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February 10, 2011

A claim by the Greens that returning cattle to graze in the high country is damaging the environment has been rejected by The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester.

Melbourne Greens MP Adam Bandt has claimed that “cattle grazing will endanger a number of threatened species, wreck vegetation and pollute creeks” but has ignored the environmental devastation caused by severe bushfires.

“This is typical of the Greens, lecturing country people on how to live their lives, with little practical understanding of life in regional areas,” Mr Chester said.

“I support the trial of strategic cattle grazing as one of the tools the State Government can use to reduce the bushfire risk in the High Country. Reducing the fuel load will help to reduce the severity of future fires.

“In the past, the Greens have opposed fuel reduction burning and their extreme ideology has added to the severity of bushfires across Victoria.”

Four hundred cattle were reintroduced over 25,600 hectares of the Alpine National Park in January as part of an independent scientific research program initiated by the Victorian Coalition as part of its election commitments.

Mr Bandt indicated that he will introduce a Private Members’ Bill to Federal Parliament if the Federal Agriculture Minister does not take action to remove the cattle under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

Mr Chester said the push to remove the cattle from the high country was another case of inner city Greens ignoring the views of people in rural and regional areas.

“The Coalition received a clear mandate from the voters of Victoria, and Gippsland in particular, to return cattle to the High Country,” Mr Chester said.

“The trial to assess the impact of cattle grazing on reducing fire intensity deserves support, particularly in the wake of the Black Saturday bushfires. We need to do everything we can to actively manage our national parks rather than adopt the ‘lock it up and leave it’ model supported by the Greens.”

State Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull said the Greens don’t understand the important role that mountain cattlemen have historically played in Victoria’s high country.

“In the lead up to the State Election the Victorian Coalition made a commitment to use strategic cattle grazing to investigate the practice as a way of reducing bushfire fuel loads,” Mr Bull said.

“The research sites chosen were carefully selected to avoid significant environmental impact and the mountain cattlemen who have been icons of the Victorian High Country for over 160 years have always shown an appreciation and broad understanding of this unique environment.

“I am supporting the current trial underway and believe that we must continue to research bushfire mitigation measures to make informed decisions on managing public land and reducing the risk of bushfires to communities.”

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