First, most of the cattlemen's seven-year licences expire in August. Second, it is impossible for the Government - so focused on the water issue - to ignore the most important reason to remove cattle from the park: it is the headwater to many major rivers, including the Murray.
Removing cattle will better protect delicate alpine bogs that have built up over thousands of years and act like large sponges, filtering and slowly releasing water down to the valleys in a seasonal, clean flow.
It was this reason that Mr Bracks and Mr Thwaites mentioned most often yesterday.
The other factor is the 2003 bushfires, which burnt 60 per cent of the national park and 77 per cent of the grazed area. A scientific body headed by Professor Millis recommended that cattle not be allowed in to the burnt areas above 1200 metres for at least 10 years. Regardless of any decision, it would have been a lengthy wait for the mountain cattlemen to get back into the park.
Cattle grazing was also becoming a costly exercise for the taxpayer.
The farmers paid $5.50 for each cow to spend the summer in the park, but this amounted to subsided agriculture. Parks Victoria, which was quietly rejoicing at the decision yesterday, was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars repairing alpine bogs, fighting weeds and managing the cows in the park. The announcement yesterday hinted at how costly this had become. The State Government will spend $650,000 on repairing damaged areas of the park, particularly mossbeds. If you take the entire $5.4 million package of compensation and park improvements, it adds up to a taxpayer payment of $675 per cow.
The taxpayer subsidies were starting to irritate other beef producers.
Prominent Gippsland beef producer Bill Bray told The Age yesterday that he supported the State Government's decision.
"The writing has been on the wall for some time, and they should have looked at their environmental impact some years ago," he said. "Other cattle farmers have talked to me about what a low amount they pay for the lease of the land and that's created some disquiet."
Yesterday afternoon, the mountain cattlemen were pondering the options available to them.
One is taking their horses to the steps of Parliament House, as they did in 1984. They will definitely appeal to the Federal Government for an emergency listing of the park and their culture on the National Heritage List - although this was rejected by the Federal environment department this year. The issue could become another state-federal battle if Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell decides to take up the mountain cattlemen's cause.
Man in the saddle ponders: Is this the end of the trail?
For cattleman Bruce McCormack, news of the State Government's ban on cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park was like hearing that a family member had died.
"I'm lost for words," he said as he tended to the horses on his Merrijig property yesterday afternoon.
"I feel like someone has died".
As a fifth-generation cattleman whose family has been running cattle into the high country for 105 years, the ban on grazing in the park over summer marks the end of a treasured tradition.
"We've spent our whole life living and breathing the high country and now it's been taken away from us," he said. "The whole family is just gone, it's hard to imagine life without it.
"While driving the cattle up for the summer has been an annual ritual for as long as he can remember, McCormack is also concerned about losing the legend that goes with it.
"We are the so-called men from Snowy River. We've created that image through what we do with our horses and cattle up there," he said.
"We wear our hats every day of the week, we don't just put them on to go to a show once a week.
There's a man from Snowy River in every one of us and now it's gone."
McCormack said that legend was a part of his livelihood. As well as managing cattle, he has a horse riding business, offering tourists an insight into the Snowy River experience.
"It's never going to be the same going up there, I don't know if I'll continue with the trail rides," he said.
"To sit around the fire with people and tell stories about the cattle and what we do with them would just be lying. It won't happen now. We would just be pretending."
The prospect of closing the trail-ride business is just the half of it for McCormack. The ban on grazing will force him and son Adam to consider selling their 111 high country cattle. Either that, or lease more land near their property.
But with the worsening drought and the local sale yards nearing their end, he said keeping the cattle would be a gamble.
"We're not going to keep selling cattle for a living here if there's only going to be 20 people turning up to buy them," he said.
The State Government's compensation plan would help ease the financial stress of making such decisions, he said, but it wouldn't make it any easier to lose the family's connection with its history.
"It's not about the money anymore, it won't bring back the experience," he said. "People will have to read about us in library books somewhere."
While McCormack admitted he was better placed than many others to manage the financial implications of the ban, he was determined to keep fighting.
He remained hopeful that the Federal Government would approve an application to have grazing in the park protected under national heritage laws.
"Ian Campbell said pre-election that he'd back us on the heritage listing ... So we might be able to overturn the state decision at a federal level. That's where we are now," he said.
"Other than that, we'll just make sure we make it very difficult for the Bracks Government at the next election. They don't care about country Victoria, they proved that today." - Julia Medew
Making of a mountain legend
1830s Mountain cattlemen begin their summer muster of cattle to Victoria's high country.
1890 AB 'Banjo' Paterson's The Man From Snowy River published.
1920s Grazing temporarily halted in Mount Buffalo National Park, finally terminated in 1952.
1957 The Australian Academy of Science recommends the complete exclusion of all grazing above 4500 feet.
1969 Cows banned from Kosciuszko National Park in NSW.
1982 The movie based on Paterson's poem is released.
1984 More than 300 cattlemen ride horses down Bourke Street, above, to protest against the formation of the Alpine National Park, fearing grazing may end.
1989 Cattle allowed to stay in the park; grazing licences extended from one year to seven.
2004 Taskforce established to look at the effects and future of grazing.
2005 Premier Steve Bracks says cattle will be banned from grazing in Victoria's Alpine National Park after current grazing licences expire.
What they said
AUSTRALIAN CONSERVATION FOUNDATION. Don Henry, executive director. "National Parks should be for people and not cattle that are damaging the sensitive water and ecosystems of the high country. The decision is a balanced one because it protects the Alpine National Park for the future, while allowing grazing to continue in some state forests and on private lands."
ENVIRONMENT VICTORIA. Marcus Godinho, executive director. "This is a national park, not a cow paddock. Cattle grazing in the park is not only destroying some of this state's most precious and endangered species but continued erosion is also threatening Victoria's major river systems."
NATIONAL TRUST OF AUSTRALIA (VICTORIA). Stephen Hare, chief executive. "What is apparent from extensive research is that grazing is causing significant damage - We believe that the tradition of the mountain cattlemen should continue, but in less environmentally sensitive areas elsewhere in the high country."
VICTORIAN FARMERS FEDERATION. Paul Weller, president. "The Man from Snowy River would turn in his grave at the decision by the Bracks Government to ban mountain cattlemen and cattle grazing from our Alpine National Park. The Government has turned its back on Victoria's mountain cattlemen."
INDEPENDENT MP FOR EAST GIPPSLAND. Craig Ingram. "I think you'll find that not only will the mountain cattlemen be devastated and very angry at this but also country communities right across Victoria will look on this very dimly and see it is a very dark day for natural resource management and small rural communities."
MOUNTAIN CATTLEMEN'S ASSOCIATION OF VICTORIA. Simon Turner, president. "This decision will force some of our members off their farms. It will be the end of the generational transfer of some farming properties that have had licences in the park area for 170 years. There will be fierce anger in the country over this decision."