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recreation and tourism

maintaining a balance

Early recreationists were among those who fought for the protection of large areas of the Australian Alps through the establishment of parks for nature conservation and public recreation. Today, these are two of the major land uses of the Australian Alps. And as Australia’s population is growing, so is the demand for outdoor recreation.

Statistics of visitor numbers and visitor surveys for individual parks in the Alps show in- creases both in visitors and in the range of activities in which they take part. This increase places increasing demands on the Alps for access and services. Hence a balance needs to be achieved so that these recreational pressures do not threaten the natural values that are often the very reason for visiting the Alps in the first place.

In the last few years there has been a move towards ecotourism - ecologically sustainable tourism where the focus is on learning and caring about the natural world. This will perhaps go some way to protecting the integrity of the Alps while still allowing people to enjoy this natural area both now and in the future.

Much of the public land in the Alps is administered under the appropriate Acts of Parliament for the national parks of each state and the ACT. In each Act, the promotion of use and enjoyment of national parks is an objective. The Commonwealth also has legislation cover- ing the Australian Alps - notably the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) which protects areas of National Heritage as well as endangered plants and animals. In managing public land, the relevant land management agencies aim to provide a wide range of recreational opportunities, but at the same time preserve and protect the natural environment.

the shift in recreational activities

Changing socio-economic factors have had a major effect on the recreational use of the Australian Alps. These factors include more leisure time and money to spend on recreation, a growth in tourism, and increasingly sophisticated equipment that has increased and diversified leisure opportunities.

Recreation activities in the Alps today range from those like downhill skiing and snow- boarding that require highly developed facilities to those such as walking, kayaking and ski touring that are usually enjoyed in a natural setting without intensive development.

Technology has allowed the ski industry in particular to burgeon, with the development of equipment such as tows for ski slopes, snow-making machines and snow vehicles, and construction of ski runs and residential facilities that enable people to stay comfortably for long periods in alpine environments.

Changing perceptions of the economic value of the Alps have in turn affected recreational use. Formerly, the economic value of the Alps was in the use of natural resources through grazing, mining and forestry. Now it is increasingly seen to be in recreational use through commercial activities such as the skiing industry, horse trail rides, accommodation and so on.


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