Parks Beyond Borders: “Recreational Shooting” Comes To National Parks In Oz; Canadian Rep Rejects Park Cuts

Moonrise Riding MountainRiding Mountain Interpretation

The sun may have set on flush park budgets but the winter moonrise over Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba has park proponents seeking ways to keep snow sports facilities open. Closure of the visitor centre this coming winter may eliminate interpretive programs but at least one local representative is saying "scat!" to austerity with suggestions that volunteers get involved. Photos courtesy Parks Canada.

Feral Animal Problem Brings Hunting Policy

The Premier of the Australian State of New South Wales announced on May 30th that “volunteer pest control,” or the hunting of feral animals, would be permitted in 79 of the State’s 799 national parks, nature reserves and state conservation areas, thanks to “amendments to the Game and Feral Animal Control Act 2002.”

In a June 3rd article by Rachel Browne in the Australian newspaper the Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s Environment Minister Tony Burke said that the result of Premier Barry O’Farrell’s decision is that “there a risk to the environment, there is a risk to people and a fundamental change to the enjoyment of national parks.”

Burke was recently able to countervail a proposal to allow cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park in the state of Victoria, based on the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. But in this case, he said he likely would not be able to counter O’Farrell’s action in NSW.

''On preliminary advice, it's unlikely that my federal powers will end up being made available on this particular decision,'' he said in the paper’s interview. The article also said the NSW government's proposal was “part of a deal with the Shooters and Fishers Party to ensure passage of its electricity privatisation bill.”

In a news release on O’Farrell’s web site, he cited a variety of stipulations. The “State’s program of feral animal control in national parks will be extended to allow licensed shooters to cull pests including pigs, dogs, cats and goats in a limited number of areas under strict conditions.” The new policy announcement said, the hunting will “will not be permitted in or near metropolitan areas, or in any wilderness area or world heritage area including Blue Mountains National Park,” the latter one of Australia’s renowned natural areas near Sydney popular locals and visitors from around the world.

The rules would dictate that “anyone applying to cull in one of the designated areas would require written permission, have to be licensed by the Game Council, have undertaken adequate training, and comply with the access conditions established by the Minister for the Environment.” In a nod at the federal interest in the issue, O’Farrell said “the Minister for the Environment would have ultimate control over where, when and how volunteer pest shooting took place.”

O’Farrell couched the move as an extension of current policy, saying, “Culling of feral animals in our national parks, including the Royal National Park, occurs already. At least 24,000 feral pigs, dogs, goats, foxes, cats, rabbits and deer were destroyed in national parks in 2010-11.”

“This is a logical extension of an existing policy,” O’Farrell’s statement said, “a sensible measure to remove these pests which damage habitat, kill native animals, kill stock, rob stock of feed and damage crops across the State.”

In Browne’s article that was published in other outlets, Environment Minister Burke countered citing what he suggested was some kind of money saving strategy gone awry, and that “feral animal control should be left to eradication experts. ‘The O'Farrell government is taking feral animal control away from the professionals,’ Burke said. ‘If you take it away from professionals, there is an advantage to government in that they don't have to pay for it any more.’”

Burke ultimately worries about the national park experience if the policy takes hold. The Age article quoted Burke—''I worry deeply about how long it will be before we see threats to native species and to people in our national parks. The whole experience of a national park, where families go for their picnics and you have the wonderful sense of relaxing with nature, isn't quite the same if you have gunfire going off in the background."

"It's not quite the same if you go on a bushwalk to hear the sounds of wildlife, you don't quite expect to hear .32s going off in the background.''

Burke said the move created a “fundamental change to the enjoyment of national parks.''

In the Northern Star newspaper, an article said a liberal representative who had been “obligated to vote with the government in a hung Legislative Council, “ to approve the decision to allow hunting has nevertheless “called on the State Government to remove North Coast national parks from a list which allows amateur shooters to hunt for feral animals in previously protected reserves”. MLC Catherine Cusack had criticized the measure, but voted for it, then said the policy “could still work without the inclusion of the Nightcap, Richmond Ranges and Dorrigo near Coffs Harbour.”

Meanwhile, in Queensland, the Courier Mail newspaper was tempting Australians to national parks in South Africa's Northern Cape, “a vast, sparsely populated region that rarely makes it on to travellers' itineraries ... and is home to numerous natural wonders including the stunning red sand Kalahari desert, one of Africa's largest national parks, and the mighty Orange River.”

Canadian Representative Rejects Service Cuts at Manitoba Park

In Canada, where nearly $30 million in cuts to Parks Canada’s budget has caused significant cuts in services and hours at parks and facilities, an article in the Winnipeg Free Press said the newspaper’s former outdoor columnist, who is also Conservative MP, has come out against winter facilities closures at Manitoba’s Riding Mountain National Park.

Robert Sopuck, who represents Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette and the Riding Mountain area, said he was listening to the hue and cry from constituents opposing the elimination of grooming on the Park’s extensive cross country ski trail network, ice rink, and and ice skating trail. Locals have decried the upcoming planned service reductions during winter 2012-13 saying the Park is the primary driver of critical winter tourism. The Winnipeg Free Press piece said, “three hotels in the Wasagaming-Onanole area alone remain open to cater to off-season traffic.”

The article quoted Sopuck as saying, "I have discussed the issue with key Parks Canada personnel and I have been in regular contact with the (Heritage) minister's office to let them know how important the ski trails and skating rink are to the local communities and tourism business. I have let them all know that we need to find a way to keep the trails and rink operational."

Sopuck pointed out that the solution might have to be that park staff and volunteers work together to keep the winter recreation opportunities functioning. Sopuck invited interested constituents to get in touch with his office.

Comments

The cutting of park personel makes no difference as trails have never been maintained. They are single track and in horrible shape. The same refers to horse back trails. Users are charged only to face trees that have broken and blocked the trails for years.

Riding Mountain National Park does not maintain any trails with or without funding cuts.

As for constituents calling this politician's office, good luck with that one. The man does not truly exist. He is a figment of renaissance imagination.