A LIGHTLY EDITED VERSION OF THE FOLLOWING PRESS RELEASE APPEARED AS THE ‘EARTH FIRST’ COLUMN IN THE CENTRAL WESTERN DAILY ON 9 AUGUST 2019.
The visit to Mt Canobolas last week by the new State Minister for Energy and Environment, Matt Kean, provided no clues as to the future of the mountain biking proposal being vigorously touted by Orange Mayor, Reg Kidd, and the Member for Orange, Phil Donato.
Rather, it was clear from the report in the Central Western Daily (2/08/2019) that the Minister simply wanted to see the iconic mountain for himself before making a decision on its future.
He was careful not to give any hints about what the decision might be, stating that he wanted to ensure the right balance was struck in the new Mount Canobolas Plan of Management.
Local conservationists are rightly concerned they were not invited to meet with the Minister.
However, Mr Kean stated that conservation areas provide important protections for biodiversity and threatened plant species and that the mountain is ecologically and culturally valuable.
As a biologist and lifelong conservationist, I applaud the Minister’s approach, both for his wanting to see the area personally and in expressing the importance of its natural and cultural values.
His actions indicate the Government is not taking the decision lightly and is keenly aware of its responsibility for protection of the mountain’s key environmental and cultural heritage.
This is evidently not an easy decision for the Government, which has been mulling this issue for nearly three years.
The scientific data show the Mount Canobolas State Conservation Area (SCA) is unique and easily the most important biodiversity conservation reserve in the region with 10 species and one ecological community not found anywhere else on the planet.
There is no doubt the proposal for 63 km of mountain bike tracks in a network of ten circuits would irrevocably damage the natural, cultural and amenity values the Minister is trying to protect.
The proponents of this proposal contend the SCA is essential for establishing a viable mountain biking industry in the Orange region.
This is plainly refuted by the fact that mountain biking already has a significant presence in Orange and is growing organically.
In addition, viable alternatives to the SCA abound in local State Forests that could be used without destroying native vegetation and wildlife habitat.
I urge Minister Kean to exclude mountain biking from the new Plan of Management to ensure that the natural and cultural values of our iconic mountain are not compromised.