Ben Boyd - news

To: Con Boekel <>
Subject: Ben Boyd - news
From: Martin Butterfield <>
Date: Fri, 14 Mar 2014 15:26:14 +1100

I tend to agree with your conclusion, but have a few other scomments.  

The key point is surely that if an expert assessment of the question "Do we have enough kit to stop this if it gets towards 'out of control'?" gives the answer "No." the correct response is to stop the burn.  I suspect that in many cases the response arrived at is more along the lines of "We don't get many opportunities to do this so 'She'll be right.'" and the box of Redheads is produced.

It would be very interesting to know what proportion of fires are started by various means. While arson and lightning strikes are other obvious sources there have been a number of recent examples in which the term "controlled burn" has been a contender for oxymoron of the year.  For some reason the States' Rural Fire Services and Parks Services never put out consolidated information about this (and anything that happened more than a week ago is not going to get media coverage).

I also think the response from the Manager is pathetic.  He obviously has done no follow up to assess what damage was done, but just relied on the COG group to tell him there still some birds around.  How that got translated into "...bird life is abounding ..." is bewildering.  I have come across other comments recently along the lines of everyone in NSW Government is terrified of losing their job if they say the wrong thing.


On 13 March 2014 16:50, Con Boekel <> wrote:
I suggest that letter writers put some thought into how they are going to phrase their criticisms.

Heaths typically have changes of biodiversity composition as they age following a fire.  Some species are entirely absent straight after or just before a fire, depending on the age class. Other species may remain present but in greatly varying proportions between burns.

Therefore, managment plans usually aim to ensure different age classes of heath through planned rotations of burns.

Speaking from personal experience, it is seems to be getting more and more difficult to find safe windows for heath management burns. Even when you do get a safe burn done, if the fire is cool enough, the remnant standing stems might become extremely dry and combustible, acting as fuel for any following wildfires.

I suggest that one of the consequences of changes to temperature and rainfall patterns consequent to global warming will be that systems that have evolved under the prior climate regime will come under increased pressure either from too much fire too frequently, or not enough fire at all with management caught in the middle.

These issues are made much more intractible if the heath is adjacent to the built environment.

One counterproductive consequence of putting pressure on managers to burn less might well be counterproductive to early-classes of heath fire responding species.

All that said, I suggest that one of the management issues with shrinking budgets is having on hand sufficient firefighting staff and machines to minimise any management burns from getting out of hand.

If I were writing, I would focus on that particular criticism.


On 13/03/2014 4:19 PM, Lia Battisson wrote:
Of course that doesn’t mean that the birds will survive long term, in their greatly reduced patch of habitat!  It IS in fact, ‘all bad news’!  I haven’t written my letter yet, but I will!
Sent: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 7:32 PM
Subject: [canberrabirds] Ben Boyd - news
those of us who spent the weekend at Ben Boyd were horrified by the extent of a controlled burn in the heath just last week - and a ranger confirmed the fire had got away from them. There is now an ABC news story about this  "controlled" burn which mentions the extent of the devastation of the habitat of the ground parrots, southern emu wrens and other heathland birds. It also mentions the "group of birdwatchers" but doesn't say we expressed our concerns re the extent of the fire.
sandra h

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