Protected Area Management 6-day course

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This 6-day intensive course introduces university students to the complex and interdisciplinary nature of protected area management. The course is delivered through the University of New South Wales in Sydney in partnership with the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute.

Students visit the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area (just inland of Sydney) to learn about nature conservation and to meet with a diverse range of stakeholders to explore the social process of what is taking place in managing protected areas, to unearth and understand the multitude of values, alliances, differences, tensions and opportunities.

The course includes interpretive forest walks and meetings with the local Indigenous community, National Parks agency, tourism businesses, and the fire management agency.

The course offers a hands-on practical approach, so that students learn how “issues with competing stakeholders, politics, funding and limited resources all play a pivotal role in management” (course participant).

Student comments:

During the course I felt a shift not only in my thinking but also in my identification with the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. In fact I now feel connected and responsible for its future. There should be more courses like this, which can begin to change the paradigm and remind us of our intrinsic ‘love of nature’. The course forces you to think about what we value as important in the world around us.

If students/people can make a genuine real life sensory connection with what they are ‘fighting’ for, then their level of commitment to the ’cause’ is often proven to be stronger.

The course allows you to face the realities and the nitty-gritties of daily management challenges, especially for large and complex protected ecosystems. You don’t get that kind of learning sitting in a classroom. It also gives students the chance to talk to experts in the field (literally) and such an opportunity in university life is rare.

A fully immersive learning experience, illustrating the importance of the varied stakeholder and interest groups associated with landscape-scale conservation. It covers a range of management issues, with ample opportunity for discussion with stakeholders and with other participants.

This course is held annually for students from a range of disciplines, many with no prior experience of environmental science or management, and is being adapted by the BMWHI in partnership with the Protected Areas Learning & Research Collaboration for offering in a non-academic context for anyone interested in, or working in relation to, protected areas.

Please contact: Rosalie Chapple r.chapple@bmwhi.org.au if you are interested in the new course to be offered in September 2018 (dates tbc).

University course flier: https://hal.arts.unsw.edu.au/media/HALFile/IEST5008_Ecosystem_Management.pdf

Local galleries support arts and the environment

Profile: Low Carbon Living members Gallery ONE88 Fine Arts Katoomba and Leura Fine Woodwork Gallery. 

Leura Fine Woodwork Gallery

Leura Fine Woodwork Gallery

Gallery ONE88

Gallery ONE88

Gallery ONE88 Fine Arts in Katoomba began as a pipedream for Sharon and Victor Peralta. It became a reality ten years later, in November 2015.

The concept was simple: to support and encourage established and emerging artists by providing an accessible exhibition space, providing positive experiences for creators, investors and admirers, and offering low commission rates.

The gallery houses numerous exhibition spaces on three floors. The building’s main advantage is its expansive west-facing double frontage, allowing ample natural light to flood the space and highlight the works on display. Pedestrians can preview the space from the street. The gallery is welcoming and inviting and its vast windows allow flexibility in how works are showcased.

“Because we have such a huge expanse of space, it allows us to hang works differently,” Sharon says. “There are paintings on the ceiling, coffee tables on the wall, hanging nests and canvases displayed in every corner from the basement to the rooftop.”

Sharon and Victor invested in standard LED lighting and are now upgrading to the newest LED lighting systems, specifically designed for gallery exhibitions and further reducing the gallery’s carbon footprint.

Paper waste is recycled or reused as drawing paper for young visitors and general waste is minimised as much as possible. Residual glass has been used by an artist to recreate four glass sculptures currently exhibited in the gallery window. Organic waste is composted at home.

The gallery also provides ‘boomerang bags’ for customers, and offers MTNS Made bags for sale. Bubble wrap use is minimised with art buyers encouraged to return packaging for reuse to avoid adding to landfill.

Gallery functions are catered with non-disposable cups, glassware and cutlery, and the Peraltas source food from local suppliers to prepare onsite (managing a family of nine has enabled the Peraltas to streamline food production without waste).

Because the building is leased, the Peraltas need owner’s approval to install a solar panel system. For Sharon: “It is all about being flexible. Reassessing where you are is important to keeping on top of new technologies and improving the service you provide to the public.” Gallery 188 is a Silver rated Low Carbon Living Program member.

Sharon is aware there is a decisive shift in the way artists are addressing the impacts of climate change. She says artists are becoming more creative with recycled materials and merging traditional techniques with new ones.

Leura Fine Woodwork Gallery has carved itself a niche in the heart of Leura Mall amongst specialised retailers, cafés and restaurants.

Leura’s shopping centre boasts a picturesque setting with four distinct seasons. This encourages visitors and locals to take their time and enjoy the near-extinct pastime known as ‘browsing’.

Judith Langley and Neil Williams bought Fine Woodwork Gallery in 2001. It was an established business showcasing high quality handcrafted, made-to-last wooden pieces that directly challenge our throwaway society.

As a former cabinet-maker, Neil Williams immediately saw the gallery’s potential to support and promote artists who give up their day job and devote their lives to creating distinctive works of art that would pass from one generation to the next.

Master clockmakers, innovative furniture designers, sculptors, carvers and fine woodcrafters are represented with unique works in the finest of Australian timbers. Few other galleries offer such a diverse range of craftsmanship and Neil is proud of his gallery’s reputation.

“When Judith and I began in the retail business we knew nothing about how to be retailers. Since then I’ve learned that good quality products, well-represented at reasonable prices and with friendly assistance are key elements that foster a successful business,” Neil enthuses.

Nurturing a sustainable business has its own challenges. Judith and Neil don’t own the building so they are limited in the modifications they can make. In 2001, Neil began replacing high wattage light bulbs with more energy- and cost-efficient ones. Now, all 30 light globes are 5watt LEDs. Recycled paper, cardboard and bubble wrap is used to transport items, and Neil manages two trips a month to the recycling centre in Katoomba. Low carbon initiatives in the future may include an investment in solar panels and a battery system already implemented at home.

Surprisingly, the gallery does not advertise in social or traditional media. It relies on the curiosity of pedestrians strolling along Leura Mall. Judith and Neil rely on the visitor experience once customers are in the gallery: the smell of the wood, the silky smooth touch of an artwork, the tactile and visceral experience associated with fine woodwork.

Neil is unapologetic about the gallery’s higher-than-average price range. He buys works from artists without bargaining, marking it up according to what he thinks is a fair price considering the workmanship, the time and effort involved in creating the piece and its investment value. It all adds up to a long-term investment in the arts and the environment.   

More information: Low Carbon Living, Blue Mountains.

Story: Caroline Gilligan Payne.  Photos: Helen Flint

Don’t raise the dam

Kowmung Collection 14 - Lower Kowmung last 2km white rock A Cox HT24_lowres_0

The NSW Government’s plan to raise the Warragamba Dam wall would destroy unique areas within the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, the Colong Foundation has warned.

The Colong Foundation’s Harry Burkitt said the Kowmung River wilderness (pictured) would suffer permanent damage if the plan proceeds

“The Kowmung River is one of only six declared wild rivers in NSW, and it will be permanently scarred from inundation if the dam raising goes ahead,” he told the Blue Mountains Gazette.

Ecologist and former Blue Mountains resident Roger Lembit told the Gazette the rare Camden White Gum would also be lost. The Camden White Gum is a unique species of eucalpyt, which is primarily found in the area that would be flooded if the Warragamba Dam wall was raised.

The NSW Government proposes to raise Warragamba Dam by 14m to manage flood risks in the Hawkesbury Nepean region.

Mr Burkitt said the proposal was unnecessary, and other options should be considered.

“Constructing flood levies, pre-releasing dam water before floods, and not building new housing developments on floodplains are alternative measures that can be implemented at far less cost, while not destroying parts the most protected natural landscape in Australia,” he said.

The Colong Foundation has started a campaign against the proposal. Visit Don’t Raise The Dam for more information.​

 

 

Blue Mountains rally on climate change

Katoomba will host a family-friendly rally and hoedown on 10 December 2017 to raise awareness about local bushfire risks exacerbated by climate change, the Blue Mountains Gazette reports.

Leura resident Celia Vagg told the Gazette: “We hope to inspire people in our area to get involved in protecting our natural environment. While many people are aware of the impacts of climate change on the great barrier reef, we sometimes forget that our own backyard has, and will have increased numbers of bushfires of a greater intensity as a result of climate change.”

The event starts at 2pm at the Carrington Hotel gardens in Katoomba, with guest speakers and guest performers. Event supporters include the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute’s Low Carbon Living program. More here.

Ecotourism certification for Blue Mountains National Park

At the National Parks and Wildlife Service's visitor centre in Blackheath... the Blue Mountains National Park has joined the ranks of Ecotourism Australia’s Certified Destinations.

At the National Parks and Wildlife Service’s visitor centre in Blackheath… the Blue Mountains National Park has joined the ranks of Ecotourism Australia’s Certified Destinations.

Australia’s most accessible wilderness destination, the Blue Mountains National Park in New South Wales (NSW), has joined the ranks of Ecotourism Australia’s Certified Destinations, EcoTourism Australia reports.

The park’s new status was announced on 28 October 2017 by Shayne Mallard MLC and David Crust, who is National Parks and Wildlife Service regional director as well as a director of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute.

The certification recognises the Blue Mountains National park – part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area – as a destination which demonstrates exceptional commitment and responsibility to the local community, the park’s natural and cultural values, and sustainable development.

“It’s great to have the Blue Mountains National Parks joining our growing number of Ecotourism Certified Destinations,” said Ecotourism Australia chief executive Rod Hillman.

“It’s a real leadership statement by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and demonstrates a clear understanding of their role and obligation to the natural environment and to visitors.” Read more…

EcoTourism Australia chief executive Rod Hillman with Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute chair Peter Cochrane.

David Crust (left), regional manager, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and a director of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute (BMWHI), with BMWHI chair Peter Cochrane.

Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute

 

High altitude discovery in Blue Mountains

Pluto the koala. Photo by Amy Davis.

Pluto the koala. Photo by Amy Davis.

A pair of sub-alpine koalas; Freya, named after the goddess of fertility, and her joey Xena. (Photo by Amy Davis)

A pair of sub-alpine koalas; Freya, named after the goddess of fertility, and her joey Xena. (Photo by Amy Davis)

“We have just discovered high altitude koalas in the World Heritage Blue Mountains region, living at over 1000m. Not only that, but they were found on the top of a ridge in what most experts would class as poor quality and highly unlikely habitat,” writes Dr Kellie Leigh, the executive director of Science for Wildlife and board member of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute.

“All species have limits to the type of habitats they can use, some habitats are too unsuitable for them to occupy. The general rule for koalas is that they occur below 800m in altitude, and prefer forests on richer soil types.

“But wait, this gets better.

“Sometimes we find male koalas in poorer habitats; they can be forced to use them when they’re pushed out by other males, or they might move high up on a ridge so that their mating bellows carry further. So if it’s a male koala that we find we don’t necessarily assume he is in core koala habitat. The breeding females tend to occupy the best quality habitats to meet their nutritional needs while raising young.

“What we found on this ridgeline at over 1000m was a cluster of breeding females all carrying young joeys like Pluto. That makes it core koala habitat. None of us could believe what we were seeing, this is a game changer.”

Read more …

Low Carbon Living newsletter, November 2017

Some of the worst wildfires ever recorded in the US struck Northern California last month, killing 40 people. Disastrous summer fires were also recorded in Southern Europe. This is the backdrop to the release of World Meteorological Organisation data on the surge in atmospheric carbon, and the Climate Council report on bushfires in NSW. Other stories in the latest Blue Mountains Low Carbon Living newsletter include Iceland’s re-afforestation efforts, the ending of the “carbon asset bubble’, a Texan city run on renewable energy, and the Dutch car that tells us much about the future of solar vehicles. Read more…

Big views, small footprint: the Scenic World way

Scenic World staff

Over the past 72 years, local family-owned business Scenic World has evolved as a business focused on environmental preservation, partnerships and local investment.

Scenic World is Australia’s privately-owned and most-frequently visited tourist attraction, with over 1 million visitors a year. It runs the world’s steepest incline railway into the lush Jamison Valley, as well as the Skyway, Walkway and Cableway.

The business is accredited by Ecotourism Australia as a Green Travel Leader and regularly monitored by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Scenic World also has a silver rating as a member of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute (BMWHI) Low Carbon Living program.

Scenic World is serious about improving its energy efficiency and reducing its environmental impact. Electricity generated by the railway during its descent is fed back into the grid, offsetting the electricity used in its ascent. Lanolin instead of petroleum is used to grease the railway tracks and minimise friction. The current Skyway upgrade will increase capacity without additional energy use, while the Cableway will be upgraded next year to minimise peak energy usage.

Anthea Hammon is Scenic World’s joint managing director. She is also an engineer and the third generation of her family to run the business. “Scenic World offers the visitor an opportunity to experience an all-senses tour of this unique environment without damaging, eroding or degrading the surroundings,” she says.

In 2000, Scenic World constructed a walkway above the valley floor, replacing the old walking tracks that caused erosion. The walkway enables visitors to minimise their footprint but still connect with the environment and learn about the flora and fauna.

Through a partnership with the BMWHI, Scenic World has lent its support to projects including the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Program, a PHD study on lyrebirds, an archaeological survey of a mining village survey, and an environmental education program for staff and visitors.

The business has also considered its waste management and food miles. Scenic World uses solar-powered waste compactors to reduce rubbish overflow and collection frequency by up to 80%. Its restaurant and café uses BioPak to save 22 tonnes of CO2 annually. Restaurant and café visitors are offered compostable cutlery and crockery. Fair trade coffee is provided by local outfit The Little Coffee Co. and Katoomba’s Whisk & Pin products are also available. Other local produce is sourced from Katoomba, while free-range eggs are supplied by a farm in Windsor.

The use of a Pulpmaster to manage organic waste was inspired by other local businesses such as the Escarpment Group. A cardboard baler is used onsite to compact waste, reducing costs associated with storage and disposal, and Scenic World has contracted a waste management company to redistribute 100 tonnes of organic waste each year.

There are water-efficient fixtures and timers are in the bathrooms, and water waste management procedures in place in the kitchens. Lighting is 80% LED; non-LEDs will be phased out when they expire.

Scenic World’s most recent low carbon initiative is a 100KW solar panel system, installed by the end of this year. Over the longer term, the business expects to fully realise the benefits of its investments in energy reduction, waste management and renewables. Scenic World is minimising its carbon footprint, one step at a time, and doing so with pride.

–  Story by Caroline Payne.

New scholarship for Blue Mountains students

Applications are invited for the inaugural Scenic World Scholarship in Natural Science and Tourism Management at Western Sydney University (WSU). The scholarship is the result of a new partnership between Scenic World and WSU. It is available to assist Blue Mountains residents from disadvantaged backgrounds to follow their dream of studying a bachelor’s degree in tourism or environmental science. Awarded annually, it will support local students to cover study expenses with $7,500 of funding for each year of their degree, valued at up to $30,000 per student. More information on the WSU website. Applications close 31 March 2018.

Communicating bushfire risk in the Blue Mountains

Dr Rosalie Chapple, Dr Ilse Blignault and Anne Fitzgerald are the authors of Communicating bushfire risk in the Blue Mountains: a case study of the Fire Stories film, published recently in the Australian Journal of Emergency Management. Their article examines the documentary film, Fire Stories – A Lesson in Time, which was locally produced to raise awareness of bushfire risk and which helped build community resilience. Fire Stories was released in 2013, just months before devastating fires again struck the Blue Mountains. This evaluation by Dr Chapple, Dr Blignault and Ms Fitzgerald highlights the need for alternative, community-based approaches to bushfire safety. Read the article here (pdf).