Friends of Grasslands
supporting native grassy ecosystems
PO Box 440
Macquarie ACT 2614
The Project Officer
Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Management Plan Review
National Parks and Wildlife Service
PO Box 2228
Jindabyne NSW 2627.
Kosciuszko National Park Draft Wild Horse Management Plan
Friends of Grasslands (FOG) is a community group dedicated to the conservation of threatened natural temperate grassy ecosystems (native grasslands and grassy woodlands) in south-eastern Australia. FOG advocates for the protection and sustainable management of grassy ecosystems, and communicates about them through its newsletter, website, grassland visits and on-ground work. FOG is based in Canberra and its members include interested members of the public, landowners and land managers, and professional scientists from the Southern Tablelands and elsewhere in Australia. FOG has visited the Koscuiszko National Park in the past and is aware of the values of the Park.
While FOG normally confines its activities to the protection, management and restoration of temperate grassy ecosystem communities, it has a strong interest in alpine and sub-alpine grasslands and associated fens, peatlands, swamps and bogs. FOG has made representations to government about the impacts of grazing and other disturbance on fragile alpine plant communities in the past (concerning Victorian alpine areas in 2005 and Bago Plateau in 2007). FOG is also very aware of the detrimental impact that grazing by feral hooved animals can have on native grasslands by selection of more palatable species, over-grazing, soil impaction and disturbance leading to erosion.
FOG notes that the estimated number of wild horses in the park has doubled in the last eight years, and that they are spreading into new areas. We are also aware of significant damage that the wild horse population has already done, particularly in the open areas along and surrounding waterways. If this expansion of the population continues, our fragile alpine ecosystems will be increasingly put at risk, with the inevitable result of loss of species and vegetation communities, and grassy ecosystems will clearly be amongst those most threatened. The wild horse population must be reduced and contained if we are to retain our unique alpine environment for future generations.
FOG’s views on the management plan are as follows:
- Objectives: FOG strongly supports the objectives of the Kosciuszko National Park Draft Wild Horse Management Plan, in particular “to reduce the impacts of wild horses on the natural and cultural heritage values of Kosciuszko National Park by reducing the overall population of wild horses using a range of cost-effective and humane control measures”.
- Strategies: FOG also supports the strategies proposed to achieve these objectives. In particular we support the strategies relating to reduction in wild horse numbers to about 600 in the long term, prevention of incursions into the central region, and reduction of two-way movement and spread between the park and neighbouring private properties. FOG also sees as very important the strategy to design and implement a wild horse survey methodology that quantifies the environmental damage caused by wild horses.
- Control methods: Reduction of the wild horse population must be undertaken in a humane way. While FOG has no experience with control methods, it unquestionably supports the highest levels of animal welfare. In this regard we support the strategy to facilitate continued research in this area.
- Management regions and management zone types: The division of the area into three management regions based on the density of wild horses appears a suitable approach to addressing the management issues, as does use of the biosecurity model to divide these into five wild horse management zone types, each with specific objectives and strategies.
As an example of how important we consider this Plan, FOG has a major interest in sustainable management of the vegetation condition along the Bundian Way, notably those communities with major grass and forb components such as the alpine yamfields. FOG notes that the path of this Way is in the Southern Region, mainly in the Zone designated Containment and Population Reduction. FOG realises that selectively managing a long trail through such a zone is quite difficult so would argue for consideration of protection by excluding feral grazers and uprooters from selected patches of the highest vegetation values. This approach would of course exclude not only horses but also deer and pigs.
In conclusion, to protect our fragile alpine vegetation communities, FOG strongly supports the Kosciuszko National Park Draft Wild Horse Management Plan.
27 July 2016