Parks Beyond Borders: "Amateur Shooters" To Take Aim In Oz Parks, Big Cats Killed Near Kenya's Nairobi NP, Power Lines To Mar UK Park Vistas?

Snowdon Wales in Snowdonia National Park

Could powerlines and transmission towers be visible from the summits of Snowdon in Wales' Snowdonia National Park? Some worry that wind power may be going too far if that scenario comes true.

Hunting Set for NSW National Parks in Australia

After acrimonious, alarmist back and forth from all political quarters, a bill was passed last Friday in the State Parliament of New South Wales, Australia to permit hunting in national parks. In the local jargon of the debate, ABC News Australia says “amateur hunters will now be allowed to shoot” in 79 national parks, nature reserves and conservation areas as a pest management strategy to eradicate non-native species.

The news service quoted MP Robert Brown of the Shooters and Fishers party saying that the practice of using amateur volunteers to “cull feral animals” had been successful in state forests and would work in national parks.

"This is an extremely safe way of doing it. In fact, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of animals have been taken in state forests now since 2002," said Brown said. "The use of volunteers is something we use in the SES and Rural Fire Service and when we want to run an Olympic Games we use volunteers. The same system's been proven from a feral animal point of view and there's no reason why it shouldn't be run out in national parks."

Katrina Hodgkinson, Primary Industries Minister, put a pro-environment spin on the new practice. She said, "These amendments will improve our capacity to manage pest species, provide greater scope for native flora and fauna protection and improve species diversity, while broadening opportunities for stakeholder experiences within a sound regulatory framework."

In another article,written by Lisa Herbert, ABC said, “The NSW Government agreed to the changes to the Game and Feral Animal Control Act in return for the Shooters Party's vote to sell-off of the state's power assets.”

The pre-vote debate was so divisive said The Weekly Times, that at one point “Shooters Party's Robert Brown said it was ‘unfortunate’ he couldn't beat the upper house Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham to death.”

Brown had threatened Buckingham during debate with the Greens. Brown, who later apologized, had said, "Unfortunately we're in a modern era so I can't take you outside and beat you to death."

The Weekly Times site said, “Former Labor premier Kristina Keneally described the laws as ‘a dirty political deal and stupid policy’, with the sole aim of garnering Shooters Party support for the government's power privatisation.”

Some opposing the new law are accusing Premier Barry O’Farrell of having said he would not permit hunting in the parks and now breaking that promise. "We are here in the lower house debating about amateur shooters to roam our national parks with loaded guns,” Kristina Keneally said, “because Barry O'Farrell can't get his electricity sale through the parliament in any other way."

Greens and other park proponents essentially charge that the sanctity of national parks are being violated to expand conservative support for right wing economic strategy growing out of a down global economy.

Big Cats in Big Trouble In Kenya

A spate of livestock killings by lions and leopards on the outskirts of Nairobi National Park near Kenya’s capital has locals worried about their livelihoods and park and wildlife proponents fearing for the fate of wild animals.

Nairobi National Park is the world’s only such wildlife preserve in a world capital. In the last twenty years, scattered population centers near the capital have grown dramatically due to the expanding appeal of the nearby urban area.

The topic made global news last week when six lions were killed by Maasai tribesmen after the animals killed eight goats (valued at $60 a piece according to an Associated Press story in The Washington Post).

Some parts of the park are fenced, but where the reserve is not cordoned off the big cats follow migrating wildlife and end up deciding that goats, and in one recent case, a donkey, make perfectly adequate meals.

In last week’s incident, the Maasai called the Wildlife service, but when rangers arrived with no means to tranquilize and transport the offending lions, the Maasai dispatched the animals with spears.

An article in The Star, a large Kenyan newspaper, said, “Meanwhile, the Africa Network for Animal Welfare has called for the fencing of the Nairobi National Park to avert the escalating human-wildlife conflict. ‘We condemn in the strongest terms possible what took place in Kitengela. But at the same time, we know that Kitengela has been one of the hotspots of human-wildlife conflict and that to put an end to this, it is imperative that the Nairobi National Park be fenced off immediately,’ said Josphat Ngonyo, the organisation's executive director.”

Ngonyo called for quick action, asking, “‘does it pay to continue talking when the lion is on the brink of extinction?’ He said as one of the ‘Big Five’, the lion is an important attraction to the tourists who visit the country’s parks. It is estimated that close to 100 lions are killed in Kenya annually with experts saying only about 2,000 of them are surviving.’”

The Kenya Parliament is considering reinstating a policy of compensating herders for deaths caused by wildlife. The policy was discontinued due to abuse in the late 1980s and some suggest that kind of compensation may earn the animals more consideration.

Meanwhile the Kenya Wildlife Service was asking for the public to stop killing the animals. The Associated Press article said the agency’s Facebook page asked, “Do animals invade human space, or do humans invade animal space? How can we find tolerance for our wild neighbors? And how can we humanely remove them when they get a bit too close?”

Those are questions Kenyans need to answer quickly if the tourism appeal—and wildlife value—of their “capital” nature preserve is to endure.

Wind Power Generating Hot Air Over Parks in Britain

Amidst a larger debate over the cost of building and subsidizing wind power in the United Kingdom, some people fear that power lines will mar national park vistas as the remote wind farms are connected to population centers.

An article published yesterday by Andrew Gilligan in The Telegraph said, “Documents published online by the Government and National Grid show plans for 160 foot pylons cutting across Snowdonia, mid-Wales, the Lake District and other unspoilt countryside. Each pylon will be the height of a 15-storey tower block.”

In two little publicized reports evaluated by the news outlet, potential park impacts appear to center on a link “through Snowdonia National Park, running from Dinorwig on the Menai Strait to Ffestiniog. The documents specify only that it will be in a 10-mile wide corridor, but any route in that corridor would be within sight of Snowdon.”

Another crosses “the Pennines to Bradford, taking power lines from new Irish Sea wind farms either through the Yorkshire Dales or Forest of Bowland, an area of outstanding natural beauty.”

Another very sensitive proposed spot for the lines crosses 160 miles of Scotland “through the heart of the Highlands from Beauly, near Inverness, to Denny, south of Stirling, dominating several 'Munros' (Scottish peaks more than 3,000 feet high), destroying a tourist vista of Stirling Castle and overshadowing the battle site at Bannockburn.’

The article said the powerline plans and growing subsidies are reducing support for wind power in some parts of the UK. One person quoted said the coinciding topics are a “perfect storm, uniting people who were against wind farms with people who were against pylons (transmission towers), who hadn’t particularly been allies before.”