LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Mount Canobolas proposed mountain bike trail needs further investigation

PROTECT OUR MOUNTAIN: "The Mount Canobolas SCA is a jewel in the crown for Orange," Peter West. PHOTO: FILE.
PROTECT OUR MOUNTAIN: "The Mount Canobolas SCA is a jewel in the crown for Orange," Peter West. PHOTO: FILE.

I would like to respond to Mr Bland’s Letter to the Editor (dated 21 July, 2018) about the proposed mountain bike trails in the Mount Canobolas State Conservation Area (SCA). 

Mr Bland has stated that Dr Bower Letter to the Editor failed to demonstrate that the proposed mountain bike trails would have an adverse impact on the species and habitat that make the SCA special.

I would like to point out that it is not the responsibility of the good community of Orange to demonstrate that a proposal could adversely impact on environmental, social, cultural or economic values. The onus of responsibility lies with the applicant – the proponent requesting the change (in this case, Orange City Council), to prove that the proposal will not adversely impact the SCA, and not concerned Orange residents.

Dr Bower is a very well respected, highly experienced and professional ecologist, with a wealth of valued knowledge about Mount Canobolas and its unique ecology. He has identified and listed a number of significant environmental values that could be at serious risk if the proposal to change the Plan of Management to permit a mountain bike trail network proceeds.

He should be applauded, not criticised, for helping to identify and share with Orange residents the environmental issues associated with this proposed change, to enable our community to become informed about what we could all lose if the proposal proceeds.

As an ecologist and mountain bike rider myself, with over 20 years cross-country riding experience in events all over Australia, I have seen the direct and indirect adverse impacts of mountain bike riding.

The Mount Canobolas SCA is a highly significant and sensitive area that Orange residents love all-year round. It was established to protect natural and cultural values found no-where else in the world. It is a jewel in the crown for Orange. It is one of the most unique and pristine natural areas in our region, and is one of the top destinations for nature-based activities in the central west. Its beautiful natural areas, fern gulleys, unique plants and animals, cultural values and breathtaking scenery must be retained in full and protected.

Very few of us want to see the place we cherish so much threatened by a proposal that could erode its values, and have it monopolised by mountain bike riding. Dr Bower has helped to remind us that it is in everyone’s best interest to see the Mount Canobolas SCA managed in a responsible, ecologically sustainable and appropriate way, with low-impact nature-based activities. It is a place for the community and for the protection of nature.

Mountain bike riders themselves are predominantly a responsible bunch, enjoying a healthy low-impact outdoor pursuit, but the impact of the sport is largely dependent on location, and the behaviour of riders and spectators. The Mount Canobolas SCA is a very poor choice for an intensive mountain bike area, and alternative venues in our region (such as the plantation pine forests or Council-managed areas), have not been adequately investigated.

Finally, there are very few mountain bike trail centres that occur in protected conservation areas across Australia. Those that exist are restricted to a small area, so that the impacts are contained. The costs of maintenance of those areas are often enormous. The Mount Canobolas SCA is a small reserve by comparison, and an extensive 63km network of trails would fragment and carve it up.