Today we began looking at the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area (BMWHA) and the multiple threats and participants involved in the management of this system. In particular I thought it was surprising that the BMWHA had no entry fee or donation boxes, I know that as a visitor to parks in other countries such as India and Thailand, I was always happy to pay an entry fee that contributed to the management and upkeep of the park and it seems surprising that this has not been implemented here. We did discuss a small environmental levy that has been implemented by Blue Mountains City Council, however this only applies to the approximate 80,000 residents, whereas the several million tourists have no obligation to pay a fee. This seems to be counterintuitive to the objectives of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) as they could use the funding to help support management activities in the BMWHA.
We explored the various threats faced by the Blue Mountains area from introduced pest species, to human related activities such as development, mining, tourism and the various management strategies used to combat these, from the development of viruses to kill feral cats and rabbits or the shooting of pigs and horses. It was interesting to note the idea of the ‘vocal few’ having such an impact on these activities to the point that the NPWS no longer carry out shooting culls of pest animals and now have to look towards other more expensive solutions to capturing these pests. In addition to these there is also the problem of incorrect assumptions such as farmers associating dingoes with the killing of livestock rather than feral dogs. Yet on the other hand, areas that have dingoes also see a reduction in the population of feral cats and foxes.
I thought here that the concept of the ‘common interest’ versus the ‘public interest’ was particularly interesting as it is clear from many documentaries, reports and media sources how pest species can have such a huge detrimental impact upon the environment and yet an organisation such as NPWS can be effectively held hostage by common interests that act against the public interest, particularly with the BMWHA being described as the heart and lungs of Sydney. Education seems to be one of the major tools in managing the BMWHA, yet I know from personal experience in my own work that educating people and having them come to accept a different viewpoint can be a time consuming process. Whilst it is important that we do have a common goal, getting all members of society to accept environmental protection as a common goal will be a fundamental challenge for our society.
We also discussed the issue of fire risk in the blue mountains and how this is an integral part of the Australian ecosystem as many species rely on this to regenerate and reproduce. At the same time, we have chosen to encroach and build in areas where bushfire is a risk and now need to have active bushfire management programs in place. We looked at the idea of cultural burning by Aboriginal communities across Australia prior to European settlement and the mosaic approach with low intensity fires, allowing animals an opportunity to escape and areas of land an opportunity to regenerate. I personally thought it was surprising that this would have happened in the blue mountains given the inaccessibility of the terrain. It was brought up in class that in order to undertake cultural burning in the mountains would have left Sydney in a perpetual haze as the fires would have occurred throughout most of the year.