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May 2011

Bushfire in the Landscape: Different values, a shared vision

23rd and 24th June 2011, Teacher's Federation Conference Centre, Sydney

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW Bushfire Program invites you to attend its Eighth Biennial Bushfire Conference.

Australians 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.

Registrations are now open ... fill in the attached form and email to BushfireConf2011@nccnsw.org.au or send to PO Box 137 Newtown NSW 2042.

Call 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!

Anne Miehs Bushfire Project Officer

Details What: Bushfire in the Landscape: Different values a shared vision Conference

When: 9:00am - 5:00 pm Thursday 23rd June - Friday 24th of June

Where: NSW Teachers Federation Centre, 37 Reservoir St, Surry Hills

Registration and more details: http://www.nccnsw.org.au/content/bushfire-landscape-different-values-shared-vision

Enquiries: Rebecca LeMay or Anne Miehs on (02) 9516 1488 or email: BushfireConf2011@nccnsw.org.au

 

6-3-11

In the 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".

Fast forward to 2011 and signs that knee jerk policy implemented in the wake of this disaster are beginning to backfire emerge.

 

 

Abridged discussion from Melbourne Indymedia covering some of the issues related to bushfires.

 

Bushfires a more Immediate Threat than Terrorism

by Joseph Toscano Wednesday December 06, 2006 at 11:08 PM
Repost from Anarchist Age Weekly Review

It 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.

The 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 when required.

 

Out on the patio
by Crocodile Dung D Thursday December 07, 2006 at 02:31 AM

It 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 plan.

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 arse.

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 the landscape.

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 itself.

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?

 

NASA Photo of Victorian Fires
by NASA Thursday December 07, 2006 at 12:41 PM

NASA Photo of Victor...


"A 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 windy.”"

Read more:
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/NewImages/images.php3?img_id=17481

more photos:
http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/subsets/?Australia6/2006340

i don't share your cynicism
by jeroen Thursday December 07, 2006 at 12:52 PM
rommeldog22@hotmail.com

Dear 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?
Jeroen..

Photo: Smoke in Wangaratta Main Street
by Vera (repost) Thursday December 07, 2006 at 03:39 PM

Photo: Smoke in Wang...

 

Smoke from the Victorian bushfires in the main street of Wangarratta, 7 December.

 

Pay the "volunteers" make it a career
by Firey Unionist Thursday December 07, 2006 at 07:27 PM

Over 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.

 

Edited version was lead letter in the Age
by AAWR subscriber Thursday December 07, 2006 at 09:42 PM

Actually Fera,
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.

Try again, the last one disappeared
by Crocodile Dung D Thursday December 07, 2006 at 11:01 PM

Well 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 harm minimisation.

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 way anyway.

I've run out of time again. But not opinions! Might pick it up again later. Kudos for your community minded spirit though Jeroen.


barking up rong blackstump
by Zagovor Friday December 08, 2006 at 01:06 PM

if 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 deluded.

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.

 

AP-PLAUSIBLE DENY-ABILITY
by hopi Friday December 08, 2006 at 04:53 PM

On 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.

re: paying the bush fire brigade
by comrade Josh Friday December 08, 2006 at 06:37 PM

I 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 off season

Thankyou Crocodile Dung D
by Servalan's Pussy Sunday December 10, 2006 at 02:10 AM

"European 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?

 

The bigger they come, the harder they fall
by Crocodile Dung D Wednesday December 13, 2006 at 12:45 AM

Where 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 adapted species.

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 process.

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 landscape.

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 backwards?

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 ago?

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.

Tipping point?
by chris Wednesday December 13, 2006 at 12:06 PM

The 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 out.

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 emmisions?

Don't play with fire or you might get burned
by Binary Empire Wednesday December 20, 2006 at 12:16 AM

In 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 break?

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.

http://www.csu.edu.au/special/bushfire99/papers/paix/

http://home.vicnet.net.au/~nwfb/pages/ashwed.html

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.

http://www.csu.edu.au/special/bushfire99/papers/paix/

Linton, Victoria. Geelong West Tanker destroyed by fire and all 5 crew killed. The nearby Geelong City Tanker was also scorched, but without crew injury.

Chronology of Burnover Incidents in Australia

http://www.esb.act.gov.au/firebreak/paix-sydney99_oz_burnovers.html

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.

 

More opinion
by Binary Empire Monday January 08, 2007 at 06:42 PM

Trees don't start fires

More management of forests does not necessarily make them less fireprone.

Gavan McFadzean

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 burning.

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 vast areas.

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 hazard.

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 management.

Gavan McFadzean is the Victorian campaigns manager for The Wilderness Society.


http://shorterlink.com/?5GAJBS

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Burning Question

http://blogs.theage.com.au/yoursay/archives/2006/12/burning_questio.html

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Need for the facts to fight deadly fires

January 8, 2007

Someone needs to sort out the mess in the fire management system, writes Athol Hodgson.

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 forest.

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 two decades.

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 Esplin report.

Systemic and cultural shortcomings and the separation of entities such as Parks Victoria and VicForests from DSE disrupted the management of firefighting resources.

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 boundary.

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.

http://shorterlink.com/?0L3ZC2

Today's Age
by Binary Empire Tuesday January 16, 2007 at 01:33 PM

Facts, 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 bushfire scientist.

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 fires.

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.

 

More Articles

http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/08/02/1091432112883.html?from=storyrhs

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20917693-30417,00.html

http://www.abc.net.au/nature/bushfire/

Black Friday

http://www.fire-ecology.org/research/soldiers_story.htm

Fire Storm

http://www.teachers.forests.org.au/natnewsjan07.html

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