Economics of reducing feral horse damage in Australia’s iconic Kosciuszko National Park
A report into the economic, social and environmental costs of failing to manage feral horse numbers in Kosciuszko National Park has been released by Frontier Economics today.
The report, Reining in feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park, estimates benefits of up to $50 million a year if feral horse management of the park is improved. These benefits are expected to far outweigh the costs of controlling feral horse numbers. Feral horse numbers in Kosciuszko National Park have increased substantially over the past 20 years, with a recent survey estimating the population at around 14,000 horses *.
“The Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018 has prevented effective management of feral horses within the park,” report co-author economist Anna Wilson said.
“Without effective controls on feral horse numbers our forecast shows that the Kosciuszko population could double again in the next 20 years to around 35,000. Twice as many feral horses as cattle carried on Australia’s largest cattle station in a good year, the 24,000 sq km Anna Creek Station.”
Feral horse numbers are having a significant and detrimental impact on Kosciuszko National Park, putting unique ecosystems such as alpine and sub-alpine herb fields, bogs and fens at severe risk from grazing and trampling. Horses threaten native species that rely on these habitats and damage watercourses.
The Frontier Economics report looks at the economic, social and environmental benefits that are being lost due to inaction on feral horse numbers. Our analysis focused on benefits a reduction in horse numbers would have on the recreational, environmental and water quality values of Kosciuszko National Park.
Even with very conservative assumptions about the detrimental impacts of feral horses, key findings include:
- Benefits of $7-20 million a year from increased recreation and use of the park for activities such as camping, hiking and mountain biking, assuming this recreation use would otherwise be reduced by 1% in the future due to the impact of feral horses.
- Benefits of $10-28 million a year from improvements to riparian environments and water quality, assuming more substantive management of feral horses improves the health of vegetation along the waterways by 1%.
- Benefits of $2 million a year from fewer feral horse-related car accidents, assuming feral horse-related crashes are avoided in future.
Other potentially significant benefits associated with better management of feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park include a reduction in expenditure by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service on repair works for infrastructure damaged by horses and for protecting and restoring areas of high conservation value.
“Society in general is losing out by not managing feral horses,” Ms Wilson said.
“These losses will only grow as long as government fails to control feral horse numbers now and into the future.”
*The spring 2020 survey conducted by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service found the best estimate for the wild horse population in Kosciuszko National Park is 14,380. The 95% confidence interval of the survey is 8,798–22,555. This means that they are 95% confident that the population is at least 8,798 and could be up to 22,555 wild horses.