No to Mountain Biking in Mt Canobolas SCA

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Balanced view sees no room for bikes on Mount Canobolas

Read the article on Central Western Daily

Dr Col Bower and Dr Murray Fletcher                                           

STILL UP IN THE AIR: Debate continues to rage over the merits of a mountain bike proposal for Mount Canobolas.

Good balance is needed to ride a bicycle. But what about the calls for balance in the mountain-bike-versus-conservation debate on Mount Canobolas?

The proponents claim that mountain biking and nature conservation can co-exist harmoniously, even though a great deal of evidence proves otherwise.

It seems to us that balance is only invoked when someone is trying to intrude into areas that haven’t been available previously. It is applied to environmental issues on a very regular basis to justify whittling away protections.

Let’s look at the balance here. On the one hand, the Mount Canobolas State Conservation Area (SCA) is the only conservation reserve on the Canobolas Volcanic Complex.

At 1672 hectares it is very small and represents only about 3 percent of the volcanic soils resulting from the Mount Canobolas eruptions of 12 million years ago.

The reserve is a tiny island of near-pristine bushland in a heavily-cleared landscape. It is the last refuge for a diverse array of rare and threatened plants and animals. Crucially, this biodiversity no longer survives in the surrounding pine forests and cleared lands.

Because of the small size of the SCA, the populations of threatened species within it, in many cases, are also very small and highly vulnerable to extinction. Consequently, any disturbance that damages or reduces the area of available habitat increases the extinction risk.

So what is the balance here? The survival of Mount Canobolas’ biodiversity depends entirely on the SCA and it is already vulnerable to extinction, even without the added pressure of habitat loss and degradation caused by 63 kilometres of new tracks, ancillary facilities and spectator trampling.

Conversely, mountain biking can occur in many places where the threatened biodiversity has long ago disappeared.

In reality, mountain biking and nature conservation do not work harmoniously together: the former inevitably reduces the viability of the latter. There is no synergy, no harmony. Mountain biking is simply an added threat to biodiversity; it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

In our view, mountain biking in the Mount Canobolas SCA is incompatible with the primary function of the reserve – nature conservation – and would result in a loss of habitat the SCA cannot afford.

It is obvious that the Orange district is already a mecca for mountain biking without threatening any biodiversity.

In other words, the situation which we have now is already well balanced and should satisfy the conservation requirements of the SCA and the recreational needs of the public.

Dr Col Bower and Dr Murray Fletcher

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