Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Minister Parker’s wilderness blunder

“Horse riding in declared wilderness areas is illegal and the only thing sustainable# about it is the degradation it causes to these pristine areas,” said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“Under an old (2006) Memorandum of Understanding between horse riders and the NSW Liberal Party and the NSW Nationals, horse riding is being allowed into protected wilderness.  This is a kick in the guts for the five wilderness areas affected, which will now become degraded by weeds and soil erosion,” he said.

The Colong Foundation is examining all options to protect wilderness in the face of this decision, which comes on top of the NSW Government’s decision to allow hunting in national parks earlier this year”, Mr Muir said.

“Minister Parker has either forgotten or chosen to ignore that wilderness describes a specific approach to conservation land management, with the governing intent being to minimize disturbance of an area,” Mr Muir said.

“Under the Wilderness Act, 1987, wilderness must be managed so as to restore and protect the unmodified state of the area and its plants and animal communities. Wilderness also must preserve the capacity of the area to evolve in the absence of significant human interference.

In 1999, the National Parks and Wildlife Service considered horse riding incompatible with the above principles and that it did not fulfil the definition of appropriate self-reliant recreation rule set out under the Act.  The Service said ‘Horse riding is not regarded as self-reliant because the means of travel is not powered by the person and is regarded as inappropriate because it is not undertaken within any formal wilderness areas in Australia and the impacts generally degrade wilderness areas’.

“In the face of law and evidence, it is deeply disturbing that Minister Parker has allowed horse riding in these pristine areas”, said Mr Muir.  “This announcement goes way beyond a trial exercise in ONE area, as proposed in the draft strategy, with FIVE wilderness areas now to be impacted by this decision.  It is an incompetent decision”, he added.

“Minister Parker, as our Environment Minister, should not seek to redefine wilderness recreation to include a high impact use, horse riding, as an appropriate ‘self-reliant’ activity. Horse riding increases rates and risks of weed introduction and spread.  It also accelerates soil erosion and causes siltation of water courses.  It will be an inappropriate and environmentally damaging misuse of these remote and rare areas,” Mr Muir said.

For more information contact: Keith Muir, (02) 9261 2400 (wk) or 0412 791 404 (mob)

#Minister Robyn Parker MP, Media Release 7/11/2012, “Horse Riding makes for sustainable [sic] recreation in NSW National Parks”