in the Landscape: Different values, a shared vision
and 24th June 2011, Teacher's
Federation Conference Centre, Sydney
Nature Conservation Council of NSW Bushfire Program invites you to attend
its Eighth Biennial Bushfire Conference.
are faced with bushfires each summer and are realising that fire is
an integral part of the Australian landscape. However the different
values people place on the landscape dictates how fire is perceived
and used by different sectors of the community. Risk management values,
biodiversity values, Indigenous values and rural production values have
traditionally had competing interests in how fire is managed. This conference
will explore how differing values and land uses influence the application
of fire in the Australian landscape and investigate the impacts this
has had on biodiversity. New scientific research, policy updates and
on ground management issues and success stories will be presented. Facilitated
sessions will provide delegates with the opportunity to contribute to
a shared vision for progressing ecologically sustainable bushfire management.
The conference will provide opportunities for attendees to network with
industry leaders and experts in the field.
are now open ... fill in the attached
form and email to BushfireConf2011@nccnsw.org.au
or send to PO Box 137 Newtown NSW 2042.
for papers or posters ... if you have new research findings, policy
updates or on the ground success stories that you would like to present,
please submit abstracts by Thursday, 21 April to BushfireConf2011@nccnsw.org.au.
For more information see http://www.nccnsw.org.au/content/bushfire-landscape-different-values-shared-vision
or call Anne or Rebecca on (02) 9516 1488. Hope to see you there!
Miehs Bushfire Project Officer
What: Bushfire in the Landscape: Different values a shared vision Conference
9:00am - 5:00 pm Thursday 23rd June - Friday 24th of June
NSW Teachers Federation Centre, 37 Reservoir St, Surry Hills
and more details: http://www.nccnsw.org.au/content/bushfire-landscape-different-values-shared-vision
Rebecca LeMay or Anne Miehs on (02) 9516 1488 or email: BushfireConf2011@nccnsw.org.au
wake of the Black Saturday fires of 2009 a Royal Commission is established
and a procession of "experts" proceeded to meekly subscribe
to the dogma that "more fuel reduction will save people".
forward to 2011 and signs that knee jerk policy implemented in the wake
of this disaster are beginning to backfire emerge.
discussion from Melbourne Indymedia covering some of the issues related
a more Immediate Threat than Terrorism
Joseph Toscano Wednesday December 06, 2006 at 11:08 PM
Repost from Anarchist Age Weekly Review
is disturbing to see the piecemeal approach that is being used to tackle
the bushfire menace in Victoria and the rest of Australia. Considering
bushfires are set to become a permanent feature as greenhouse emissions
increase, a national approach to the problem is a matter or urgency.
damage caused by uncontrolled fires in 2006 will escalate dramatically
as increasing temperatures and dwindling water supplies will make it
more difficult to contain bushfires.
A national problem needs a national approach. Australians cannot expect
the 20 or so fire authorities that are currently responsible for the
control of bushfires in Australia, to continue to hold the line against
what is a very real and dangerous threat. The Federal government should
set up a national fire fighting service that could be mobilised to tackle
fires local authorities are having trouble with. It is ridiculous that
New Zealand fire fighters have been asked to come to Victoria to assist
local fire fighters.
It is ironic a government that can fund the multiple military campaigns
Australia is currently involved in, cannot fund a national fire fighting
service. Uncontrolled fires pose a much more immediate and real threat
than any nebulous terrorist threat has ever posed. The information gathered
by a national fire fighting service could be used to devise a national
plan of action to decrease the threat off bushfires.
No one fire fighting authority or State government has the necessary
resources to fight a significant bushfire. Relying on overstretched
local volunteer units is a recipe for disaster.
The early start of the bushfire season this year highlights the need
for a Federally funded national fire fighting service that can co-ordinate
a national response to the very real bushfire danger faced by an increasing
number of Australians, and provide immediate assistance to local brigades
on the patio
by Crocodile Dung D Thursday December 07, 2006 at 02:31 AM
seems to me that adopting the language and mentality of "fighting"
bushfires is fundamentally flawed.
It typifies the boneheaded lunacy of the European mindset ever since
they stumbled upon this Eden and stubbornly began disassembling it piece
by piece without ever stopping to appreciate what it was.
Anyone with a skerrick of experience with bushfires will tell you that
you don't even contemplate staying to defend yourself and your property,
let alone go out to fight a going fire with a good head, unless you
have planned and executed every minute detail in a comprehensive defence
Once you get a bad year like this, backed up with a howling northerly
wind and 35 or more degrees, you can forget about your Churchillian
"we will fight them on the beaches" stoicism because a thousand
Elvis helicopters and limitless water will have about as much effect
on a one hundred kilometre fire front as a mosquito has on an elephant's
What is this twisted jingoism that puts firefighters lives at risk and
turns the public purse into a bottomless well in the interest of defending
the assets and lives of people who refuse to acknowledge the reality
of this land and take steps to protect themselves from an inevitability?
Bloody hell, even Mr Toscano the anarchist comes across like a breathless,
Akubra adorned, Current Affair reporter! Every summer is like some sort
of groundhog day with hysteria, hand wringing and shock. "How could
this happen to us? Why hast thou forsaken us, oh Lord?" they wail.
Putting the climate change factor aside, this current fire scenario
has been played out regularly since Gondwana broke up and Australia's
rainforests gave way to the Eucalypt genus. What has changed recently
is "Europeans" in the landscape and European management of
Have you ever stopped to wonder how Aborigines not only survived but
flourished in this landscape? Where did they shelter? How did their
food sources survive? What the bloody hell were they doing migrating
into the Alps when the fire season started (November)? The 2003 fires
unearthed a rich archaeological heritage in the high country. Nice and
cool in the high country in summer and relatively mild on the coast
in winter. Fires were lit all the way up and all the way down. Fresh
green pickings sprung up after the cool burns and attracted and fed
the native animals which in turn helped to feed the people. These fires
reduced the fuel load along the ridge lines and made for ease of travel
and would soon burn out in the damp gullies. This practice favored the
moisture loving species that also tended to be fire resistent or fire
sensitive. It also helped to protect the rainforest remnants from Gondwana
and wet sclerophyll forest in riparian strips and in drainage lines
from encroachment by the more fire prone dry sclerophyll. This topographical
moisture gradient was a major factor in limiting the extent and intensity
of fires that were caused by lightning strikes. These cool, moist environments
were nature's fire buffers. There was no capacity for fires to be as
large or as intense as what we are seeing today. Seen in this light,
aboriginal land management techniques were not only functional but also
have a beautiful symmetry.
In contrast, European land management has seemingly done everything
necessary to turn the Australian landscape into a version of Dante's
Inferno. Conflicting objectives and ignorance have delivered a dog's
breakfast of management regimes. From burning everything to burning
nothing and everything in between and always at the wrong time. The
fire were too hot , either because of fuel load, scale or seasonal timing,
and favored fire loving species that invaded the natural buffers and
created feed back loops that exacerbated the problem. The timber industry
was greedy and ignorant and, even today, still use silvicultural systems
that wilfully ignore the complexity and subtleties of Australia's forests.
Forest mangers refuse to acknowledge and accept the valuable contribution
the microclimates created in riparian strips and drainage lines make
toward controlling wild fire, they only see the dollar signs. We have
modified forests so that they are more fire prone and pose greater risk
not only to ourselves but also to the other organisms and systems of
the forest. Things will only get worse as the process feeds back on
I could gasbag on this for hours but I'm running out of time here so
I'll just make the point that we must accept the reality of where we
live. Even without the complicating factors that we have brought upon
ourselves we would still have to face a certain amount of risk. If you
want to live in the bush then a certain amount of the responsibility
for risk management falls on you. If you aren't prepared to do significant
preparation and back your judgements and efforts, then flee and accept
what nature delivers, there's no shame in that. If you want to live
amongst the trees you should accept that you will be burnt out at least
once in your lifetime. In the interest of animal welfare, mineral fire
breaks or shelters on suitable paddocks should be compulsory for every
property with livestock on it at this time of year so that animals,
in the event of fire, can be moved onto them and have at least some
chance of survival. In a simplified nutshell, that's it, don't live
in complacency or denial or this land will bite you on the arse.
The firies do a great job but, with so many rabbits out there, why would
you bother? You're better off falling back to civilisation, help out
with a bit of backburning and tidying up, then when the sh!t hits the
proverbial, having a quiet beer in the pub and coming out when it all
settles down rather than getting hurt or even dying for nuts who think
they're living in Sherwood bloody forest. I understand that people get
a bit sentimental about the weatherboard or the Fergie, but fair dinkum,
what's it worth compared to you in the eyes of your loved ones?
Photo of Victorian Fires
by NASA Thursday December 07, 2006 at 12:41 PM
river of smoke more than 25 kilometers wide flowed southeast toward
the Tasman Sea from fires burning in the Great Dividing Range Mountains
in Victoria, Australia, on December 5, 2006. ... Fires (red outlines)
were detected across a broad area of the mountains between Lake Eildon
and the Dartmouth Reservoir. According to news reports, 50 fires—most
of them in remote forests and parks—were burning out of control across
Victoria in early December, and fire conditions were predicted to worsen
in subsequent days."
"The Bureau’s November 22, 2006, seasonal El Niño-Southern Oscillation
update indicated that the current El Niño had strengthened throughout
November. A strong El Niño could be bad news for firefighters in southeastern
Australia. According to the Bureau of Meteorology Website, “El Niño
events are associated with an increase in the number of extreme fire-risk
days over southeastern Australia, that is, days which are hot, dry and
don't share your cynicism
by jeroen Thursday December 07, 2006 at 12:52 PM
on the back patio person
I appreciate your argument and agree with a lot of what you are saying.
I am a rural greenie involved in revegetation, seed collecting and landcare
and am fully aware of the discrepancy between the original state of
the Australian/Victorian bush and the current one. However, the reality
now is that things are different and that people and their properties,
in a lot of cases the result of their life’s work, are in danger of
complete destruction. I am also a CFA volunteer and have been up to
the fires in the high country in 2003 and undoubtedly will go up again
this year on more than one trip. I see first hand how fast the pine
plantations in the lower valleys go up and exacerbate the fire hazard,
see the rage of the fire when it goes through a bramble bush. In moments
like these, I’d like to think we can all overcome our differences and
help our fellow man, whether we think he’s done wrong or not. Looking
after each other is a quality both black and white can boast about in
rural Australia. It is also part of our idealism as leftie greenies,
anarchists or otherwise, I hope.
My advocacy on green issues, anti nuclear stand, my admiration for the
old Aboriginal land management skills and my volunteer work with the
CFA are all borne from the same ideas and ideals. So that’s where we
differ. After seeing the destruction of natural Australia and being
deeply affected by it like yourself, I refuse to give in to cynicism
and therefore strongly disagree with your suggestion to abandon all
who have built their houses in the wrong spot. For all their mistakes
I don’t believe they deserve to be punished with the destruction of
all they hold dear. Also, if we would not fight these fires in the current
state of the high country landscape, the fires will destroy towns like
Maffra and Dargo and will move into the LaTrobe valley and who knows,
even reach Beechworth, Mansfield and Wangaratta in the North. If we
would let that happen, because we want to let the fires take their natural
cause, then we would condemn the individuals of those towns to unimaginable
loss for a political cause. Would you want to be the one to pay that
price? Where is the social justice in that?
Smoke in Wangaratta Main Street
by Vera (repost) Thursday December 07, 2006 at 03:39 PM
from the Victorian bushfires in the main street of Wangarratta, 7 December.
the "volunteers" make it a career
by Firey Unionist Thursday December 07, 2006 at 07:27 PM
in Canada the fire fighters are employed in the spring and autumn to
plant trees, in winter attend snow bound folks, at all times to atend
and assist at road accidents. Thus it is a full time professional paid
job and you can transfer around canada and be sent to where there is
need in crisis but remain in your local envoronment at all other times.
It is long overdue for the country firefighters to be made a profession
ie do course study pass exams become certified then paid, insured, superannuated
along with others in the emergency industry ambos, cops, life-guards/swimming
instructors at pools; and their city/urban firey compatriots.
Meanwhile support your nearest CFA bbq/dance/picnic events until they
get the proper respect and payment they are all due for a bloody dangerous
and very necessary job that may well save you and yours one day if the
drought and hot weather continues like it is.
Get real get behind the emergency services.
version was lead letter in the Age
by AAWR subscriber Thursday December 07, 2006 at 09:42 PM
The article by Toscano above is a repost from the Anarchist Age Weekly
Review newsletter that is emailed out to email subscribers. Yes, an
edited version was also published as the lead letter in The Age 7/12/06.
again, the last one disappeared
by Crocodile Dung D Thursday December 07, 2006 at 11:01 PM
howdy do Jeroen. I'm sorry to read that you see my perspective as cynicism,
I thought I was being practical.
We don't have the resources to protect every home and property so there
has to be a cut off point. I think people who have done the right thing
by making their home defendable from fire should be allocated scarce
resources before someone living out in the trees whose property cannot
safely be saved due the nature of it's situation.
It would take a selfish person to expect others to risk life and limb
to stop "the destruction of all they hold dear". I don't care
how materially or emotionally valuable a persons "lifes work"
is, to me, it isn't worth a burnt finger on a volunteer.
If they have chosen to live in a situation that cannot be adequately
defended they should accept the consequences and not expect other people
to put themselves at risk.
The other main thrust that I was trying to put forward last night (but
didn't devote enough time or energy to) is that the ideas I was putting
forward are long term strategies. I wasn't advocating that we stand
back and do nothing, I was pointing out the futility and danger of having
people fight lost causes because there is a cultural expectation.
For instance, at this very moment, there are lots of people and who
knows how many bloody great big bull dozers carving up the place and
trying to put in containment lines ahead of the fire. In a word...DUMB.
I will bet everything I own that by Saturday night the fire will have
cruised effortlessly past, around and over the control lines down toward
Sale and Bairnsdale. So all this energy and effort that could have been
put to good use in preparing properties and towns in the path of the
fire will be wasted. The fire is going to go where it's going to go.
Like with addictions, if you can't beat it, the next best strategy is
Instead of having all these resources wasted in a futile effort they
should have been making populated centres, like the ones you mention,
safe. The areas and towns most likely to hardest hit by these fires
lie within the quadrant defined by a line south and a line east of the
fire's current position. Knowing that containment will surely fail,
all energy should be directed at making these areas safer. This is the
time to reduce fuel loads in the areas which the fire will approach
from. Today's south, south east wind would be ideal for pushing a backburn
toward the fire head and away from the town. Most backburns are left
too late and merely add to the main fire front. If you start the fire
on the north west perimeter of what you want saved, by Saturday when
the wind swings around and the north wester belts in, the fuel load
will be gone and the target area will be relatively safe. You will have
burned in a controlled way what the fire will burn in an uncontrolled
I've run out of time again. But not opinions! Might pick it up again
later. Kudos for your community minded spirit though Jeroen.
up rong blackstump
by Zagovor Friday December 08, 2006 at 01:06 PM
you believe that human beings can in any way stop what is happening
to the atmosphere and the world's climate then i believe that you are
so what should we do?
first of all what is happening is the unification of the 5 rings of
power. nothing will be able to withstand that force.
the ever present is the time for the unification of matter and spirit,
everyone is able to take that path, but few will see it that way.
the forces of heat accumulation (with no dissipation) and the possibility
of a large earth wobble are just too powerful to counter.
I am going to post an article on "Global Inferno", and I hope
I can make my points clear.
by hopi Friday December 08, 2006 at 04:53 PM
the Indy Radio I once heard some Greeny talking about how if we take
all the carbon out of the ground and burn it the atmosphere will become
the equivalent to that of a coal fired power-station.
With that in mind I look at "The Age" today and see Victoria's
bush-fires on the front page. On the same front page we have an advert
for The All New Audi Q7 4WD. Flipping past the next page which was a
full page advert for a Land Rover 4WD we get to the story about the
bush-fires -- which also has an advert for a Subaru Forester 4WD. It
even had a bigger picture than the one about the bush-fires, focken.
I'm not saying that bush-fires and climate change is squarely the fault
of 4W Drivers, but I found the disconnect between how we treat the environment
and what is the result astounding. It is like saying - "For those
about to burn..focking go for it, man."
Thank-you for your time "The Age" you do your major clients
an honorable service. And I don't know why JT bothers to get printed
in it anyway.
paying the bush fire brigade
by comrade Josh Friday December 08, 2006 at 06:37 PM
agree with the fire brigade union person. The CFA people should be paid
money and have a job for the whole year. This would be a good job for
people in the country, as it involves fighting fires in the bush fire
season, and there are environmental things that people can do in the
Crocodile Dung D
by Servalan's Pussy Sunday December 10, 2006 at 02:10 AM
land management has seemingly done everything necessary to turn the
Australian landscape into a version of Dante's Inferno."
It's all about the image. How are we to portray ourselves to the world
as hard-done-by heroes if every year is not the worst drought on record,
and every fire is not the most unstoppable?
After all, even with this adversity, we have an easy time here. A cynical
cheer: More drama, please! (Who has my akubra?)
Not to undermine the very real heroism being displayed today, but really,
every Australian lives either in a desert, or on the coastal skirt of
one. We would do well to keep that at the forefront of our minds.
And whose idea is it, if I may raise the point in this context, that
we should become an industrial powerhouse, presumably with the concommittant
increases in population required to exploit the supposed 20 nuclear
reactors suggested recently by Dr Switkowski? What alternate reality
are these people living in?
I suppose they expect to deslinate and irrigate, but are they aware
of the consequential re-salination which arises on land? Not to mention
waste management -- not just the nuclear waste, but the human and agricultural
runoff. What an environmental tragedy this nation bears.
Thankyou Crocodile Dung D, for a very enlightening (cough -- splutter)
piece about the traditional land management. Do you have some tips on
how to adapt current practices?
bigger they come, the harder they fall
by Crocodile Dung D Wednesday December 13, 2006 at 12:45 AM
we go from here in terms of managing forests and fire is an interesting
question Servalan's Pussy. (I suppose there's a really interesting Trekky
story behind the name but life's too short)
I tend to lean toward a blend of solid science and principled pragmatism.
Of course rednecks will want to cut and burn everything every second
week and some greenies call for no fuel reduction burns. Such ideological
fundamentalist extremes are best avoided.
The charcoal record in the soil profile gives a few clues to historical
fire regimes. On the coastal heath and foothills the fire cycle was
quite short - somewhere in the region of eight years. At higher altitudes
the fire frequency dropped dramatically with some cooler, wet sclerophyll
temperate forests not having fires for more than 500 years. 500 years
sounds astounding to modern Australians but that is a fact.
Each region has it's own unique history of fire and there can be wide
variation within regions. In Gippsland you can find heathland verging
into coastal forest verging into warm temperate rainforest all within
a few hundred metres and while the heath and eucalypts may have burned
at relatively frequent intervals, the rainforest most certainly did
not as it would not have survived. The very existence of rainforest
in Victoria today is indicates that the massive conflagrations we are
seeing now is a phenomenon of modern times. If rainforest had been subjected
to such frequent intense fires, it would have succumbed to an invasion
of fire adapted species long ago.
I think that what we need is a comprehensive strategy of ecological
restoration. On a broader level, we also need to adapt our culture to
the new realities of living in this land.
To begin with, I would establish a department within DSE whose sole
function would be to manage fire in the landscape. Drawing on a variety
of disciplines, the task of the Fire Branch (Woops! That's a shocking
pun) would be to devise strategies for ecological restoration and fire
risk management. Some would say that DSE is already charged with this
task but, by any judgement based on the results to date, you would have
to conclude that they have only succeeded in making our forests more
fire prone by implementing policies and methods that have favored fire
There is an abundance of scientific, historical and anthropological
literature out there but a eclectic environmental consciousness capable
of binding the parts into a cohesive, workable strategy is missing.
When a deft touch and finesse is required in approach, DSE somehow manage
to translate this into an onslaught of chainsaws, bulldozers and napalm
incendiaries delivered over vast areas by helicopter. They do love to
get in their dozers and bash around making ineffective containment lines
and that makes for good television that gives the impression that someone
knows what they are doing. That's probably too cynical even by my standards
and there is plenty of expertise and experience in managing and shaping
fires in DSE and the CFA.
I could see lots of Kooris working in the Fire Branch and getting involved
with some hands on firing of the land as Custodial Fire Rangers or Wardens.
That would constitute a practical reconciliation and recognition of
their role as custodians of the land. As someone pointed out earlier,
it would be good to see more full time jobs for people who work on fire
crews in summer. DSE already moves people from other tasks onto fire
crews during summer. Fire Branch workers would be employed all year
on ecological restoration and fire risk management (but not necessarily
direct fire fighting). Too much of the burden of fire fighting is falling
onto too few volunteers and the danger is increasing as forests become
more volatile during extreme summers.
As I explained in an earlier comment, it is possible to use fire in
a way that creates, or reinstates, natural buffer lines and controls
to bushfire. That would be the primary objective of the Fire Branch
with other tasks designed to defend human environs being undertaken
when weather conditions are not conducive to the primary objective.
"Other tasks" may include things like cleaning up and preparing
properties for the sick and elderly or assisting other government agencies
in making public land in and around populated areas fire safe. To be
fair, since the release of the report into the 2003 Alpine fires, DSE
have focused more on fire mitigation and prevention in the off-season.
My main criticism would be that fuel reduction burning at the wrong
time and at too hot a temperature is doing more harm than good as it
encourages the spread of fire adapted species. God help us all if the
government caves into the hicks and let's every redneck have a go at
burning the bush. It would be ecological disaster upon ecological disaster.
Anyone wanting to conduct a fuel reduction burn around their property
should be required to develop a plan with, and work under the expertise
of, the Fire Branch. The species that respond to hot burns are generally
more flammable and the seed responds well to fires which creates a feedback
loop whereby the species composition shifts in the bush to promote more
fires. The current fires might be both a product and vector of that
The other crucial element needed for ecological restoration is the need
to address the structural changes in forests caused by forestry practices
in the last 60 years. As forests have been converted to meet the demands
of foresters operating in the global economy the subtle variations of
different forest types have been lost. Coupe sizes have grown and the
coupes have been laid side by side with no meaningful distance between
them. As a forest is a forest to most people, few have understood that
a wholesale transformation has been underway and that the subtle variation
in ecological classes, species composition and age structures have been
lost as forests became uniform and homogenous. It's not really surprising
that humans would fail to see that transformation, our life cycle of
80 or so years doesn't quite give us the chance to watch a forest cycle
through a thousand years give or take a couple of hundred years.
But why should foresters care anyway? It's their job to grow wood, cut
wood and get wood to market on time and on budget. Yes of course they
are savvy enough to have picked up a couple of catchy feelgood words
like "ecology" and "sustainability" but, in terms
of the big picture, are they attuned and responsive to the ecological
needs and nuances of forest in geological and ecological time frames?
It's like burdening an ant with my existential dilemma. Their job is
essentially wood. They grow wood not biodiversity. 60-80 year rotations
for wood crops is anathema to biodiversity in forests. They focus on
a couple of species at most but biodiversity relies on the ratio of
different species in relation to one another and the age and size, within
and between different species in the forest.
The argument goes that because some representative areas are reserved
in conservation zones then conservation objectives are being achieved
and the essence of the forests remains unchanged. But, when you overlay
conservation zones with mixed use forests (those available for logging)
you get to see that at the macro level, the very nature of forests have
changed in every conceivable way. Sure there are still trees there,
but why has the regeneration method preferred one or two commercial
species? Where is the rainforest understorey or even the understory
full stop? Where is the riparian vegetation on natural drainage lines?
Why are all the trees the same, or near to the same, height and size
over broad expanses?
Any forester reading this is probably feeling a bit defensive right
now, it's not every day you get accused of destroying biodiversity AND
turning the state into a tinder box, although they probably get the
former quite frequently and accurately in my books.
So the question is how do you undo the damage done by modern forestry
practices? It seems to me that we have three paths ahead of us. Two
of the options result in increasing forest flammability and combustibility
in my opinion.
The first is 'business as usual'. Maintenance of the present system.
Ritualistic, inappropriate fuel reduction burns in conservation zones
and the molding of production forests to the ideal specifications for
feeding Satanic paper mills and deriving profit. It also maintains the
process of forest becoming increasingly fire prone and flammable.
The second is 'lock it up'. No timber harvesting of any description
in any forest. Some advocates of this approach also support the idea
of stopping all fuel reduction burns. Superficially this looks like
a possible solution but it ignores the fact that the process of increasing
forest flammability and combustibility is already underway in forests
and will not be reversed by ignoring the problem. Presumably, some subscribers
to the no harvesting line will accept the need to manage fire in the
It's a bit hard to theorise when you don't know what the vision and
objectives of this group are. Is the ultimate aim to fence off forests,
close roads and ban access to everyone except for people riding donkeys
If forests are not managed on any level other than with constant attempts
to suppress fire, then given the observable process of increasing fire
potential, the inevitable eventuality is periodic fires that will make
Ash Wednesday and Black Friday look like the Teddy Bear's picnic.
If, as I have contended, increased forest flammability and combustibility
is a product of both forestry and changed fire regimes, then we would
need to consider what would happen if we removed all forestry activities
from the forest. The first problem encountered would be funding. Undesirable
as some aspects of the timber industry are, it does contribute revenue
to the state that is then used to manage all forests and reserves. Funds
to manage forests would need to come from general revenue or a specific
levy on the tourism sector. Since it is forestry methods (what is logged,
how it is logged and the logging interval) and not forestry in general
that has contributed to the problem then it is a steep price to pay
to accommodate an ideological position held by a minority and is akin
to throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Assuming that all forestry in native forest is, and can only be bad,
as some would contend, then what would happen if it was stopped and
fuel reduction and ecological burns were maintained? Over thousands
of years the forest might recover ecological equilibrium.
No doubt this would be a luxuriously satisfying outcome for the ideologues
but to what general benefit and consequence? It is OK if the areas of
land outside the sacred forest continue to be sacrificed to Mammon and
the production of endless streams of cheap stuff? If the sacrificial
lands are thrashed with monocultures, fertilisers, chemicals and ploughs
and flooded with irrigation waters to the point of ecological collapse
we will all go and live in the forests like Aborigines did 200 years
We must, and can only, live within Earth's capacity to provide and that
capacity is ultimately defined by natural, rather than artificial, systems.
The distinction between the lovely forests and the ugly production land
is a faulty and dangerous misanthropic perception. It gives the impression
we can have and eat the cake our economic rationalist friends are offering.
Their pitch is that nature's capacity to provide is not limited by our
capacity to consume. Any notion that consumption levels should be defined
by nature's capacity to provide is just crazy talk according to them.
It's one system, if it goes, we go. If climate change hasn't served
to highlight, underline, bold and italic that point then I'm wasting
my breath. We are not in a position to pick and choose where, when and
how we dispense frugality and conservancy with regard to nature now.
The last option is 'ecological restoration'. This process would involve
physical intervention to halt the escalating fire potential of forests.
The Fire Branch would be a key aspect to this strategy. A considered
use of fire, as distinct from purely reactive and defensive applications,
could gradually reverse the process of increasing fire potential that
has been underway in forests. A basic sketch of why and how this could
be achieved has already been outlined.
The other element of ecological restoration is somewhat more problematic
and is bound to be controversial. This would entail the introduction
of restorative silvicultural systems primarily into regrowth forests.
The goal here is to break apart the monocultural aspects of much of
the forest regenerated from past forestry practices and fire regimes.
One way to do this would be to work sequentially on original clearfell
coupes. To illustrate the point, take a hypothetical, 40 hectare clearfell
coupe from the 1960's. After a rigorous on ground ecological assessment
and site analysis a silvicultural treatment and site plan would be prescribed.
This plan would aim to achieve numerous objectives over an extended
period. The area might benefit initially from light thinning with particular
attention being paid to drainage lines, riparian strips or rainforest.
Any habitat or seed trees, although less common in that era, would remain
undisturbed as would remnant or regenerated rainforest understorey and
riparian vegetation. After twenty years another light thinning would
open the forest further. If the area has been subject to cool fuel reduction,
ecological or even natural burns at any time since the original clearfell
there will be secondary regrowth interspersed with primary regrowth.
By drawing on both generations of regrowth a relatively small volume
of sawlogs and pulplogs would be extracted. The selective logging during
the ongoing periodic thinning could, at this point, be utilised to fragment,
and thereby delineate, clearly defined age structures within the coupe.
Over time this system will restore the forest to a state that is less
vulnerable to fire and will have other benefits such as sustaining biodiversity
and producing ecologically sustainable timber. As the balance of species
and structure of the forest is restored, the topographic moisture gradient
will return to the state it was in prior to industrial forestry. The
moisture gradient, in combination with structural fragmention of different
age, size and height trees, will make the forest more resistant to the
type of intense fires that have become more common.
Forestry practices have focused on timber production rather than ecological
maintenance. One good example of the effect of this is rainforests.
It is only in recent years that rainforest gullies have received any
protection at all. Prior to that, rainforest was knocked over without
a second thought as it only increased the area covered by eucalypts.
Today logging operations routinely destroy the ecotone, the area where
pure rainforest and eucalypt forest interface, since the definition
rainforest used by DSE excludes rainforest with emergent eucalypts from
it's definition of protected rainforest. This bureaucratic slight of
hand means that 40,000 hectares of strategically situated Victorian
rainforest was reduced to 15,000 hectares with the stroke of a pen.
Even following the introduction of protection measures, buffer zones
designed to protect these areas have been breached frequently in the
pursuit of valuable eucalypts. Such breeches should have been discouraged
and penalised under the Code of Forest practices but cavalier disregard
for the Code is common. This might seem like a trivial and inconsequential
matter until you consider the ancillary function of rainforest in maintaining
linear natural firebreaks within eucalypt forest. On top of the inherent
dampness of rainforest, rainforest species tend to be less flammable
or non-flammable compared to eucalypt forest.
Bushfires are classified into two basic categories, ground fires and
crown fires. Ground fires tend to be cooler and move more slowly through
under growth. Crown fires are a more intense phase of bushfire and see
very hot fires spreading through the canopy as well as incinerating
everything on the ground. They are intensely hot and can move extremely
quickly. On Black Friday, eyewitnesses reported entire hillsides virtually
spontaneously combusting such was the speed of the crown fire.
The function rainforests served was to deprive fires of critical mass
and momentum. Because most stands of rainforest in Victoria are along
watercourses and gullies they are usually anywhere from 50 to 500 metres
wide. A crown fire that approaches a rainforest will not ignite the
canopy so it is unlikely the fire will sustain it's momentum when it
reaches a rainforest. While there is little doubt fire can continue
past rainforest with the help of embers and heat generated by the fire
it is also quite obvious that the rainforest will slow the spread and
diminish the intensity of the fire as it re-establishes on the other
side of the rainforest. It's amazing to think that these unassuming
biological islands are the vegetative remnants of Gondwana, harbour
a disproportionate amount of biodiversity and have long served a vital
function in fire cycles in this region.
When dense and uniform aged regrowth burns into rainforest the eucalypt
forest is likely to dominate post fire as rainforest is slower to recover.
This sustains the cycle of increasing fire potential. The same principle
applies when you replace complex forest with simplified forests. The
dense, uniform nature of regrowth means it burns faster and hotter than
a more complex forest with variable vegetation and tree size.
So there it is in brief. Ecological restoration is just as it sounds
and is founded on the notion that conventional forestry practices have
been detrimental to forest health and that to leave the forest to it's
own devices is no longer a viable option given the transformation that
has already occurred. If nothing else it points the way forward if we
are serious about sustainable timber production.
Now, having thoroughly antagonised and angered the two recognised camps
of protagonists on this issue, I look forward to some constructive feedback
and critique. But please, no more leading questions, having to articulate
these internal ruminations and monologues is too much like hard work.
by chris Wednesday December 13, 2006 at 12:06 PM
current and longstanding problem is that the Australian landscape has
been tragically altered, so much so that natural forests no longer exist.
what has been left by agri development is an environment (accidentally)
designed to catch fire.
Native grasses used to grow in clumps reaching no more than a few feet
in diameter or height, and in fires the grass fuelled cooler low level
fires by today’s standards. However after farmers spread African fodder
grass from one end of the continent to the other a matted high grass
supplied an abundant hot fuel source which now contributes to the present
dangers. Making the current problem insurmountable.
Fire fighters will now keep the fires company as they burn each other
God knows what effects this is having on Australia’s green house gas
emissions, perhaps the big dry is caused by global warming and perhaps
the fires release enough co2 for these blazes to be classified as a
tipping point in there own right.
Is there a link where I can compare co2 release from fires against industrial
play with fire or you might get burned
by Binary Empire Wednesday December 20, 2006 at 12:16 AM
response to Catherine Murphy, NAFI. ( http://masl.to/?Q41D2156E
Myth 1 - NAFI suddenly discovers concern for native animal welfare?
Well why have they been fighting tooth and nail to be allowed to destroy
some of the most important animal habitat in the country and why do
they continue the use of, and support the use of, of the cruel poison
1080? Bullsh!t, NAFI are opportunistic liars.
Myth 2 - NAFI alleging bushfires are climate change driver. The natural
carbon cycle was in harmony with the natural fire cycle. The bigger,
more intense fires of recent times are a direct result of forest mismanagement
(which NAFI supports and lobbies intensely for) in combination with
climate change from increased levels of atmospheric carbon. The forest
management regime advocated above will restore carbon emissions from
bushfires back to natural levels.
The bushfire contribution to atmospheric carbon is a moot point anyway.
That major factor in climate change is athropogenic carbon emissions
due, almost entirely, to the burning of fossil fuels. Billions upon
billions of tons of fossil carbon have been added to the atmosphere
in the last century. If they are serious about halting climate change
they would change their forestry practices and stop pumping fossil fuels
into the atmosphere. In summing up, more NAFI bullsh!t.
Myth 3 - Forests in reserves are not managed.
All forests, across all tenures, are subject to fuel reduction burns.
What is lacking is funds to make sure that fuel reduction burns are
carried out at the right time with adequate resources allocated to the
operations. Poorly managed and funded fuel reduction operations are
more likely make forests more fire prone. How much money have NAFI and
Gunns, for instance, contributed toward these operations? They pay pitifully
inadequate royalties for access to a public resource and then spend
buckets of money bribing and blackmailing politicians into protecting
their dirty, filthy and corrupt operations.
Myth 4 - Murphy claims environmentalists "are silent on the massive
loss of biodiversity resulting from fires"
I, and thousands of others like me, have spent twenty years writing
submissions and letters and lobbying politicians to have our voice heard
but when the bent politicians are in the pocket of NAFI, Gunns, Amcor,
the A Team and the corrupt forestry division of the CFMEU, how do you
get heard? It's not easy when the system is corrupt and eighty per cent
of Australians are ignored on a daily basis by their elected "representatives".
Myth 5 - No regeneration from 2003 fires.
Areas suffering from poor regeneration might be reflecting past mismangement
and poor logging practices as well as the effects from hotter fires
that are also a product of climate change. Once again, most causes of
this issue can traced back to this industry with its myopic and insatiable
appetite for profit.
Myth 6 - Reduced water flows from burned areas.
Murphy tries to blame environmentalists for the fires when all the evidence
points to the fact that it is her industry that has played a large part
in exacerbating, or even creating, a bad situation. The Moondarra fires
earlier this year came out of a regeneration burn in a logging coupe.
Besides, if they are worried about water flow, why do NAFI still support
clearfelling (the worst silivicultural system because it produces poor
water flow volumes and quality) and why have they been so keen to promote
the expansion of the plantation estate which has been having a horrific
effect on fresh water supplies in this country? Plantations have been
targeted at the highest rainfall catchments, use more water than forests
because they are perpetually held in a thirsty development stage due
to short rotations, are sprayed with dangerous chemicals that end up
in waterways and drinking supplies and are cut in short rotations which
means run-off pollutes and clogs waterways. Why are they silent about
this? And why does this industry sector get outrageous tax benefits
unavailable to any other industry? (Google Managed Investment Schemes
+ Plantations + au)
Myth 7 - Four wheel drive and fire access tracks are somehow useful
for fire control.
How do they stop fires or help fighters stop fires? They don't. Fires
can spot up to 15 km ahead in the 'right' conditions so how does a 4
metre wide track with the trees forming a canopy overhead form a fire
The timber industry want us to believe these pissy little tracks act
as a fire break and allow firefighters to attack fires. Let me remind
readers of what happens when dud fire control managers, gung ho fire
crews or unbalanced crew leaders lead firefighters onto these tracks
on bad days.
16th FEB, 1983 - Upper Beaconsfield, Victoria. The Panton Hill and Narre-Warren
Tankers (both c1970s petrol International 4x4s with charged lines but
no high sides, fixed sprinklers, crew haven or window screens) were
part of a 5 tanker group attempting to secure the quietly burning eastern
flank of a major fire on a day of extreme fire danger and multiple major
fires. A forecast westerly wind change arrived early, with a 90 degree
windshift and 80 km/h winds, and the eastern flank became active. The
2 tankers attempted to depart, but were overrun on a narrow fire track
by fire running uphill in heavy bush. The 7 crew of the Narre-warren
Tanker were all found dead, 3 in the front cabin of the truck , and
4 on the ground around the truck. The 5 crew of the Panton Hill Tanker
were also found dead on the ground around their burned out truck. Two
other tankers were also overrun in a clearing nearby at about the same
time, sustaining serious scorching but remained operational without
crew casualties. Panton Hill and Narre Warren Tankers destroyed with
12 killed. These crews attempted to stop a fire while on a fire trail.
2nd DEC, 1998 - The Geelong West Tanker , an Isuzu 4x2 diesel (with
high sides, crew haven and charged lines, but no window screens or fixed
sprinklers) was one of 3 similar tankers on a firetrack leaving the
fireground at night in mild conditions. Two trucks were over run by
a sudden flare up of the fire due to a wind change in heavy bush. The
5 crew of Geelong West sheltered in the truck , but it was out of water
and was destroyed in the burnover and all 5 were killed.
The similar Geelong City Tanker was on the track just ahead and was
also burned over in the same incident: "within about 2 seconds
we were fully engulfed, with flames coming right over the cabin…the
wind was horrific". 2 crew sheltered in the cabin under blankets,
the other 3 in the crew haven on the rear, operating self defense hoselines,
exhausting the available 1000 litres of water just after the fire passed.
The truck survived with superficial damage and no crew casualties.
The Snake Valley Tanker , a 1994 Hino 4x4 diesel (with high sides, charged
lines and crew haven, but no fixed sprays or window screens) with 5
crew was attacking a small spot fire from a fire track in heavy bush
when the fire suddenly flared up and overran the truck. The driver "drove
through 200m of flame" to reach a clearing. The rear crew used
charged lines for protection but exhausted their water supply (approx
700 litres was available) and were forced to lie down on the tray as
the vehicle travelled through flames. The vehicle was seriously scorched,
with the battery and external fittings melting, One crew member seriously
burned his hands on the hot door handle climbing into the cabin and
2 of the rear crew suffered minor burns.
Linton, Victoria. Geelong West Tanker destroyed by fire and all 5 crew
killed. The nearby Geelong City Tanker was also scorched, but without
Chronology of Burnover Incidents in Australia
Access tracks to logging coupes are quite rightly rehabilitated after
logging operations. Would Murphy prefer they were left cleared to allow
the forest to become even drier and even more fire prone? No, she is
just trying to form a pathetic alliance of self interest with the hoons
of the bushbashing four wheel drive ratbag brigade.
The National Association of Forest Industries have no qualms about playing
politics with fire in their desire to protect profits. They don't don't
even show any compunction about sending people to their imminent death
if there is even a slim chance of saving the forests they want to woodchip.
don't start fires
More management of forests does not necessarily make them less fireprone.
December 27, 2006
DON'T be taken in when the anti-national parks lobby feigns concern
about bushfire risk. Their latest contributions to the debate have been
unscientific, insensitive and opportunistic.
Insensitive and opportunistic because while exhausted fire crews fight
blazes across three states and people's lives and property are at serious
risk, the logging industry launches another round in its attack against
national parks to get greater access to forests for logging.
Unscientific because the more "managed" a forest is for logging, roading
and four-wheel-drive access, the more fireprone it becomes.
The anti-national park lobby argues for greater access to our forests
— not for logging, of course, but to prevent bushfires. Unmanaged
forests, they say, are a firebomb waiting to explode; they need to be
logged and burnt regularly to make them less fireprone. But letting
loggers into our old-growth and native forests is like giving Dracula
a key to the blood bank.
More management of forests does not necessarily make them less fireprone,
and national parks less fireprone than areas managed for logging.
Parks are not "locked up" — they are managed as part of fire protection
plans. Management burns are routinely made in most parks, and firebreaks
are found in most of them or along their boundaries.
Contrary to popular opinion, most fires start outside parks and burn
in. Of the most recent blazes this summer, 70 per cent started in state
forests. This is consistent with the average, where about 70 per cent
of fires start in state forests and burn into national parks.
The fires of Black Friday, 1939, burnt 10 times the area of the 1983
Ash Wednesday fires, yet there were few national parks back then. We
can, and should, take sensible measures to reduce the risk and severity
of bushfires, but it's a case of horses for courses. Controlled burning
can reduce fire hazard around towns and urban centres, but may also
create a fire timebomb in the bush.
Forests are ecosystems; they respond to whatever you do to them. Their
response to regular hazard-reduction burns is for fire-tolerant plants
to take over from fire-resistant plants, because they thrive in a regular
fire environment. As a result, so-called hazard-reduction burns may,
in fact, create a more fireprone landscape.
Advocates of more fuel-reduction burning talk as if it is risk-free.
Remember Wilsons Promontory last year, where a fuel-reduction burn got
out of control, burnt vast areas of the park and threatened campers?
Controlled burning has many risks.
In the past few years, numerous controlled burns have escaped in Victoria,
NSW and Tasmania. Premier Steve Bracks is right to say drought conditions
can make controlled burns in the lead-up to summer too dangerous, and
impossible to control. This is not to say we should never have hazard-reduction
burns, but you have to pick the right environment and day.
The 2003 bushfire inquiry noted that the "prescribed-burning debate
has been at times ill-informed and peppered with gross exaggerations
and the view by some that one size fits all". The inquiry noted that
there are only about 10 days a year when conditions are right for prescribed
The oversimplification of this issue by some sectors of the public is
dangerous. Bushfires are a complex phenomenon, and no single land-management
practice will reduce the extent and frequency of large, intense fires
across the entire landscape.
The argument that we should engage in widespread and regular burning
of the forest because that's what Aboriginal people did for years is,
as the 2003 bushfire inquiry put it, "a highly attractive philosophy".
But the inquiry rightly concluded that unfortunately "we do not know
enough about traditional burning in southern Australia to be able to
re-create an Aboriginal burning regime".
Since European settlement, the landscape has changed dramatically. Trying
to replicate Aboriginal fire practices in southern Australia would unfortunately
now be a risky experiment. Instead, the goal must be to produce a fuel-reduction
management plan that protects biodiversity and reduces the effects of
wildfire for protection of people and assets.
As for the pro-logging interests, their hypocrisy is breathtaking. They
say a logging industry is essential to help fight the fires, yet this
is the same industry that has contributed to making the forests of south-eastern
Australia so fireprone in the first place.
Logging destroys old-growth forests and rainforests, which are less
fireprone, and replaces them with young, dense, fireprone regrowth over
The Ash Wednesday and Black Friday fires were mostly in managed regrowth
forests recovering from logging. The royal commission on the 1939 Black
Friday fires concluded that logging had increased the severity and the
extent of the fire.
The Canberra suburbs of Duffy and Curtin, which were razed in 2003,
were surrounded by pine plantations and grasslands. Pine plantations
are managed forests with plenty of roads and easy access, yet these
forests created a firestorm.
Logging and regeneration burns create big gaps in the forest, which
in turn create a drier, more fireprone environment. Huge amounts of
debris are left on the forest floor after logging, adding to the fire
About 75 per cent of fires are started by humans, and logging roads
provide greater public access to the forest.
If the logging industry really cared about reducing the bushfire hazard,
it would be calling for an end to the logging of native forests.
In big bushfire seasons, national parks are demonised. We need to remember
that these areas are huge carbon sinks that buffer us from the impacts
of dangerous climate change. Our parks take the equivalent emissions
of 250 million cars for a year out of the atmosphere.
Prime Minister John Howard's comments that the recent bushfires are
unrelated to climate change are alarming. CSIRO has predicted global
warming may double the very high and extreme fire danger days. South-eastern
Australia is already one of the three most fireprone areas in the world.
Fire is a natural and vital part of Australian landscape; it has been
a key process in shaping Australia's unique biodiversity.
With the onset of dangerous climate change, fire frequency and intensity
is likely to increase unless we take a different approach to forest
Gavan McFadzean is the Victorian campaigns manager for The Wilderness
Need for the facts to fight deadly fires
January 8, 2007
Someone needs to sort out the mess in the fire management system, writes
GAVIN McFadzean of the Wilderness Society ("Trees don't start fires",
Opinion 27/12) peddles fiction as fact, a mass of half-truths, pseudo-scientific
lies and emotional blackmail to suggest that anyone who criticises the
fire management of our national parks is anti-national park and pro-logging.
Members of Forest Fire Vic together have 400 years of combined experience
in forest management, fire control and research. We are a group of professional
forest practitioners and scientists formed after the disastrous 2002-03
Victorian bushfires. We don't argue cases for or against any particular
use of forests for logging, grazing, parks or wilderness.
Forest Fire Vic is interested only in vastly improving fire management,
regardless of what the forest is used for. We totally disagree with
the contention that active management equates with a more fire-prone
McFadzean relies on emotive and incorrect statements.
"Controlled burning can reduce fire hazard around towns and urban centres,
but may also create a fire time bomb in the bush."
If controlled burning can reduce fire hazard in one place, it can do
so elsewhere. Years of experience and research have shown that hazard
reduction by burning makes firefighting safer and easier.
There is no evidence anywhere to support the contention that it creates
a "time bomb in the bush".
"We need to remember that (national parks) are huge carbon sinks."
Forests, not national parks, are carbon sinks, and only then if they
are actively growing. Some Victorian forests are huge carbon sources.
There will be a permanent loss of carbon to the atmosphere if these
forests are not regenerated.
"Their (forest ecosystems) response to regular hazard reduction burns
is for fire-tolerant plants to take over from fire resistant plants
…"McFadzean does not explain the difference between a fire-tolerant
plant and a fire-resistant plant. His implication is that fire-tolerant
plants are more flammable and make the countryside more fire prone.
All credible scientific evidence is that as fuels age after burning
and build up to large quantities of litter, they become more hazardous
— even after the pioneering plants have died out.
"Management burns are routinely made in most parks."Not so, according
to figures published in successive reports by the Auditor-General, the
Esplin report into the 2003 bushfires, and Department of Sustainability
and Environment reports. These all show the abject failure of Parks
Victoria and DSE to achieve annual burning programs in any year, spanning
McFadzean cites the Esplin report on the 2002-2003 Victorian bushfires
to argue that there are only about 10 days a year when conditions are
right for prescribed burning. That argument comes from a desktop study
done in the 1960s by Dr Malcolm Gill, who has no practical experience
in prescribed burning and was co-author of the Esplin report.
It used Melbourne weather data and the ridiculous notion that prescribed
burning could not be done at weekends, on public holidays and during
the summer fire season.
DSE debunked that notion and now finds more days to do prescribed burning
than it is able to take advantage of.
The real reasons DSE has not achieved its burning programs were identified
after the fire in Wilsons Promontory National Park in 2005, in a second
Systemic and cultural shortcomings and the separation of entities such
as Parks Victoria and VicForests from DSE disrupted the management of
In short, DSE is dysfunctional and, with too few permanent staff accredited
for fire-line work, is neither able to achieve its burning programs
nor aggressively attack multiple fires in their incipient stages successfully.
Until someone sorts out the mess and makes the system work better, wilderness,
national park and other forest values are doomed to degradation.
McFadzean also seems to know very little about the geography of Canberra
or the fire that caused deaths and damage in 2003.
"The Canberra suburbs of Duffy and Curtin, which were razed in 2003,
were surrounded by pine plantations and grasslands. Pine plantations
are managed forests with plenty of roads and easy access, yet these
forests created a firestorm".
The suburbs were not surrounded by plantations and grasslands but had
sections with plantations, nature park and pasture on their western
A forensic analysis of the fire shows that the intensity of fires burning
in the Namadgi and Brindabella national parks was so high that it created
a tornado that carried fire 14 kilometres across eaten-out pasture and
plantation alike, and the damage to the suburban houses was just as
high where they were next to eaten-out pasture as where they were close
to the plantation.
Victorians continue to pay too high a price for bushfires.
For what result? Built assets lost when bushfires burn with the wind
and saved when the fires burn downhill or against the wind, water yields
nearly halved for decades, millions of birds and mammals dead, forest
diversity reduced and forests reduced from carbon sinks to carbon sources.
Melbourne Water is showing the way by recognising the importance of
early detection and rapid, aggressive deployment of its highly skilled
initial attack crews in protecting Melbourne's catchments.
Athol Hodgson is president of Forest Fire Victoria Inc, and a former
chief fire officer of Victoria.
by Binary Empire Tuesday January 16, 2007 at 01:33 PM
furphies and bushfire management
ATHOL Hodgson's article about bushfire management (Opinion, 8/1) contains
errors of fact. We take particular issue with Mr Hodgson's misrepresentation
of the work of our colleague, Malcolm Gill, who is Australia's foremost
Dr Gill's work on prescribed burning was published in the peer-reviewed
scientific literature in 1987 - not the 1960s as claimed by Hodgson.
The study did not assume that prescribed burning cannot be carried out
on weekends and public holidays as stated by Hodgson. Rather, it noted
that predictions of the number of days suitable for prescribed burning
will be constrained by a variety of factors including weather, and the
cost of labour on weekends and public holidays. Prescribed burning is
a very important component of fire management, but we must all recognise
that it is subject to a number of critical constraints.
Contrary to Mr Hodgson's claims, the Canberra fire-tornado originated
in the Pierce's Creek pine plantation - not native forest. Native eucalypt
forests are not "doomed to degradation" by high intensity fires. Science
shows that regeneration of new cohorts of trees is strongly dependent
on high intensity disturbance - a fact well known to, and exploited
by, commercial forest managers.
The scientific literature does not support his claim that major fires
convert native forests from carbon sinks to carbon sources. Little wonder,
as definitive studies of carbon balance in our native forests, subject
to alternative fire regimes, are yet to be completed. There is also
no scientific evidence for the claims that millions of birds and mammals
died, or that forest diversity was reduced, following high intensity
We advise readers to ingest the views of Mr Hodgson with more than the
usual quota of salt.
Professor Ross Bradstock, centre for environmental risk management of
bushfires, University of Wollongong
Dr Dick Williams, CSIRO Tropical Ecosystems Research Centre, Darwin.