On the risks of large scale fuel reduction burns (in Autumn)

Clear fell logging is not the only threat to our forests.  The risks of ill-conceived and poorly planned fuel reduction burning were highlighted in submissions presented by Strathbogie groups to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Fire Season Preparedness, meeting in Euroa on Thursday July 21, 2016. 

The terms of reference for the Inquiry are here.  The full set of submissions so far received are here.

In addition to the joint submission from the Strathbogie Forest Group, the Firefighters for Forests and the Euroa Environment Group the groups also gave formal presentations and provided further handouts.

The Strathbogie Sustainable Forest Group provided a well-documented (and well-illustrated) account of their concerns.  Wonderful pictures!

Firefighters for Forests reflected on the collective experience of the Strathbogie and adjoining CFA Brigades.  The firefighters are critical of the move to Autumn burns which they suggest can be hotter and more destructive and can contribute to pollution and run off when the rains come.  

Much of what the Strathbogie people presented was reinforced by the submission by Dr David Cheal (here) who spoke to the Inquiry on the same day as the Strathbogie groups.  In summary, Dr Cheal argued:

1. The change in policy away from hectare targets for planned burns towards a risk-based approach is a far more efficient use of available resources and will lead to increased asset protection and fewer lives lost in wildfires.

2. DELWP has no procedures in its planned burning management process that ensure that the requirements of threatened species are accommodated. As a result many rare species are further threatened by planned burning.

3. DELWP has no procedures in its planned burning management process that ensure that the requirements of the full array of habitats and vegetation types are accommodated. As a result some vegetation types (EVCs) are threatened by planned burning, notably including rainforests.

4. Climate change impacts and opportunities are not part of DELWP’s current preventative burn planning.

5. DELWP is only partially applying the new risk-based approach to preventative that is current government policy. The new risk-based approach is neither widely understood, nor applied.

6. There are significant knowledge gaps in our understanding of the ecological impacts of fires. Some of these gaps are being addressed. Others are being ignored.