How can Australians unite against the corporate and government forces that are failing to avert ecological catastrophe on Australia? We are an increasingly dispersed and disorganised colonial people, without a talking stick of our own.
Update: Subsequent to the bush fires, both the South Australian and Victorian governments have suspended kangaroo harvest in their respective states. That's what it took to get their attention. Here is a letter from past president of Australian Wildlife Protection Council requesting this. To: [email protected]
I would like to wish you a happy new year to you, your family and staff.
Like all Australian's and people around the world my heart goes out (and made a number of small donations) to those effected by these unprecedented fires burning across the country for months now.
In the past week more information is coming out about the plight of our wildlife with an estimated 450,000 plus wildlife effected. As a wildlife rescuer I understand that the priority is for recovery, treatment and food drops for wildlife is essential at this point in time, with the knowledge that these fires are still continuing.
As the state government has rightly so taking actions to support people and rebuild communities effected, I would like to know what actions the government is taking to access the damage to wildlife species recovery and protection to ensure their survival in the future.
In particular will the government put an immediate suspension on the kangaroo pet food harvest industry in fire effected regions as well as not having a duck hunting season not only due to these fires but ongoing drought conditions?
Wildlife Carer, Victoria
Some of you may have noticed how 'debate' about the terrible bushfires has, as usual, turned into a 'backburning and fuel reduction' vs 'greenies'. The mass media is in general promoting a firebug economy. Other voices are not heard, even in Victoria, this most cleared state. We have already published Joel Wright, aboriginal historian's argument that there is no record of big controlled burns by aboriginals in Australia, Jill Redwood, "Firebug economy," and Bob MacDonald on the contribution of wildlife to fireproofing the forests. This ABC recording from Professor Kingsley Dixon is a real voice of sanity in an otherwise truly incendiary debate.
Controlled burns destroy ecosystems and may not reduce fire risk
As fires rage across five Australian states, well ahead of the expected bushfire season, debate rages about our fire management of forests. Some call for more controlled burning during cooler months, thinking this will decrease the rate of uncontrolled fires. But biologist Kingsley Dixon explains, so-called prescribed burning, produces a more flammable system in the first years after a fire. And he says there are devastating effects on the natural ecology. He says whereas some forests may experience a natural fire every 80 years, there is no chance for the ecosystem to re-establish when that frequency becomes a prescribed burn every five years.
Robyn Williams: The Science Show on RN, and the research about fire tells us an interesting and surprising story. This is Professor Kingsley Dixon from Curtin University in Perth.
Kingsley Dixon: It's interesting, fire restarts the ecology in Australian systems. The fires that occur through lightning ignitions are completely natural fires because they would have always happened through lightning ignitions. The issue that we now face on the continent is not so much the intensity of the fires that we are facing, but the frequency of the fires because we have now overlaid imposed fire. This is things such as prescribed burning. And really fabulous new information coming out of a couple of the major research groups in eastern Australia is showing that prescribed burning in fact, as we have now found with the eastern states fires, tragically don't stop the fires we are facing. This is actually a climate change issue, and that by prescribed burning at those lower temperatures, what you do is you drive a more flammable system within those first five years, so then it takes fire again and again, and then the loop is welded into the ecology. When you do those high-frequency fires, that's when you lose your diversity, that's when you lose many of the species we are talking about.
So it's all around the frequency. Natural fire frequencies in some of our systems like the jarrah forest are 80 years or more. We now put them on six-year rotational burns. So you can see the consequences of that are quite catastrophic. Importantly, for things like many of our fauna, they need long unburnt patches as their refugia. It can be everything from millipedes to native marsupials need the rich organic matters that come from long periods unburnt.
And some interesting data I was shown last week which is soon to be published with the fires in New South Wales is that many of those fires actually stopped on the margin of forests that were long-term unburnt. They had built up a resistance to that. And so that's stuff that is now being talked about in New South Wales. So coming back to the original question, fire is the restart of the system, what we do as European people, and not based on Indigenous fire regimes, this is in temperate Australia, certainly is not ecologically sound.
I have a colleague who has referred to the prescribed burning frequencies now that we are imposing, particularly in south-west Australia, as ecocide because of the frequencies and the devastation on treasured systems that we know escape fires for long periods and have some of our major Gondwanan relic species, and these can be from rare fish to important plants like the Albany pitcher plant.
Robyn Williams: So if it's not back-burning to save the forest from fire, the trees from fire, indeed cities from fire, what do we do?
Kingsley Dixon: So back-burning is what you do when a fire is approaching, I understand that, that's fine. What we need is a more strategic approach as we've put in a review paper last year where we synthesised all the information on the unexpected impacts of prescribed burning, and the paper was quite a daunting prospect because we actually saw more data coming through that showed the negativity of that.
So what we then did was we spoke to a lot of people about alternatives, and the alternatives are rather than burning broad landscapes is to look at strategic management and fuel controls proximal to the dwellings and the cities and the towns. The issue will always be, no matter what you do, the large canopy fires will occur, so you have to take your protective measures.
Now, I think I can speak not only as a scientist but also as a person who has been embedded. The very famous 2016 Waroona Yarloop fires, that arrived at my front gate on January 7. We evacuated, we had taken all the precautions. We think we would have saved the property but what really did was a wind change. So by the grace of whoever, we managed to secure our property, but we had taken all the necessary precautions. We sat in an area that had intensive prescribed burning, so it wasn't going to save us, as we had in New South Wales. So I think ecologically we need to re-evaluate what we are doing and to be more strategic about how we apply fire in the landscape and look at the assets themselves rather than blame the bush.
Robyn Williams: The renowned Professor Kingsley Dixon from Curtin University in Perth. More from him in a Science Show next month.
Our city was alight last night as was the countryside
the first, an exhibition the latter ecocide.
Infernos rage devouring branches, trees and leaves,
baking soil, cooking worms, singeing feathered wings ,
fragile membranes of flying foxes, gliders,
or burning them to oblivion. These creatures cannot outrun
the raging flames gathering force, uniting over ridges.
Wind assisted, the fires grow and gather speed.
These fires can turn a house, a car, a firetruck
into a skeleton or a mere suggestion of what was there before,
an imprint on the ground around what was yesterday a fireplace and chimney.
Smoke envelops once carefree seaside towns. The skies are dark at midday
and penetrating that thick blackness,
the sun appears faintly like a distant headlight through a London fog.
Cancelled camping trips leave city children disappointed.
Now trapped and urbanised, they take refuge in their phones
while those living on the coast are bailed up on beaches, homeless and afraid.
Others lost their lives, eaten up by flames.
The greatest toll was wildlife 500 million dead I'm told.
The rescued ones bear scars on ears and legs and toes
and there's nowhere to return to if by chance they are restored.
Australia's cities were alight last night in magnificent displays,
As the remnants of our forests were consumed in such a blaze!
Bushfires in Australia a real national security issue in contrast to talked up threats of hostile nations in our region. Climate change a significant cause of the fires. [Illustrations by Sheila Newman.]
Bushfires in Australia are a real national security issue in contrast to talked up threats of an alleged hostile nations in our region, according to the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN).
Australians are heading into a Christmas day of smoke, fires, death and devastation, with no significant rain projected for weeks, anxiety is rising about when this catastrophe will end.
Many are asking why our leadership isn’t acknowledging climate change as a significant cause of the fires and why is the Australian Defence Force and its highly trained personnel not taking a more active role in fighting the fires- instead of exhausted volunteers and fire fighters? said Annette Brownlie, Chairperson IPAN.
“Lack of public admission of links between increasing temperatures and human-made climate change is not just a failure of analysis but also a betrayal of all Australians.”
“Australia’s decision to spend $200 billion on military hardware including Joint Strike fighter jets and submarines over the next 10 years must be challenged as it is evident that climate change consequences such as drought, rising temperatures and bushfires will demand this money be spent providing genuine national security rather than engaging in wars unrelated to the defence of Australians.”
People in charge of emergency services in New South Wales have scheduled a call for a national bushfire summit, claiming that Australia's political leaders are failing to deal with the NSW bushfire crisis, which their press release ascribes entirely to climate change. Unfortunately, it does not note the services to climate that forests provide. Nor does it note the many other impacts on forests that are drying them out - but could be mitigated - aside from overall climate change. These causes of drying are land-clearing for population expansion, thinning of old-growth forest, and the predations of pyromaniacs or electrical equipment, which are the chief causes of bushfires. And, in the appendix to their press release, they prioritise 'fuel reduction', rather than protection of forests and ways of keeping them wet. Their press release does mention the danger to wildlife as well as to property.
Press release follows:
THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S leadership vacuum on Australia’s bushfire and climate crisis has prompted Emergency Leaders for Climate Action to announce a national bushfire emergency summit after the current bushfire season.
The group has also expanded its membership to 29 former emergency chiefs, with six new members joining calls for the Federal Government to better prepare Australia for worsening extreme weather events. The new members include former Deputy Fire Commissioners, former Directors General of Emergency Management Australia, former Director General of NSW National Parks, and a former Deputy SES Commissioner.
Greg Mullins, former Commissioner, Fire & Rescue NSW, said: “We are deeply concerned with the unprecedented scale and ferocity of the current bushfire crisis. Summer has barely begun but record numbers of homes have been lost in Queensland and NSW, major cities have been shrouded in smoke and destructive fires are burning across Australia. Climate change is the key driver to the worsening conditions but the Federal Government remains in denial as far as credible action on emissions goes.”
PRESS CONFERENCE DETAILS:
WHEN: Tuesday, 17 December, 10:30am AEDT
WHERE: Mrs Macquarie’s Road, Royal Botanic Gardens, SYDNEY (Near Andrew Boy Charlton Pool)
VISION: Former fire and emergency chiefs delivering press conference in front of fire truck
WHO: Six former commissioners, emergency chiefs, fire officers, etc. from NSW (Greg Mullins), QLD (Lee Johnson), TAS (Mike Brown), ACT (Peter Dunn), VIC (Craig Lapsley), WA (Naomi Brown)
“Over the weekend homes were lost near both Sydney and Perth, and a large 737 air tanker was sent from NSW to WA. This underlines our grave concerns that despite the support and efforts of state and territory governments, of current fire chiefs and our brave firefighters, Australia does not have adequate resources to fight fires of this scale or to tackle worsening conditions and simultaneous fire seasons in years to come," said Mr Mullins.
“Australia has become hotter and drier due to climate change, but politicians in Canberra seem incapable of admitting the link. There are no credible climate policies to phase out fossil fuels, or bring down emissions, and our government embarrassed us in Madrid.
“We feel a duty to fill Canberra’s leadership vacuum on the fires and will call our own national emergency summit after the current bushfire season to bring together a range of interested parties to look at how we can adapt to a far more dangerous environment. The safety and well-being of communities, firefighters, and wildlife is on the line.
“Our coalition of concerned leaders is growing, and we are not going away until we see action that matches the scale and urgency of the climate emergency and gives some hope for future generations,” said Mr Mullins.
ELCA is releasing in full the list of recommendations it provided to Minister David Littleproud and Minister Angus Taylor in early December.
Major General Peter Dunn (ret), Former Commissioner, ACT Emergency Services Authority, said: “Bushfires are burning simultaneously in several states and territories, and worse conditions are expected over the summer. People’s lives and properties at risk; this is what climate change looks like.”
“Intense drought and extremely hot weather put unprecedented strain on firefighting agencies as well as firefighters, emergency workers, health services, and others. Australia needs a national approach to ensure that states and territories have the resources needed to keep people safe.
“We have been calling for a bushfire emergency summit to work out a coordinated strategy for worsening extreme weather in the future. We will now take it upon ourselves to host it in March. The Prime Minister is invited to join us, and to show the leadership Australia badly needs on emergency management and climate action,” said Mr Dunn.
"A hundred kangaroos, some dead, others badly injured." Barry Tapp, Senior Inspector for Animal Cruelty Australia Hotline, and other animal rescuers and carers say that the RSPCA failed to respond to requests to deploy the Mobile Animal Vet van to the bushfire areas where it was much needed (notably round Bunyip) and that they thereby failed to honour the commitment they gave the Victorian Government after the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into RSPCA Victoria. We publish below the Government Response to that Inquiry. Warriors4wildlife provided the photos via Barrie Tapp.
The Victorian Government Response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the RSPCA Victoria
The Parliamentary Inquiry into the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) Victoria was established in 2016. The Economy and Infrastructure Committee undertook a detailed investigation into the way that RSPCA Victoria used its powers pursuant to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986, and the use of State Government funding by RSPCA Victoria.
The Victorian Government thanks the Committee for its report following the Inquiry. It also acknowledges the important contributions made by all stakeholders who participated in the Inquiry.
The Committee found that many of the issues presented were historical. Over time, a number of these have been resolved through the improved operating environment between the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) and RSPCA Victoria. In addition, RSPCA Victoria has responded to the 2016 Independent Review of the RSPCA Victoria Inspectorate and made substantial progress towards implementing the recommendations.
That the Victorian Government and RSPCA Victoria provide more transparency, information, and detail with regard to the powers of RSPCA Victoria inspectors under the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals Act 1986, and in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between RSPCA Victoria and DEDJTR.
Government response: Support in full
The Victorian Government and RSPCA Victoria are collaborating in a number of areas to improve the transparency, and detail, of information available regarding the powers of RSPCA Victoria inspectors. Improved reporting systems between RSPCA Victoria and DEDJTR have already been adopted under the current Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). These changes will deliver further detail regarding the activities of the RSPCA Victoria Inspectorate, and the use of government funding.
DEDJTR along with RSPCA Victoria, are considering the best options for developing, and designing resources to communicate the responsibilities of each organisation more clearly. The information on DEDJTR and RSPCA Victoria websites will be clarified and simplified to provide consistent guidance to community members reporting cruelty, as well as informing the community of the roles of each organisation.
The Victorian Government’s Animal Welfare Action Plan contains commitments to review and clarify the enforcement roles of different authorised agencies, including RSPCA Victoria, as well as
governance and funding structures. Future arrangements between RSPCA Victoria and DEDJTR will provide increased transparency, information and detail with regard to the use of powers of RSPCA Victoria inspectors under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (POCTA Act).
That RSPCA Victoria ensure that it investigates cruelty to commercial animals in emergency situations only, in line with Division 2 of Part 2A of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986.
Government response: Support in full
The POCTA Act and the MoU between DEDJTR and RSPCA Victoria are clear regarding the requirement to provide services to alleviate animal pain and suffering. The current MoU defines the
roles and responsibilities for both organisations with respect to commercial and non-commercial animals. It also states that under emergency situations “all inspectors ... may be required to respond to animal welfare incidents outside their areas of responsibility ... if there is a need to alleviate pain and suffering”.
Development of new operational agreements between RSPCA Victoria and DEDJTR will take into account, and give careful consideration to, this recommendation, whilst also ensuring that animal
welfare is not disadvantaged in an emergency situation. DEDJTR and RSPCA Victoria will collaborate to develop resources to communicate the responsibilities of each organisation clearly. This will
include clarifying the role of RSPCA Australia Approved Farming Scheme Compliance Officers so they are clearly differentiated from RSPCA Victoria Inspectors.
That RSPCA Victoria in consultation with the Victorian Government, consider ways to improve engagement and collaboration with animal stakeholder organisations.
Government response: Support in full
DEDJTR and RSPCA Victoria are working to develop new strategies to improve the engagement and collaboration with, and amongst, animal stakeholder organisations.
The Animal Welfare Action Plan (AWAP) provides an example of this approach. Two of the key pillars within the AWAP are ‘Collaboration’ and ‘Education’. The former will enhance cooperation across government and animal sectors, while the latter will assist with communication and training that improves knowledge, skills and compliance.
RSPCA Victoria will continue implementation of its Stakeholder Engagement and Advocacy Strategy, which focuses on building engagement, trust and collaborating with a range of stakeholders.
Original publication Authorised by the Hon. Jaala Pulford MLC
Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources
1 Spring Street Melbourne Victoria 3000
Telephone (03) 9651 9999
Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources 2017
Wildlife carers and rescuers and local farmers have requested the RSPCA to provide its mobile vet clinic ready to assist the expected influx of injured and suffering animals as soon as people are allowed back into the areas currently affected by the Bunyip fire. Barrie Tapp, Senior Inspector for Animal Cruelty Australia Hotline, says the RSPCA and their mobile vet van are needed now. "We already have reports of animals dead and dying."
There will be a huge number of wildlife, domestic animals, horse and cattle, and other farm animals, in urgent need of medical care as soon as people are allowed back in. Will the RSPCA mobile vet clinic will be ready to assist? The RSPCA mobile vet would be an enormous help to manage the influx of injured and suffering animals requiring treatment. There will be many locals out there doing what we can to help, but there is a need for vets and experienced animal carers also to give professional guidance and provide the more serious medical treatments.
The RSPCA's experienced vets and medical staff will be desperately required to step in promptly and help in the aftermath of these fires. From a PR perspective, the RSPCA providing assistance in these fire ravaged areas would draw positive media attention. But far more importantly, they would be joining forces with other concerned individuals, and providing care to the affected animals who will be in desperate need of our help.
Barry Tapp, Senior Inspector for Animal Cruelty Hotline Australia, says that he sent emails yesterday to Terry Ness, chief inspector and to the Inspectorate RSPCA, and to Liz Walker CEO - but there has been no response! In his experience, the RSPCA did help, once, when he, Tapp and Animal Cruelty Hotline with Hugh Worth (RSPCA), Animal Liberation, Anil rescue Australia and Nigel's animal rescue delivered food and essentials all around.
Local farmers, Anne and David Serato have also sent an email to RSPCA Victoria, stating that they are horse and cattle owners, describing their concern about herds, horses and wildlife. They have requesting the RSPCA mobile vet to assist the wildlife rescuers once the burned areas are open, stating the need for expert back up in the form of RSPCA and skilled wildlife carers.
At around 5.28 pm Victorian time today 4 March 2019, Barrie Tapp received a response from Liz Walker, CEO of RSPCA Victoria. She reported that the RSPCA attended a meeting coordinated by Agriculture Victoria. She wrote,
"The situation remains hazardous and is still unfolding. The Agriculture Victoria Animal Welfare Commander is currently working with the Incident Agency Commander to determine animal welfare impacts and will keep us updated. Agriculture Victoria has confirmed that there is no additional assistance required from private veterinarians, RSCPA Victoria or other jurisdictions at this stage. This may change as information comes in and initial assessment is undertaken to the impacted properties."
She added, "RSPCA Victoria has the Mobile Animal Clinic (MAC) and operational staff on standby if required. At this stage we anticipate that the MAC with vets and Inspectors may need to be deployed later in the week. We may also need to provide shelter capacity to welfare board some companion animals."
To this Barrie Tapp has replied that their mobile clinic should be there NOW. He explains:
"We already have reports of animals suffering and some dead. Obviously there are going to be multiple complex cases, given the size of the bushfire. The mobile vet should be there ASAP so that they will be prepared for the inevitable influx."
The Electrical Trades Union has slammed a recent report by the Grattan Institute as little more than an opportunistic call to sell-off Australia’s essential electricity assets to its corporate mates. ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks described the report as lacking integrity and avoiding the real cost drivers in Australia’s energy system. He also drew attention to the numerous fires started by electrical infrastructure faults. This is a matter that preoccupies us at candobetter.net as we see more and more bush cleared, wildlife lose habitat, and all the while most fires are started by humans and electrical faults. The Victorian Bushfire Commission has institutionalised this cruel absurdity.
“When it comes to issues with price and reliability, Australia’s broken energy laws coupled with decades of privatisation are the real culprits,” Mr Hicks said. “This cherry-picked report fails to critically assess the role these two issues have played in driving up Australians’ power bills.”
The Grattan Institute’s assessment that states should dramatically write-down the value of their electrical networks or privatise the remaining state-owned assets is riddled with inaccuracies, Mr Hicks added.
“The Grattan Institute is living in an academic dystopia, claiming our poles and wires are rolled in solid gold while consumers live through the reality of maintenance cuts, meaning more frequent and longer power outages,” he said.
“A lack of federal leadership has meant we are constantly seeing our broader energy network fail under immense strain. Victorians watch nervously, hoping there won’t be repeat of Black Saturday. In NSW farmers see rotten poles collapsing and sparking blazes. And the people of Darwin suffer as staffing cuts see their restoration times grow ever longer.
“Barely 12 months ago, the Grattan Institute released a report condemning the privatised energy retailers’ role in driving prices up. Now they can’t decide if privatisation is the failure or the saviour.”
In the wake of another devastating bushfire on the NSW South Coast town of Tathra last week – that appears to have been sparked by an electrical fault – suggesting that networks are overvalued is complete nonsense.
“The Grattan report suggests Victoria set the standard for network privatisation but the dangerous degradation of poles and wires in that state proves otherwise,” Mr Hicks said.
“We’re now nine years on from Victoria’s devastating Black Saturday bushfire that claimed 173 lives, left more than 400 people injured and destroyed 2029 homes. That fire came 13 years after privatisation. But nearly a decade on from Black Saturday, a recent report from Energy Safe Victoria shows many of the royal commission’s recommendations to prevent a repeat of the blaze are yet to be addressed.
“The poles and wires across the state of Victoria are plagued with dangerous problems. In a period from October 2015 to July 2017 faults in poles and wires were found to be the cause of 252 fires. That’s about 11 blazes sparked each month by ailing infrastructure that is supposed to be maintained by private operators.
“The Electrical Trades Union firmly believes power can and should be cheaper. History has proven it won’t come through privatisation and it cannot come from cutting costs on network investment and maintenance.”
Research: Electrically caused wildfires in Victoria, Australia are over-represented when fire danger is elevated
In Claire Miller et al, "Electrically caused wildfires in Victoria, Australia are over-represented when fire danger is elevated, Landscape and Urban Planning, Volume 167, November 2017, Pages 267-274, " the research:
• Compares occurrence of fires in elevated fire danger conditions from different causes across the state of Victoria, Australia.
• Fires caused by faults in electricity distribution infrastructure are more prevalent at elevated fire dangers.
• Fires caused by electricity infrastructure burn larger areas, on average, than those from all other causes, except lightning.
Electricity distribution infrastructure causes fewer wildfires than most other sources of ignition. However, these fires have been associated with more severe consequences than those from other causes. This paper examines whether fires caused by faults in electricity distribution infrastructure occur more often during periods of elevated fire danger, thereby increasing their consequence. The occurrence of wildfires caused by electricity distribution infrastructure were compared to those attributed to other causes during periods of elevated fire danger across the State of Victoria, Australia, where historically such fires have had significant impact on lives and assets of value. The results provided strong evidence that fires caused by electrical faults are more prevalent during elevated fire danger conditions and that they burn larger areas than fires ignited by most other causes. As a result the consequences of fires caused by electricity infrastructure are worse than fires from other causes. This knowledge highlights the importance of mitigating ignition-causing faults in the electricity network, particularly on days of elevated fire danger.
David Packham, former bushfire CSIRO scientist, is urging more 'fuel reduction' burns to our precious bushland. But more and more people are noticing that wildlife are not 'bouncing back' after the constant burning in Victoria. The yearly target of burning five per cent of public land, purportedly to reduce bushfire risk in Victoria (after the 2009 bushfires), means that within 20 years or even less, there will be no viable bushland left in this state on public land if people allow this to happen. Forests and their inhabitants just do not recover from this kind of assault, despite common propaganda that this is 'normal' for Australia. Kooris have since denied that this was their practice. People need to ask themselves, 'Who benefits?" when they hear calls for even more burning. The forestry industry benefits by replanting rows of straight pines which provide little habitat for animals and are in fact very flammable. The property development industry also benefits when bushland is razed by fire.
After the devastation of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission set a yearly target to burn five per cent of public land to reduce bushfire risk across the state.
According to former CSIRO bushfire scientist, David Packham, forest fuel levels have worsened over the past 30 years because of “misguided green ideology”, vested interests, political failure and mismanagement, creating a massive bushfire threat.
He is arguing that unless the annual fuel reduction burning target, currently at a minimum of 5 per cent of public land, “is doubled or preferably tripled, a massive bushfire disaster will occur”!
Rather than Victoria’s “failed forest management” being a threat, our State’s excessive and draconian response of 5% to be burnt each year is itself a threat to forest environments. We must live with Nature, not destroy it with draconian “management”.
This expert is failing to see the forests for the trees, and seems to think that the wholesale destruction of forests, with more burning, will “save” them – in a maligned effort to protect human lives and assets?
Many academics are promoting fire for forestry and mining. The Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre shares a chairman with the cooperative Research Centre Mining and the forestry Co-operative research Centre based at Tasmania University.
State agencies will choose the easiest route of randomly burning sensitive environments, to fill quotas, and in the process kill off flora, fauna and habitat features as mere collateral damage!
Reports published by the CSIRO and BirdLife Australia cite “inappropriate fire regimes” as threatening more than 50 Australian mammal and 50 Australian bird species.
They concede that to some extent the old adage ‘fight fire with fire’ applies. Used well, fire is an effective, economical tool for land managers.
Reintroduction of occasional fire into some landscapes, and return to a finer mosaic of burning, will not prevent wildfires; it may, however, reduce their impact, by maintaining fire-dependent habitat and
protecting fire-sensitive birds. Kakadu National Park, subjected to decades of management burning, has all but lost its fauna from too frequent fire, which is likely the cause of the loss of the hollow dependent Gouldian Finch from vast areas of its frequently burned former range.
(image:”GouldianFinches” by Nigel Jacques (Kris) – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons)
The original forests of Gippsland were not flammable, settlers of Fish Creek were not able to burn the forest to clear land until the railway line was cut through, bringing in a ‘draft’. This is a common story Australia wide in formerly wet forested areas.
Climate change is also said to be playing a role, with the biennial Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO State of the Climate Report 2014 finding that rising greenhouse gas emissions are causing fire seasons to lengthen and are contributing to an increase in the number of fire risk days, particularly in the south-east of Australia.
Bill Gammage is an Adjunct Professor at the Humanities Research Centre, studying Aboriginal land management at the time of contact. He has convinced quite a few environmentally concerned people through his book ‘The Biggest Estate on Earth’ that regular burning is needed. It contains many fundamental flaws and represents ‘blind advocacy’ for repeated burning’ because ‘Aboriginal people did it’. Mooney et. al. examined over 200 sediment cores of 70,000 years or more of age to determine fire frequency. They found that fire frequency increased 50 fold with the arrival of Europeans.
However, more fires to fight fire is like using a sledge hammer to drive in a tack, or killing fleas on a dog with a shotgun!
Joel Wright, a Gunditjmara Linguist, has found no evidence of landscape burning in the Victorian western district but outlined the use of fire for smoke signals, and as an effective weapon against settlers. Research shows that fires have increased 50 fold since European settlement, so “fuel reduction” to make the bush less flammable seems to be having the opposite effect.
Natural ecological functions have always existed to limit fires, such as fungi, bacteria, insects, native species, high forest densities and tree canopies.
The Andrews government will review the minimum 5 per cent burning target in response to a Inspector-General’s report. Five years ago, both major parties backed the “minimum of 5 per cent” target, a key recommendation of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission held after Black Saturday.
Fire management needs to be multidisciplinary, and not simply about human welfare, stock and property assets. The timing of the burns should also take heed of breeding times and seasons for the species present, particularly those that are already rare or threatened due to the loss of habitat, food or human encroachment. We need to work out how we carry out our works without disturbing the nesting, roosting and breeding times for those animals in that immediate areas near human settlements.
Fire management needs to be optimised and based on where the greatest risks are, not on the metrics of hectares or percentages of Victoria’s landscape.
Two weeks ago fire 40 km north east of Perth burnt for 10 days and blazed through some 7,000 hectares of land, burning homes - far too many to count, or for that matter, to contemplate. It impacted on countless species and would have burnt millions of individuals, all of whom, like us, are categorised biologically under the heading Kingdom of Animalia. But that's not how the newspapers reported it...
“The fire destroyed two derelict houses and three sheds”...
This statement pretty well sums up the sort of media reporting that a fire, regardless of size or location, generally generates.
Human life, infrastructure, and on a good day, human “property” such as livestock and pets… but wild life rarely, if ever, cracks a mention!
Yet when a fire, which basically burnt for 10 days, blazed through some 7,000 hectares of land 40 km north east of Perth two weeks ago, it DID burn more than human infrastructure – it burnt homes - far too many to count, or for that matter, to contemplate. It impacted on countless species and would have burnt millions of individuals, all of whom, like us, are categorised biologically under the heading Kingdom of Animalia.
Why the silence? Why not an uproar, collective grieving, and hostility towards its maker?
It’s a question I’ve asked myself over, and over, and over again. About this fire, and the many others before, be they, by design, “prescribed”, “illegal arson” or “accidental.”
But then there is that prevailing assumption, isn’t there, especially when we talk about bushfires.
No one else lives there.
With a mind set like this you can do what you like with the land – the rape, pillage and plunder story that took off in style when our forebears first came to this country and has continued ever since.
Or maybe it’s our superiority complex – the lesser being story that enables humans to categorise wild life as pests, vermin, resources, or as simply irrelevant or expendable in our version of the grand scheme of things.
And then there is the whole burning thing – you know the one – the Aboriginal burning; the need to protect human life, property and infrastructure; reduce fire risk that derives itself from climate change; and of course burning regimes that are for good, or even necessary, for nature conservation and biodiversity.
Little wonder that with this sort of propaganda few, if any, question fire events - unless of course they are personally affected by them.
After all, no-one wants to die, or see their loved ones die – nor do they want to see their homes destroyed, or their livelihoods taken from them.
Same goes for other species, actually, but really, who cares about that?
It is my contention that until such time as the status of wild life elevates way up to where it should be the majority of the population will continue to regard fire, and the repercussions thereof, in this limited, anthropocentric way.
It IS alarming that 1839 bushfires in the last 6 weeks have been reported in WA. What IS more alarming is that these figures, apparently, are not unusual.
Clearly we have a problem… one that is not confined to WA.
507 of these fires have been deemed suspicious or found to be deliberately lit, according to a Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) spokesman.
And one is left to wonder how many more fires are deemed “accidental” - like the most recent one (of course there have been others) that razed through Bullsbook after sparks from an angle grinder left residents unable to see, breathe, and desperately trying to drive out, through fire.
If it was bad for them, imagine if you will, the impact on penned domestic animals, and wildlife, who were also unable to see, breathe, and were equally desperate to escape the fire.
Whilst it is true that some highly mobile wildlife can flee the initial onslaught of fire, especially if there are no fences in the way, the speed, movement, rapidly increasing and radiant heat, height, and extent of the fire would have decreased opportunities for many species, and severely limited the individual’s chance of survival.
Add to those factors the use of back burning, deliberate burning of unburnt pockets, the use of aerial fire suppressants and later, burning gels...
Still, miracles can happen….
Of the carnage, Mallubillai Wildlife Rehabilitator Lyn Manuel said,
“We have two little joeys being treated for bad burns.. but there are no words to describe what we see. The smell of death is everywhere…”
Two weeks after the event an eerie silence is broken only by a wind that knows no barriers. Tree skeletons abound, the soil is scorched, naked and warm to the touch. There are some, not many, tracks to be seen, but even then there are those that tell an all too familiar sad story.
There is no shortage of white ash piles – the intensity of the fire enough to burn bones.
It’s ugly, and I’m angry.
The fire did NOT just destroy two derelict houses and three sheds!
I’m sorry, but the fact that the local resident who started this particular fire is apparently remorseful doesn’t cut it, as far as I’m concerned.
Tell that to the wild life.
Asking people to be more safety conscious when they are operating hot tools or things that generate sparks in the open area, especially when working around dry vegetation is clearly not working now, and never will.
It is my guess though that those in authority know that.
So rather than engage in preventative measures, and place blame, and personal responsibility where it belongs, we are pushed into a model of action and behaviour that has, yet again, significant repercussions for wild life.
The bare earth policy (desertification) - the favoured, politically savvy, mitigation strategy.
No need to for anyone to change their behaviours… well…OK…just don’t use those angle grinders in the open on total fire ban days.
And the war against nature takes on a new dimension - litter becomes fuel, in fact all vegetation becomes fuel, and trees become fire risks that will fall on us, our houses, our sheds, our power poles…and, and ,and.
We can no longer live among the gum trees.
And if that is not bad enough the public clamour for crown land to be decimated in the same way.
Someone else lives there.
Fires destroy ecosystems. Fire destroys homes. Fires take lives - millions of them.
The true cost of fire, measured in terms of loss of life, pain and suffering, habitat destruction, environmental degradation, pollution, health impacts…is the real story that needs telling.
Next time you hear that no lives were lost, you too need to do what it takes to set the record straight.
Wild life matters!
This very widely and deeply researched article talks about the role of Australian native animals in protecting forests from fire and reviews the evidence for prescribed burns, criticising Bill Gammage's research on a number of grounds and noting misconceptions about Aboriginal fire management. "Research by the CSIRO published since 1994 has shown that there is a group of around 1000 species of moths called oecophorids whose caterpillars occur at densities of up to 400 per square metre and eat dead leaf litter. These insects are killed by fire and take some years to come back - leaving the bush accumulating leaf litter. With frequent fires they can be lost. Termites consume vast amounts of dead timber Australia wide and in long unburned forests they are particularly dense with huge mounds in southern Australia too but their role in fuel reduction remains unstudied! Cockroaches and a wide range of beetle species and their larvae do the same. Recent research has identified Lyrebirds and Mallee Fowl as playing key roles in fuel reduction, composting litter and twigs in vast amounts reducing fuel loads by tonnes by per year per bird. All these insects, birds and animals that reduce fuel loads are diminished or lost to fire. Fungi are known to be major consumers of dead timber - but their role in fuel reduction is yet to be researched and the role of wallabies, wombats and especially potoroos in distributing fungi, though it is obviously significant, remains unstudied.
Bill Gammage’s popular book ‘The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia’ contains many fundamental flaws and represents ‘blind advocacy’ for repeated burning’ because ‘Aboriginal people did it’.
Like Keith Windshuttle’s ‘Fabrication of Aboriginal History’, Bill Gammage only pursued references - and interpretation of references - that supported his ‘hypothesis’. For Gammage that hypothesis is that all Aboriginal people farmed all of Australia using fire. This proposition was first published by Rhys Jones in an article in Australian Natural History in 1969 ‘Firestick Farming’ - and the references Jones used have as little merit as Gammage’s.
Jones used a painting of Lesueur from 1802 to show landscape burning by Tasmanian Aboriginal people when the painting is clearly of smoke signals. He quoted Peron observing the Derwent River ‘ablaze’ while Peron stated that ‘Tasmanians’ lit the fire to see them off. Bill Gammage now travels the country advocating frequent burning. He is not in any way qualified to do so and often does not look at the bush in these places before he advocates burning. He quotes no Aboriginal people or stories and ignores scientific evidence that cast doubt on his theories.
Mooney et. al. examined over 200 sediment cores of 70,000 years or more of age to determine fire frequency. They found that fire frequency increased 50 fold with the arrival of Europeans. https://palaeoworks-dev.anu.edu.au/?publication=mooney-s-d-et-al-2011-late-quaternary-fire-regimes-of-australasia .
Part of that increase was the use of fire as a weapon by Aboriginal people over more than a century - the firestick verses the musket as Joel Wright, a Gunditjmara Linguist stated in a recent talk. See /node/4240. He (Joel) could find no evidence of landscape burning in the Victorian western district but outlined the use of fire for smoke signals (see TROVE digitised newspapers for many references) and as an effective weapon. Gammage does not deal with these issues yet unlike Rhys Jones and Tim Flannery he had access to all of this information electronically and is a historian - inexcusable in my opinion. He also too often plays on locals’ fear and opinion of fires when he speaks, referring to those who do not want to burn as people or ‘greens’ from the city - see a part transcript of a recent talk by Gammage below.
Australia cannot in any way be seen as an ‘Estate’ nor Aboriginal people as ‘workers’ on an Estate - as if it was destined to be owned by ‘England’. It is a very complex continent geologically which is reflected in its complex plant, bird and animal communities. This in turn is reflected in over 500 tribes and thousands of clans that each manage ‘country’ differently. All are minimalist and complex in their management which is reflected in their more than 500 languages. To apply generalised models of fire management to such a complex landscape is disastrous. To apply American models for fire management is surely wrong and even harder to understand - especially given the radically different landscapes and flora https://www.georgewright.org/243kilgore.pdf. We seem to have adopted our version of ‘Wildland Fire Use’, using fires to achieve ‘other’ management objectives, prolonging bushfires for weeks, especially in National Parks, on the assumption they will make the landscape less likely to burn or burn ‘cooler’.
Eucalypts and other groups of Australian plants have been subjected to volcanic fires for more than 60 million years. We are in a ‘quiet time volcanically’ for the east coast, though volcanoes were active ‘recently’ in Queensland and Victoria 12,000 and 6500 years ago respectively. Humans are able to heal cuts and broken bones but we do not ‘thrive on’ or ‘need’ either. It is likely that vegetation, especially forests, has adapted to recovering from fire but, contrary to popular belief, does not ‘thrive’ on being burned or need it. Even the woodiest seed pods open without fire and many species regenerate from rootstock disturbed by digging mammals like wombats. Burning bush for grazing ‘green pick’ was common in the British Isles in the eighteenth century, though in Australia it often germinated a seemingly ‘inexhaustible’ seed and rootstock of trees and shrubs. Unless burned annually or replaced with introduced pasture species a cessation of burning led to the growth of dense scrub which takes 20 years or more to form a closing canopy and open understorey. This development of dense shrub is what is too often happening in burned bushland today, especially in National Parks and reserves. Just the fact that they can be burned is too often accepted in ‘blind faith’ as ‘reducing fuel’ and making the bush more open and flammable when the opposite is too often the fact. In addition to scrubby regrowth trees and shrubs are almost invariably killed by fire adding to fuel loads, as are the animals and fungi that normally reduce fuels.
The original forests had closed canopies and an open understorey
Judge Stretton stated in the 1939 Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission that the original forests had closed canopies and an open understorey which was easily traversed. In regard to fire he said they were relatively safe and it was repeated burning for grazing that opened the canopy, saw the vegetation thicken and made them unsafe. Even heathlands and grasslands are very different with a full compliment of mammals and birds when old - turning them over and maintaining open areas for orchids etc. and reducing their flammability.
There desperately needs to be multi-disciplinary research that incorporates local history. No single scientific discipline or even science alone confers the qualifications required to undertake the comprehensive research needed to inform fire management. For each area there needs to be a collation of all the geological, indigenous and historic data on fire - what was burned when by whom and why as far as possible. Indigenous people need to be resourced to investigate their own tribal and clan history of the use of fire, as Joel Wright did, and not have it ‘done for them’ by botanists and others. This in addition to identifying the fauna that reduces fuels and the impact of burning on increasing wind speed, drying the bush and streams that flow from it as bush regrows etc. for each area proposed to be burned.
Given the massive increase in burning and the threat it poses to wildlife and local economies etc. pausing the lighting of fires and diverting part of that budget to rapidly detecting and extinguishing any that start would appear the wisest thing to do while reviewing their impact.
An example of a very bad and counterproductive burn is the Melaleuca swamp burn in Cape Liptrap Coastal Park in Victoria in 2014 which saw Napalm (Flash 21), a chemical combination not registered for occupational health and safety for its use in Australia, used when torch lighting failed. The impact was dramatic and the fuel load appeared to increase dramatically when it killed all the melaleucas and burned into the peat. The carbon monoxide from this modified napalm killed dozens of burrow dwelling mammals that may well have survived a fire. This is in a remnant damp ferny vegetation strip coastal park that has never had a wildfire and not been burned since 1939 when the messmate forest stopped the grass fire - no wind and wet bark. Despite its common ‘visual’ classification messmate is not closely related to stringybarks and hybridises with ash type species. This and other proposed fires for this bush with 50 or more lyrebirds isolated against the coast by farmland are as a result of ‘desktop research’ by unqualified or barely qualified people. There has been no formal botanical survey work though more than a dozen threatened species of plants are known. Individuals cannot be condemned for doing their ‘job’ - but what they are charged with doing and how it is done has to be evaluated. Fire will clearly make this southeast facing coastline more flammable and diminish or wipe out its abundant ‘fuel reducing’ fauna. (See https://www.eclecticparrot.com.au )
Kakadu has all but lost its fauna ...
Kakadu National Park, subjected to decades of management burning, has all but lost its fauna from too frequent fire, https://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2014/s4120215.htm which is likely the cause of the loss of the hollow dependent Gouldian Finch from vast areas of its frequently burned former range.
Northern Australia was the last ‘frontier’ and fire almost invariably used against ‘explorers’ by Aboriginal tribes and clans is too easily interpreted as ‘ecological burning’ by botanists. The northern grazing industry has long been dependent on burning for green pick in a landscape that can barely be farmed.
These species losses are occurring in many parks and reserves across Australia where they have been subjected to so called ‘Ecological Burning’ and they too are losing mammals and especially hollow dependent species. This approach to burning, to increase the biodiversity of plants, may actually be in breach of the amended International Biodiversity Agreement of 1994 which states that tetrapods, animals with backbones, are a reliable indicator of biodiversity - not plants. This change to a Treaty signed in 1982 originally was as if in response to burning in Australian National Parks.
Burning or logging a forest, grassland or heathland may increases plant diversity - but it diminishes structural diversity and fauna and may well make the bush more flammable.
The original forests of Gippsland were not flammable, settlers of Fish Creek were not able to burn the forest to clear land until the railway line was cut through, bringing in a ‘draft’. This is a common story Australia wide in formerly wet forested areas.
Research by the CSIRO published since 1994 ( https://www.eclecticparrot.com.au/references/11-Common%201994%20Introduction%20vol%201.pdf ) has shown that there is a group of around 1000 species of moths called oecophorids whose caterpillars occur at densities of up to 400 per square metre and eat dead leaf litter. These insects are killed by fire and take some years to come back - leaving the bush accumulating leaf litter. https://www.eclecticparrot.com.au/references/13-Problems%20with%20control%20Burning%20NPA%20Bulletin.pdf With frequent fires they can be lost.
Termites consume vast amounts of dead timber Australia wide and in long unburned forests they are particularly dense with huge mounds in southern Australia too but their role in fuel reduction remains unstudied! Cockroaches and a wide range of beetle species and their larvae do the same. Recent research has identified Lyrebirds https://www.eclecticparrot.com.au/references/14-Nugent%20et%20al.%202014%20Wildlife%20Research-%20lyrebirds%20and%20fire.pdf and Mallee Fowl (Leonard unpub.) as playing key roles in fuel reduction, composting litter and twigs in vast amounts reducing fuel loads by tonnes by per year per bird. All these insects, birds and animals that reduce fuel loads are diminished or lost to fire.
Fungi are known to be major consumers of dead timber - but their role in fuel reduction is yet to be researched and the role of wallabies, wombats and especially potoroos in distributing fungi, though it is obviously significant, remains unstudied.
Almost all parrot species, possums, owls and many species of bats are at real risk of extinction from the loss of hollows which has occurred and is occurring right across the landscape - by burning as a ‘forest industry’ and for ‘ecological purposes’.
It’s time to stop lighting fires ...
It’s time to stop lighting fires and to use fixed rotating thermal imaging cameras to detect them and the world’s best and biggest firefighting aircraft, when needed, to rapidly extinguish them while we determine the effects and all the costs of this increased ‘fuel reduction’ and ‘ecological’ burning. We also need to evaluate objectively whether or not burning all bush is a major costly ecological mistake - and academically stop playing ‘my PHD is bigger than yours’.
Farms are repeatedly damaged by escaped ‘prescribed burns; and ‘prolonged’ fires, losing stock and fences, damaging rural community mental and bronchial health and breaking up families when burns go on for weeks.
Domestic and agricultural water supplies are compromised, fisheries and aquatic life are lost as dead vegetation washes into streams with rain following fires, robbing them of oxygen.
We have neglected even more deadly grassfires (per head of effected population).
We have neglected arson, often a mental health issue and an increasing problem we seem to be in collective denial about. Yet arson was was the cause of 50% of the 2009 Black Saturday fires https://www.wilderness.org.au/articles/summary-and-implications-report-victorian-2009-february-fires, most of the Hobart fires of 1967 and was the entire cause of the deadly Dandenongs fires of 1962 and 1968 which killed more than 30 people. Surveillance by fixed rotating thermal imaging cameras will greatly help in catching ‘fire lighters’.
There is virtually no research into lightning in Australia while in Canada ‘hot’ and ‘cold lightning’ has been identified. ‘Cold lightning’ is 95% of all strikes and negatively charged. While it will blow a tree apart and is very dangerous it passes through so quickly it rarely starts fire - but it can likely ‘cook sap’ in a tree and make it appear as if it has been burned in the past. ‘Hot Lightning’ is positively charged lightning that makes up as little as 5% of all strikes and though it starts fires it is almost always followed by rain.
The Australian history of bushfires includes a vast numbers of grass fires - like many of the most deadly on Ash Wednesday and as part the ‘Hobart Bushfires’ of 1967. Introduced species of pasture grasses die off in the summer, especially along roadsides and the increasingly in fire breaks which can act as fuses, ( https://www.myenvironment.net.au/index.php/me/Work/Fire/Fire-Resources/Fire-Break-submission-Chris-Taylor ) representing a high tonnage of highly flammable fuels in the fire season. These flammable grasses in semi rural areas, open to swirling winds unlike closed vegetation, their fires are particularly deadly and are often called bushfires. A good example of this issue is being addressed by the Kirkstall CFA with its replacement of pasture grasses with native species on road reserves. (https://www.eclecticparrot.com.au/references/02-Kirkstall%20euro%20grass%20conversion.pdf) This reduces fuel loads by 50-90% and native grasses are most often ‘green’ in the fire season.
The reintroduction of dead leaf and timber eating insects, the restoration of populations of Lyrebirds, leaf eating Koalas that even have an oecophorid that eats their droppings, where they have been lost should be key to future bushfire management. This approach to fire management is beyond the ‘skill sets’ and qualifications of judges, lawyers, foresters and botanists we have charged with fire management. Current fuel reduction burning becomes a ‘self fulfilling prophecy’ even when it leads to more fires as appears to have happened, especially in Western Australia. To stop burning where it makes bush more flammable may challenge a practice since colonial times, but will cost far less and provide significant economic returns from improved water production, fisheries, tourism and public health.
There is strong support by CSIRO and other scientists for research before we burn what is left of our older bush area in Cape Liptrap Coastal Park which is one of the increasingly rare examples of older bush remaining with its fuel reducing fauna - see letters https://www.eclecticparrot.com.au
In anything to do with fire management there has to be a ‘No Fault Claims Bonus’. Science is rarely ‘wrong’ but biological sciences should be continually evolving on this most recently occupied continent. We are faced with the corrosion of the Indigenous cultural records from loss of scar, ceremonial, birthing and marked trees along with the potential extinction of many species of birds and animals, also of indigenous stories, from unnecessary or ill-informed burning. Both science and the management it informs must be able to change in response to new information. We need the experience of thousands of foresters and botanists to integrate with the breadth of research in other biological sciences which need a significant portion of fire research funding. There is significant rural employment potential Australia wide to control the animals that spread flammable weeds, protect the forests and bushland from fire and realise natural bushland’s potential economic value for water, fisheries production, tourism and carbon sequestration.
Naturalist Bob McDonald January 2015
Bill Gammage Promoting Fire in East Gippsland
Bill Gammage applied his ideas on burning in response to questions from the audience at a meeting he addressed at Bairnsdale on the 5th of November 2014;
Bill Hodge - 3rd Generation Mountain Cattleman
Would you be in favour of giving a certain area of bush for mountain cattlemen to manage as they see fit for say 5 or 6 years?
Gammage: Yes I’ve already suggested to Graeme Stoney (Mountain Cattleman) and others that after that fire which is inevitably going to come, there is already in place a plan that basically divides an area into three - leaves one area alone - doesn’t do anything; puts only fire in another area and then puts fire and grazing and the way cattlemen burn in the third and see what happens in those three different areas.
LR: Why didn’t you interview any Aboriginal people?
Gammage: If I had Aboriginal friends, I did talk to them. Places like around Narrandera and Alice Springs and the Coorong, North east Tasmania. I did speak to Aboriginal people. But if I didn’t know Aboriginal people I felt it was far too rude to roll up from Canberra, especially of all places (crowd snickers) and say well here I am, you got 20 minutes, give me some basic information and I’ll be out of here. It’s just too rude. These are really important matters - not only the land management, but totems and so on and um yeah… you really need to be really trusted before you can even brave such a question and since my book is about the whole of Australia, it would have been more than a lifetime’s work to have done that.
Danny O’Brien, Member for Eastern Victoria: We in the Government have increased the burning targets; we’ve exceeded them once and dismally failed them last year. Is the solution in your opinion more burning of more area or better burning or different burning?
Gammage: All of the above, (applause) and after you’ve done that more of the above (applause).
I have commended the Government for increasing the hectares. I think we should accept that politicians have a very different problem and there are a great many electors opposing any sort of burning and they are translating that into practice. So when they expand their areas of controlled burning they are really softening up public opinion in favour of ALL burning and that is extremely valuable because, let’s face it country people and like-minded people are a minority in a democracy and we’re never going to get anywhere unless you can change the votes of people in the city -and so doing softening up in this way. I congratulate them but I do think that it shouldn’t be seen as a failure if you don’t reach your target. What you do is say, ‘well we’re experimenting with weather and conditions and times of the year and that therefore makes any fixed target problematic and uncertain.’ Local people will give you a bit of leeway to burn locally, to seize the day; and those local people might be DEPI on the ground, CFA, farmers, loggers, whoever it may be. And what we want you to do when you burn is record the results basically and build up information about that area, which can then be translated into more efficient practice
It’s time to stop lighting fires
Bob McDonald, Naturalist* Pub: Jan 14
15.01.15 4:30 am
Originally published in Tasmanian Times
Note: This introduction has been edited for a number of small but important inaccuracies. Candobetter.net editor 29/12/2014.] Fuel reduction and ecological burning etc. are based on the assumption that all Aboriginal people undertook fire-stick farming. Joel Wright, traditional owner in southwest Victoria, is an indigenous language, culture and history researcher. He finds no evidence of wide-scale burning in Aboriginal language and culture, but does find other explanations for the history of aboriginal fires observed by Europeans. These were often smoke-signals exchanged between clans, for general communication and warning of approaching Europeans etc. There was also defensive burning to hinder explorers by burning feed their stock might otherwise eat. Other fires were to 'cover their tracks' when they were being pursued, etc.. Many of these fires were mistaken for landscape burning. Joel also found one record of burning small portions of dry grass around marshes to expose an area to attract birds to scratch for food there, making the birds potential meals for the indigenous hunters. Nowhere did he find anything to justify the destructive and dangerous annual incineration of the landscapes of the Gunditjamara by the Victorian Government. He was concerned that burning the bush as we do now kills the birds and animals so important to vegetation stories, removes scar and burial trees and 'burns micro particles from axes and spears that holds the clues as to what they were used for.The video was recorded from Wright's presentation at Australian Wildlife Protection Council Fire and Wildlife Conference, "Pause and Review Victoria's Fire Management." November 2014
Candobetter.net Editor's comment: The long delay in publishing this remarkable report from researcher, Joel Wright, has nothing to do with its excellence. The delay was the result of fire policy politics associated with the recent change of government, which encouraged candobetter.net and others to suppress discussion until the passing of the Napthine Government. I will try to write about these politics in another article.
I am also waiting on a transcript of the contents of the filmed lecture. - Sheila Newman
In the light of the upcoming "Pause and Review" conference (November 9, 2014) on how Victoria's 5% per annum burning off will destroy most wildlife, along with forests and climate, I am revisiting the biotic pump theory on these pages. Whilst many people have been aware (but have mostly been ignored) that vegetation, especially forests, creates rain, and whilst desertification has been linked to deforestation historically many times, there is a new and robust theory to explain how this may happen. There is a short and a long version at Prof. Victor G. Gorshkov and Anastassia Makarieva's theoretical physics site here: "Biotic regulation pump." The authors also have pages at academia.edu. A journalist overview, "'Biotic Pump' Theory Suggests Forests Drive Wind and Rain" is available on the Environmental News Network.
See also How logging causes forest firesOriginal source of article:Rainforests may pump winds worldwide by Fred Pierce, New Scientist, 1st April 2009, issue no.2702.
If you cut your forest, the winds will not blow from the ocean and will not bring you rain. Natural forests draw atmospheric moisture inland from the ocean in a positive feedback loop. This builds up precipitation inland, compensating for water lost through river flow and ultimately increasing river runoff due to the sustained low pressure area inland. Forests make rivers.
Due to their high leaf area index, natural forests maintain high transpiration fluxes (thick dark blue arrow), which exceed the evaporation fluxes over the ocean (thin dark blue arrow). The evaporated moisture undergoes condensation and disappears from the gas phase. Air in the atmospheric column above the forest rarifies. As a result, ascending air motion develops over the forest canopy, which, in turn, "sucks in" moist air from the ocean (light blue arrow). It then returns to the ocean in the upper atmosphere (dotted arrow) after precipitation of moisture over the continent.
The-chicken-or-the-egg problem of whether forests grow where it is wet, or it is wet where the forests grow, solves unambiguously in favor of the forests' priority. Physical foundations for this conclusion (the non-equilibrium vertical distribution of atmospheric water vapor and the associated upward-directed force of osmotic nature, termed the evaporative force), as well as the empirical evidence (precipitation dependence on distance from the ocean in forested versus non-forested areas) illustrating the action of forest moisture pump and its decisive role in the maintenance of water cycle on land, are described.
Links to all our publications relevant to biotic pump.
Biotic Pump Overview 2012
Interview to Mongabay.com.
Biotic Pump Overview 2009
15 responses to the Spanish Meteorological Magazine.
The biotic pump idea was first put forward in the end of 2005. Since that time many interesting comments and questions became available. Comprehensive discussion was hosted on the pages of the Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions journal of the European Geosciences Union, where the biotic pump was first published and where it became one of the most commented papers. Some comments were made informally to the authors and some are anonymous. Here we give an overview of all the reactions, with our comments and responses to criticisms. Note that the Russian version of this section is not a translation of the English version. Instead, it publicizes our correspondence (in Russian) with the Editorial Boards of the Russian journals "Water Resources" and "Physics of Atmosphere and Ocean", including anonymous reviews and the authors' responses to them.
This section includes presentations of biotic pump at conferences; mass-media articles on biotic pump; and all other relevant issues not covered in the above sections. For example, in October 2007 an interesting prediction of the biotic pump theory was confirmed, namely that natural forests should increase transpiration during droughts (Saleska et al. 2007 Science 318: 612). Increased evaporation leads to intensification of the upwelling fluxes of moist air and of horizontal influx of moist air from the ocean, to offset the adverse effects of the drought. Forests that do regulate the water cycle are expected to behave like this. This behaviour was confirmed with satellite data on leaf area index in Amazon forests during the 2005 drought.
The South Eastern Red-tailed cockatoo is under increased threat from Victorian government fire "management" plans. A large part of its critical habitat will be burnt. (Editor: This article was originally submitted as a comment. The subject is so important we promoted it to an article and we recommend the Birdlife Australia site it gives a link to for the bird. The site is brilliantly written and illustrated, engrossing and informative on birds and 'fire-management' problems, although it is more diplomatic than this article, which pulls no punches. Readers of candobetter.net will know that there are a lot of people who aren't too impressed with state government fuel management programs. See similar pages on bushfires and on black cockatoos. These birds are wonders of nature, personalities in their own right, and incomparably beautiful. How could anyone allow them to perish?)
Illustration sourced from Birdlife Australia Red tailed Black Cockatoo count
This famous cockatoo was represented in the 2006 Commonwealth Games, as our mascot. Even this celebrity status isn't enough to protect it from having the "carpet" of it's thin survival chances wrecked by our State government. The Mallee will be burnt, to reduce fuel. This "fuel" is considered a fire threat, and the fact that it produces food and shelter for the South Eastern Red-tailed cockatoo is neither here nor there! The State government must, no matter how destructive and reckless, be seen to be "doing" something to protect lives (human) and property from bushfires. The collateral damage must be ignored, and any recovery strategies are just poured down the drain in the process.
The planned burns will destroy parts of the habitats of the cockatoos, and only about 1500 exist.
This year the 2014 South-eastern Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo Annual Count will be held on Saturday 3rd May. Birdlife Australia are again seeking volunteers to participate in the range wide search for one of the region’s most loved, local endangered species – 'The South-eastern Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo'!
Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos prefer long unburnt (10 years post fire) stringybark woodlands for feeding which have on average twice the seed availability as stringybark woodland burnt more recently. Clearance of remaining Buloke critical habitat is a major continuing threat to the Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo as large numbers of Buloke trees are being removed each year, and offset plantings of Buloke will not become suitable cockatoo foraging habitat for at least 100 years. Agriculture, human settlements close to natural vegetation, population growth, pressure for governments to mitigate fire threats, and land clearing are all growing and bulldozing native birds and animals from their existence.