Environmentalists oppose mountain bike trails in Mount Canobolas Conservation Area

CONCERNED: ECCO president Nick King, Central West Environment Council president Cilla Kinross and Orange Field Naturalist Society president John Austin.

CONCERNED: ECCO president Nick King, Central West Environment Council president Cilla Kinross and Orange Field Naturalist Society president John Austin.

ENVIRONMENTAL groups have united to plead Orange City Council not to allow a mountain bike trail centre in the Mount Canobolas Conservation Area, saying it will have a detrimental effect on the unique habitat.

Councillors will debate on Tuesday night whether to write to Minister for Environment and Heritage Mark Speakman to amend the mountain’s plan of management to allow for the centre.

A concept plan completed by World Trail has allowed for 116 kilometres of track across 11 loops, however the Central West Environment Council, the Environmentally Concerned Citizens of Orange (ECCO) and the Orange Field Naturalist and Conservation Society said 54 per cent of the tracks would be in the conservation area.

Environment council president Cilla Kinross said the area risked losing up to six hectares of habitat.

“There are vegetation communities on the mountain not found anywhere else, you have to go as far as Mount Kaputah or the Snowy,” she said.

While the tracks are only meant to be a metre wide, field naturalists president John Austin said inevitably more would be more taken out during construction and general wear and tear.

“A switchback will need earthmoving equipment to make it safe,” he said.

Dr Kinross, Mr Austin and ECCO president Nick King said the tracks would sever linkages, particularly for small animals.

“Because it exposes them to predation,” Mr King said.

“If you’re bird watching, for example, what you get to study will be reduced.”

According to a constraints and opportunities analysis, potentially affected species could include a eucalypt species, which only grows on the mountain between 1200 and 1300 metres, the barking owl, little eagle, superb parrot and two species of gliders.

Dr Kinross said the only section excluded following consultation was around The Walls picnic area due to rare species.

In a report to councillors, recreational services director Scott Maunder said the project could be achieved while adopting a sensitive approach to the environment elements of the proposal.

The report said the trail centre would create 18 jobs in its early stages and generate $2.3 million in gross regional product.

Four of the mountain biking trails would be rated as easy and seven as more difficult, with options available for two trails to make them attractive to advanced riders.

The minister could take as long as a year to make a decision on the plan of management.

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