Does DSE Want To Drive Malleefowl To Extinction In The Little Desert?

To: "'Birding-aus'" <>
Subject: Does DSE Want To Drive Malleefowl To Extinction In The Little Desert?
From: "Ross Macfarlane" <>
Date: Wed, 7 Sep 2011 20:42:01 +1000
... Because if they don’t, why are they hell-bent on burning every last hectare 
in the National Park on a 10- to 20-year cycle?

<Engage full-on rant mode...>

To all those who’ve had the chance to see malleefowl at Little Desert Lodge, or 
elsewhere in the Little Desert, consider yourselves privileged. The Victorian 
Malleefowl Recovery Group has been monitoring nest sites at Kiata FFR and 
hasn’t seen an active mound in over a decade. Large areas of the Little Desert 
have been burned in wildfires and in DSE controlled burns over the past decade, 
and the current fire plans increase, not reduce the impacts.

I’ve just made a submission on behalf of the VMRG – submissions closed on 29 
August. Today I’ve had a form letter from Wimmera DSE informing me that we will 
receive a formal response in early October. Nice. But in the next paragraph, 
they explain that they are “currently funded to treat 11,900ha of planned 
burning on public land this  financial year.” The punchline? “The final plan 
will be approved by DSE’s South West Regional Manager in late September 2011.” 
And in fact, one of the proposed burns we commented on, 2,000 hectares in the 
western Little Desert, has already been burned. !#$%^&!!

There is at least one burn which is high on DSE’s 2011-12 list which is right 
in the guts of an area where we have found evidence of malleefowl. It’s in the 
vicinity of Mt Turner / Broughton’s Waterhole, east of the Kaniva-Edenhope Road 
in the centre of the National Park. VMRG and Nhill SES line-searched this area 
in June 2011 and found several new nests, including at least one that was 
filled with litter for use in the 2011 breeding season. The burn is 11.N04, 
LITTLE DESERT - BARNEYS TRACK, 1052 Ha, planned for Spring 2011. If it goes 
ahead, that nest will not survive.

Why does this matter? – Because malleefowl have a distinct preference for 
long-unburned mallee for breeding sites – 20-30 years plus, so there is a 
predominant overhead canopy and abundant leaf litter for compost in their 
nests. The current DSE / Parks Victoria burn strategy in the Little Desert 
means there is precious little habitat left where they can breed.

VMRG coordinates an ongoing research project started by Dr Joe Benshemesh, who 
is without doubt the foremost expert on malleefowl in the world. This is his 
response to the Bushfire Royal Commission’s recommendation for a 5% annual 
controlled burn target on all public land in Victoria: “If you want to send 
malleefowl to extinction in Victoria, put the whole of the mallee on a 20-year 
burn cycle.”

If anyone else feels as strongly about this stupid policy as I do, a 
strongly-worded email to the Minister for Environment and Climate Change Ryan 
Smith, the Premier Ted Bailieu or Deputy Premier Peter Ryan couldn’t go astray, 
with (as a minimum) a direct request that burn 11.N04 not proceed. (Emails 

Excuse my French people, but this is bullshit.

<rant mode disengaged>

Ross Macfarlane


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