Impacts of Grazing

As part of the concerted push to open up national parks for exploitation, commercial grazing of public lands is being strongly promoted. In 2012 the NSW Government approved a “scientifically monitored” grazing “study” in river red gum and cypress parks and reserves. As part of the push for a “nil-tenure” approach to public lands, which ultimately intends to remove national park boundaries, the intent of some is to expand grazing throughout public lands.

The grazing industry has a variety of obvious affects on native ecosystems through clearing of vegetation, competition with native herbivores for the best feed, construction of fences which impede native species, control of native predators (including through indiscriminate baiting programs), use of herbicides, use of fertilisers, construction of artificial watering points, and the introduction of exotic plant species for feed.

Livestock also have significant direct impacts on native ecosystems and water bodies (see Impacts of Grazing). The principal environmental impacts of livestock have been found to be:

  • changing the structure and species composition of ground cover and understorey vegetation;

  • promoting the invasion of exotic plant species;

  • reducing regeneration of overstorey trees and increasing the mortality of remaining trees;

  • causing reductions in populations of a broad range of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates through habitat degradation;

  • compacting, degrading and baring soils;

  • increasing runoff and erosion, and the transportation of sediments and nutrients (i.e. N and P) into streams from soils and excrement;

  • destabilising and eroding stream banks, and changing the morphology and flow regimes of streams;

  • significantly impacting on water quality and stream biota by increasing turbidity and nutrients; and

  • affecting human health through the depositing of feces and urine in and near streams which can cause contamination by a range of viruses, bacteria and parasitic protozoa.

Over the past 16 years the Forestry Corporation have failed to comply with their legal obligations to assess and constrain grazing impacts or to exclude grazing from informal reserves, Endangered Ecological Communities, and exclusion zones for oldgrowth, rainforest, wetlands, and threatened plants, animals and ecosystems. Rather than enforcing legal requirements, the Environment Protection Authority now wants to remove all regulation. In light of the failed regulation, the environmental costs of allowing grazing on public lands far exceed the marginal returns.

It is apparent that to maintain biodiversity, ecosystems and natural processes, the first requirement is to exclude livestock grazing from native vegetation on public lands.

Impacts of Grazing

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