Here are the data! Sort of…

Despite the failure to find data as part of an FOI request, which was the topic of my last post and an article in The Conversation, it seems there were some data collected during the alpine cattle grazing earlier in the year. A report that was recently released on DSE’s website notes that evidence of grazing by cattle and other species at the six grazing sites was collected by the consulting company URS. Reading the report reveals a seemingly rushed attempt to collect information about where the cattle were grazing prior to the onset of winter. Perhaps the strangest aspect of this is that the data on the location of cattle were collected about a month after the cattle had been removed. If this were a well-planned scientific study, why not collect data on the location of cattle while they were actually present?

The length of the report (175 pages) seems longer than necessary for the value of the content. The report concluded that evidence of the presence of cattle is most obvious near water and in areas of palatable grass. Cattle tended to avoid steep country. And the movement of cattle could be constrained by fencing. None of that is surprising. And it is hard to see how this information would actually influence the design of a proper scientific study.

How would one decide how to design the proposed grazing trial? And how could a pilot study actually inform that design? That will be the topic of a future post.

Edit: By the way, there is a good article by Josh Gordon about the report and the grazing saga in The Age. It is well worth reading.

Update: The federal government is planning to introduce regulations that require federal approval for the introduction of cattle to the national park.

Some more: A straight-talking editorial from The Age (go to the second piece). Further, it seems that the Federal government’s new regulations mean that the Federal Environment Minister can prohibit actions in alpine national parks that impact on national heritage values of the park, not just listed species and communities. This gives the minster much greater scope to stop any future cattle grazing in the park.

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About Michael McCarthy

I conduct research on environmental decision making and quantitative ecology. My teaching is mainly at post-grad level at The University of Melbourne.
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