Russell Thomas – MEM Course Day 2

The Blue Mountains World Heritage area is unique – declared a world heritage area due to the large number (>100) species of eucalypt found in the area.  However, there are a number of threats to the park, including:

  • Bush‑fires
  • Over development (there is a city of 80,000 people right in the middle of the park)
  • Large numbers of visitors (Sydney – Australia’s largest city – is only an hour or two away, depending on your attitude to speed limits.
  • Other uses, such as mining, logging, and farming on the periphery of the park.
  • Feral animals, and some highly emotive views regarding them.
  • Many others – you could sit here all night and think of threats.

Wyn Jones displaying an alternate world heritage logo, celebrating the diversity of the number of Eucalypts in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area

Figure 1 – Wyn Jones displaying an alternate world heritage logo, celebrating the diversity of the number of Eucalypts in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area

The key to managing the park appears to be understanding the entire eco‑system.  Given that it is complicated, large, and bordering on impractical to completely understand, the role of adaptive management (refer to my Day 1 blog) appears to present the best chance of managing the eco‑system.  As an example, the role of dingoes and wild‑dogs (which are different beasts) is a great case study.  Dingoes are an apex predator – they control feral foxes and cats, which can then allow the smaller Australian marsupials on which foxes and cats feed to thrive – these marsupials have evolved to be small to survive in a tough climate, which makes them easy hunting for foxes and cats, but these same marsupials have evolved alongside the dingo, and can co‑exist.  This is obviously a mass simplification, but the potential of using the eco‑system to manage itself is clear and very exciting – the challenge is obviously allowing the eco‑system to find its natural state, in the face of all the threats to it.

In my opinion, the key is a strong public engagement.  A number of the issues are caused by the impact of a little over 200 years of European invasion, but this also means that a number of the threats are within our control.  The range of stakeholders in the park is large, almost mind‑boggling – ranging from local residents, visitors, introduced plants and animals, developers, all levels of government and various agencies (some of which are in direct conflict), and local business to name but a few.  All come from a different understanding of the issue, and the problem, and all have different wants.  The key to solving the issue really does appear to be finding a way to engage all sectors and to come to an agreement of what the “common good” is.  I think that the common good for the group of stakeholders is as broad as wanting a world we can live in, in the near term future – beyond that, it is doubtful that consensus can be gained.  As such, I believe this is the direction from which we need to engage with all parties – but if it was that easy, then it would have been done already…

Russell Thomas


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