cross advocated as further resorts by developers,.
1984 Underground skitube construction commences linking Bullocks Flat (Thredbo Valley) to Perisher and planned Blue Cow resorts.
1985 Construction of Blue Cow resort commences and a new ski lift built for Perisher Clearing for Blue Cow ski runs and general development further diminishes Mountain Pygmy Possum habitats and its access to foraging grounds. Mount Blue Cow Ski Bowl Property Ltd considers the problem solved by constructing passageways under its ski runs.
1988 Blue Cow and Skitube finished.
1990 November: State Environment Minister the Hon Tim Moore releases Ski 2000 a "discussion paper" prepared by NPWS "to stimulate interest and comment on important planning proposals".

The paper advocates an increase in present overnight accommodation levels from 9,959 beds to 10,956. Beds would be in Perisher Valley (678), Smiggin Holes (140) and Guthega (174) and five for ski patrols.

Ski slope development is given the go ahead for a potential rise from 34,757 users a day to 54,430.

NPWS has also given permission to use Snomax, an organic compound of microbes around which snowflakes can develop at lower temperatures. This was previously refused by NPWS because of concerns about the introduction of alien microbes into the alpine ecosystem.

A further 120 hectares of land between Blue Cow, Guthega and Perisher will be allocated to the commercial lessees for development. A 3-4 km electricity trench has already been dug to the area, with no public consultation.

National Parks and Wildlife (Leases) Amendment Act 106, 21 December 1990, introduced by State Government, which provides for one person to be made Head Lessee for the Perisher Valley, Smiggins Hole and Guthega resorts. A likely candidate to be Murray Publishers, owned by Mr Kerry Packer.

1994 May 1: Minister for the Environment, the Hon Chris Hartcher approves amendments to the Kosciusko National Park plan of management to permit the expansion of Perisher Range resort proposals, including recreational facilities for summer visitors and a ski circuit linking Perisher Valley, Blue Cow Mountain, Smiggins Holes and Guthega with groomed ski runs. The amendment was inserted without a published draft plan; allowed a deviation of Perisher Creek; 1,000 extra beds; and was never put before the NPWS Advisory Council. It is considered to be of questionable legality.
1995 May 1: Kinhill Engineers Pty Ltd, consultants for the NPWS, initiate Perisher Range Master Plan and environmental impact statement (EIS) processes. The increase in visitor infrastructure and slope grooming will enable a 61 per cent rise on the 1990 ski slope capacity to over 85,000 users.
1997 August 2: Perisher Range Master Plan and EIS for 1,000 resort beds released. These proposals include: a five story large scale apartment building in Perisher Valley, sewerage system upgrade EIS; cross-country ski development, ski slope plan; and a further draft park plan of management. The new draft plan of management is to boost the range of recreation and entertainment activities in the park to improve the commercial viability of all year operation of the Perisher Resorts. The draft plan places the Jagungal Wilderness at direct risk of over use and misuse by inappropriate activities.

Mr Kerry Parker’s Consolidated Press Holdings becomes main contender for 800 bed apartment resort development in Perisher.

One positive proposal of the Master Plan was the removal of the Guthega resort because of its remote location, just below to the Main Range. This is later rejected, and instead a major expansion of the resort is approved.

1998 March 3: Due to the high level of controversy associated with the proposed developments a Commission of Inquiry is held.

November 11: The Inquiry recommends that resort accommodation be initially increased by 1,320 beds and endorses the case for further resort expansion above these levels. About 800 beds are recommended for the four storey Perisher resort on the car park owned by Perisher Blue, 120 to the village centres at Smiggins Holes and Guthega, and 400 divided between existing commercial and club lodges. Changes to the plan of management, and transfer of regional resort planning to Perisher Blue, Kosciusko Thredbo and the NSW Ski Association is supported. The phase out of Guthega resort is opposed, in favour of further development.

Surprisingly, the ski slope grooming and development outlined in the Master Plan between the Perisher and Guthega valleys, affecting about 1,400 ha, that could seriously reduce and interfere with Mountain Pygmy Possum habitat, were not part of this inquiry.

1999 May 27: Master Plan approved by Minister for the Urban Affairs and Planning the Hon Andrew Refshauge, allowing the development of 1,320 beds to proceed subject to selection of tenderer, revised Ski Development Plan and Environmental Management Plans for the resort developers. The Perisher village centre (of private apartments) is to have 800 beds, 150 extra beds in Smiggins Holes, 116 extra beds for Perisher lessees and a further 254 extra beds for Guthega.

The Colong Foundation criticises: the Plan, particularly the development of private apartments; the Commission of Inquiry, for ignoring the essential purpose of national parks being lands set aside from development; and the Government’s decision to establish a planning partnership with ski resort owners.

HISTORY OF CONSERVATION MEASURES:

1935 Myles Dunphy first proposes the extensive Snowy-Indi Primitive Area, establishing the basis for an alpine national park.
1943 Grazing leases revoked from the Main Range and other areas.
1944 Kosciusko State Park Act passed. Jagungal included within the boundaries. This area was excluded from Myles Dunphy's Snowy-Indi National Park Proposal of 1935 because of the existence of the snow leases.
1958 Grazing ended in Kosciusko National Park at altitudes above 1,350 metres.
1963 In a successful bid to prevent SMHA from constructing a dam on Spencers Creek, close to the Kosciuszko summit area, Kosciusko Park Trust declares a 25,000 ha primitive area along most of the Main Range. Scientists, bushwalkers and skiers reach a compromise over the area's use: entrance of humans permitted; roads, vehicles, buildings and hydro-electric installations are prohibited.
1969 Kosciusko State Park declared a National Park under the National Parks and Wildlife Act. Grazing ended within Kosciusko National Park.
1974 First Kosciusko National Park Management Plan creates a Jagungal Wilderness zone of approximately 98,000 ha.
1976 The Helman et al. Report identifies Jagungal as one of twenty areas which satisfied its definition of wilderness.
1980 NPWS issues four "Planning Statement Issues" papers. One, concerning alpine huts, advocates removal of 18 huts from Outstanding Natural Areas. One of these, Albina (L36), a skiers hut, had been responsible for lake pollution and erosion. After considerable lobbying by hut enthusiasts only four are now likely to be removed. This leaves a considerable number of huts within the Wilderness Area.
1981 7 June: The Environment and Planning Minister, the Hon Eric Bedford, gazettes 15,764 ha of former travelling stock, camping and water reserves as part of Kosciusko National Park, including a number in the Jagungal Wilderness zone.
1982 Jagungal Wilderness of 66,300 ha declared under Section 59 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

Management Plan changes zoning of Jagungal: approx. 23,000 ha of western section retained as wilderness but rezoned under "Natural Values"; approximately 31,000 ha of southern section removed from wilderness area, but for this part the "Kosciusko Management Unit" is maintained under the "Outstanding Natural Resources" zoning.

The 1982 Plan of Management formally approved the closure to public vehicles of the summit road between Charlotte Pass and Rawsons Pass, with the intent of allowing eventual rehabilitation of the road to a walking track.

This withdrawal of wilderness status may have its origins in 1980 NPWS Planning Issue Statement concerning the "Summit Area" around Mts Kosciusko, Townsend and Twynham which dealt with the area as a tourist venue, not as wilderness.

1986 Wilderness Working Group, appointed by Minister for Planning and Environment, the Hon Bob Carr, release their report, naming Jagungal as one of thirty-six identified wilderness areas in NSW.
1988 September: Victorian National Parks Association publishes the Australian Alps World Heritage Nomination Proposal, which includes the Jagungal Wilderness.
1992 6 March: Jagungal Wilderness declared under Section 8(1a) of Wilderness Act 1987.
1994 May: The Australian Alps Liaison Committee publish an independent report by biogeographer Professor J.B. Kirkpatrick which concluded that there is a strong case that the Australian Alps (including Jagungal Wilderness) would meet all four natural property criteria for World Heritage listing.
1995 March: The Carr Government’s conservation policy commits it to the Australian Alps World Heritage proposal. Given the Kirkpatrick report, the Commonwealth and State Governments have a responsibility to develop a nomination report under the World Heritage Convention and Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment.
1999 21 January: The Colong Foundation submits a nomination under section 7 of the Wilderness Act 1987 for the Jagungal Wilderness. This includes: the existing declared area; the remainder of park formerly zoned as wilderness under the 1974 Plan of Management; and the adjacent freehold lands of wilderness quality.

19 March: The Premier’s Office advises Colong Foundation that it will assess and reserve 13 new wilderness areas and 13 additions, including the Jagungal additions with exhibition by the end of 1999.

31 May: The NPWS release their southern region Wilderness Assessment study areas, which outline possible north-eastern additions to Jagungal totalling 13,000 ha and a Western Fall assessment area of 18,700 ha. The Main Range area of 10,000 ha is not accepted as part of the nomination due to artificial size criteria imposed by the Government, and also, in the view of environment groups, the likely conflict with future resort expansions at Perisher and summer resort use. The NPWS Director General subsequently has a change of heart and agrees to the NPWS examining the wilderness values of the remaining 10,000 ha on the Main Range.

THREATS:

Ski resort development Ski 2000 marked a major change in NPWS policy from limiting the development of overnight accommodation. The Guthega expansion is particularly objectionable. Located high up against the Main Range and in view of many of the higher points of the wilderness area, Guthega should not be further developed.

Such development will place increased pressure on the ecology of the area, including the already stressed water systems. During winter months the ski resorts of Kosciuszko National Park represent the fifth largest urban population in NSW.

The provisions of the National Parks and Wildlife (Leases) Amendment Act 1990 enable the creation of a head lease that can have control over subleases. The legislation distances the NPWS from its role of protecting and preserving the natural values of the area and its ability to control development.

The NSW Ski Association has proposed a 12,000 ha ski resort and recreational park. This would affect the southern section of the Wilderness Area around Leather Barrel Creek, as well as generally increasing development in the current resort area.

The submission to the 1997 Master Plan by Kerry Packer’s majority-owned Perisher Blue company supports the 1,000 additional beds proposed by the NPWS as a "first stage", but makes it clear that it wants 3,500 new beds. Perisher Blue’s (73 per cent controlled by Murray Publishing) vision of the Perisher Valley is an all-seasons, international "mountain destination resort".

Ski resort tenders are ‘unlikely to be fair’ because apartments and commercial premises being proposed by NPWS for the Perisher Valley resort would have to be built on a car park leased to Perisher Blue until 2025. The new Master Plan locates a series of four-storey blocks of luxury apartments and a new ski-village centre on the car park.

The broad range of uses that have nothing to do with national parks or conservation are now associated with alpine resorts to woo summer tourists. These activities include: mountain bike races; rodeos; cinemas; golf courses; and stainless steel bobsled tracks and are needed to prop up the millions of dollars of resort infrastructure in parks that resort owners do not like to keep idle for two-thirds of the year.

A further development associated with the ski resorts is the use of helicopters to access the Main Range for downhill skiing on untracked snow. The rapid expansion of the adventure sports industry could destroy the natural quiet and solitude of the Jagungal Wilderness which is currently enjoyed by cross-country skiers.

Recommendations: Commercial development on such a scale as the ski resorts in the Snowy Mountains is entirely unacceptable within national parks. No further ski development of any kind should be allowed in Kosciuszko National Park.

A head lease over any part of Perisher, Smiggins or Thredbo should not be issued as this would be contrary to the recommendations of the NPWS National Parks Visions for the New Millennium Report.

There should be no further accommodation permitted within the park and all accommodation should be phased out over the next twenty years, being replaced with low cost facilities at Jindabyne, Berridale and Adaminaby.

The proposed 1,400 ha Perisher Range Resort Area (including the link management unit) between Smiggins Holes, Guthega, Perisher and Blue Cow should be abandoned and recently cleared ski slopes should be revegetated.

Removal of water from streams for snow-making and the use of substances such as Snowmax (regarded by the EPA as a pollutant) should be forbidden.

Use of skidoos and other over-snow vehicles for recreational purposes should be banned. Landing of noisy and visually intrusive helicopters in the National Park for snow sports should not be permitted.

The amendment to the Kosciuszko National Park Plan of Management, allowing a broader range of recreation activities in the park should be withdrawn, being totally inappropriate in this fragile subalpine area.

Whites River area Whites River Corridor (including the Dicky Cooper Creek area) is currently being encouraged as an area for the education and use of less experienced cross country ski parties. There are currently five huts located within the area, two of which, Horse Camp and Schlink Hilton, were recommended for closure in 1980. They have subsequently been maintained. Huts in the area are recognised as the major source of environmental degradation in the Corridor with impacts including: visual disruption; rubbish dumping; introduction of faecal pollutants (including salmonella) through drop pits and (at Schlink) flush toilets; vandalism to living trees during collection of firewood; and numerous fire scorched areas in the snow gum woodlands of the Corridor .

Recommendations: Wilderness should be free from structural shelters, and should be used for self-reliant recreational purposes only. The best way to limit the degradation of the area is to remove the huts. Proposals to expand, modernise or rebuild huts in wilderness areas should be rejected.

Schlink (L111) Hut, previously recommended for closure by the NPWS, should be removed immediately and its site rehabilitated. Schlink Hut was identified for potential removal after 1980.

Snowy Mountains Authority Hut, Whites River (L125) should also be removed immediately as it is of no historical or architectural value.

Diane (Orange) Hut (L57), identified for potential removal by the NPWS, should be removed.

Electricity The Snowy Mountains Scheme has resulted in numerous works in and around the Wilderness Area. These include: dams (Geehi and Tooma); aqueducts (related to Geehi River); huts and campsites (numerous) and powerlines.

Dams and the longer aqueducts have reduced the extent of the Wilderness Area.

The major work that degrades the wilderness is the 132 kV power line from Guthega power station to Geehi Dam and the associated Schlink Pass Road. Both of these bisect the southern section of the Wilderness Area.

Recommendations: Power lines are a major obstruction to wilderness appreciation, and their associated management roads encourage off-road vehicle use, weed infestation, feral animals and fire. The current power line should be re-routed upon obsolescence and if feasible placed underground. The associated management should be trail ripped and revegetated with the alternative route avoiding the wilderness and proposed extensions to the wilderness.

The leases for Transgid and the proposed Snowy Hydro Corporation, should cover as small an area of the park as possible, and provide opportunities for removal of inappropriate infrastructure, such as the 132kV Guthega powerline. The Snowy Management Plan that regulates these facilities in the park should be subject to public comment and review. The Plan should: guarantee access rights for park visitors; ensure the leased lands remain in public ownership; prevent further hydro power development in the park; and guarantee that the lease agreements cannot be transferred to third parties so as to avoid environmental responsibilities. In addition to the $0.5 million rental fee, the proposed Corporation’s lease should cover all maintenance and NPWS management costs.

Trails A number of trails traverse the Wilderness Area. These are: Grey Mare Fire Trail (approx. 25 km); Dargals Fire Trail (approx. 20 km); Hell Hole Creek-Round Mountain Fire Trail (approx. 15 km); Valentine River-Schlink Pass Fire Trail (approx. 15 km); Everards Flat Fire Trail (approx. 10 km); Pinnacles Fire Trail (approx. 7 km); Wheelers Hut Fire Trail (approx. 7 km); Waterfall Fire Trail (approx. 2 km). Total: approx. 101 km.

In 1988 the Snowy Mountains Authority upgraded the Dargal Fire Trail with crushed rock for access to its gauging station on the Tooma River. This trail will become a major ingress point for illegal off-road vehicle use.

The environmental impacts of trails on wilderness areas are well known. These include: soil compaction and erosion; rubbish dumping; pig dogging; weed introduction and dissemination by NPWS and other vehicles; assisting feral animal ingress; enabling arsonists to light wildfires in remote areas; and other adverse environmental impacts related to off-road vehicle use and horseriding.

Recommendations: Maintenance of management trails in wilderness areas violates the spirit of the Wilderness Act The existing trails serve little purpose and should be rehabilitated. The wilderness area is currently surrounded by perimeter service trails and these should be adequate for management purposes. The best prescription to avoid fires in wilderness areas is to confine management trails to the edge, to prevent the spread of fire from outside. External management trails also will prevent fires spreading to adjoining areas. Where absolutely necessary, helicopter landing areas could be cleared for fire control. Except for fire trails in perimeter areas, trails constructed during fire fighting operations should be closed and rehabilitated immediately following the operation.

Freehold land The freehold intrusion to the east of the wilderness area, known as the Gungarlin lands, brings grazing uncomfortably close to the wilderness. It may also serve as an access point for illegal grazing, off-road vehicle use and over-snow vehicles.

Recommendations: The NPWS should negotiate acquisition of the area, which should be incorporated into its Jagungal Wilderness Area (M1 Management Unit).

Huts There are 29 structures in the Wilderness Area identified as huts. They range from historic constructions such as Grey Mare L22 (on the recorded list of the National Trust) to cheap tin constructions belonging to the Snowy Mountains Electricity Commission.

Some have been the source of significant sewage pollution such as Schlink L111 and Albina L36.

Huts encourage visitors who do not intend to enjoy wilderness on a self-reliant basis. Several people who have died in storms in the wilderness area have done so in an attempt to locate huts. The NPWS is now considering allowing some huts to be rebuilt and expanded, not necessarily along heritage lines.

Huts lead to: concentrated discharge of sewage into the environment; excessive litter; tree felling for firewood; fire scorches; and soil erosion.

Recommendations: The following huts have been identified by the NPWS and/or are Snowy Mountain Authority huts and should be removed from the Wilderness Area immediately:

L36 Albina (removed, but replaced with a further shelter);

L26 Boltons;

L41 Boobee;

L51 Cootapatamba;

L55 Derschkos;

L57 Diane;

L94 O'Keefes;

L107 Rawsons;

L111 Schlink;

L123 Valentine;

L125 Whites River;

The following huts are contained within the Wilderness Area and should be progressively removed:

L47 Cesjacks;

L79 Linemans 2;

L85 Mackeys;

L87 Mawson;

L93 Ogilvies;

The following huts are contained within the area and should be managed as Historic Ruins and allowed to naturally disintegrate:

L19 Round Mountain;

L20 Wheelers;

L21 Pretty Plain 1;

L22 Grey Mare;

L24 Kidmans;

L25 Tin Hut;

L26 Boltons;

L27 Seamans;

The following huts are currently being managed as ruins and should continue to be so:

L63 Farm Ridge;

L65 Foremans;

L105 Pretty Plain 2;

L106 Pugilistic Creek;

L120 Tolbar.

CONTACT ORGANISATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS

Colong Foundation for Wilderness Ltd
Level 2, 332 Pitt Street
SYDNEY NSW 2000
Contact: Keith Muir (Director) Ph: (w) 02 9261 2400
FAX: 02 9261 2144
e-mail: keith@colongwilderness.org.au

The South East Forest Alliance
C/- National Parks Association
P O Box A96
Contact: Noel Plumb Ph: (wk) 02 9233 4660
FAX: 02 9233 4880
Mob: 0412 975 575
e-mail npansw@bigpond.com

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