Australia Debates Over Giving Access to National Parks for Emergency Cattle Grazing

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By Vittorio Hernandez | May 21, 2013 10:42 AM EST

There is an ongoing big debate in Australia if starving cattle should be allowed access to national park for emergency feeding, with Queensland and animal rights group on one side and the federal government on the opposite side.

The state government of Queensland will introduce legislation on Tuesday that will attempt to save 25,000 very hungry cattle by opening the door of parts of five national parks and eight National Reserve System properties so graziers could get through the next wet season.

However, federal Environment Minister Tony Burke and Agriculture Minister Kose Ludwig are against the proposal. Mr Burke insisted that any action that would have a significant impact on national environment issues should be referred under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The Queensland plan would save 25,000 out of 300,000 cows in Queensland considered as at risk because of the drought that has affected one-third of the Australian state.

Animals Australia is backing the Queensland government, which has received hate mail for the proposal. Queensland National Parks Minister Steve Dickson said the state does not need the federal government's approval to move the cattle to the national parks and reserves, many of which are former cattle properties.

His stand is in line with the Crown law advice that the areas could be opened as soon as the proposed legislation goes through Queensland's parliament.

"My job is to help animals. And we believe there will be very little collateral damage to wildlife or the national parks by taking this approach," The Australian quoted Queensland Chief Executive Mark Townsend.

However, Mr Ludwig insisted, "While the management of national parks in Queensland lies within the responsibility of the state government, many parks have been established to protect matters of national environmental significance."

Graham Elmes, a cattleman and former mayor of Cape York, also sided with Queensland, noting that cows have been grazing in national parks for years, but the federal government is blocking the proposal because of revenues.

He cited the government allowing a private cattle enterprise the past 20 years at the Lakefield National Park, north of Cooktown, as proof.

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