the fire hazzard reduction program

To: Roger Giller <>
Subject: the fire hazzard reduction program
From: "Jeremy O'Wheel" <>
Date: Thu, 5 Sep 2013 14:58:57 +1000
The vast majority of Australia's bush is adapted to regular fire regimes -
especially Eucalyptus forests, inland mallee and grassland.  Both too
frequent fire and not enough fire cause losses of habitat to fire adapted
plants and animals.  Areas like Kakadu have fire management plans based on
scientific work estimating the normal fire regime.  While Kakadu is burnt
each year, some places are never burnt, and the burning regimes are
determined by the fire ecology of the area.

Grasses such as Tiodia ("spinifex") can have especially short natural fire
regimes, and have evolved to burn frequently.  Many of the native plants
growing amongst spinifex are obligate fire seeders, and cannot reproduce
without fire.

There is an attitude amongst many Australians that fire is either generally
bad, or specifically bad for the environment.  This view is as wrong as
suggesting that water is bad for the environment.  Too much or not enough
certainly can be, but the majority of land needs it at regular intervals,
or they will change completely and be very difficult to return to their
natural state.


On 5 September 2013 13:58, Roger Giller <> wrote:

> Frank,
> While agree with your other points I can not let the first one go
> unchallenged.
> Burning the bush is only one step in a relatively short term cycle. As it
> grows it sucks up carbon. When it is burnt, or dies and decays, the carbon
> goes back into the atmosphere it came from. If the bush is burnt every X
> number of years then on average nothing changes. (Note that I am only
> referring here to the effect on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, not the
> ecology, which sadly is the loser in all this)
> The problem with climate change is the burning of fossil fuels. They locked
> up the carbon millions of years ago. Life as we now know it has evolved to
> be happy with the concentration of carbon dioxide that remained in the
> atmosphere, until we started adding to it by accessing and burning the
> fossil fuels.
> Roger Giller.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Frank O'Connor 
> Sent: Thursday, 5 September 2013 4:04 AM
> To: 
> Subject: [Birding-Aus] the fire hazzard reduction program
> Tony, I couldn't agree more.  It has long been a bug bear of mine in
> WA.  But you get one major wildfire, and it is blamed on not enough
> control burns (even if it is a firestorm that nothing would stop),
> and they seem to be given open slather to burn anywhere.
> A few thoughts I have had over the years.
> 1. Is this 'control burn' practice counted in the greenhouse gas
> emissions?  On the one hand, there are credits for locking up carbon
> in plantations, etc.  On the other, they ruthlessly burn the bush.
> 2. I have no problem with some control burns. e.g. 500 metres around
> towns.  100 metres around major property.  50 metres along major
> roads.  But they blanket burn areas.  This is legalised arson.
> 3. There was a proposal after the Victorian bushfires to burn
> national parks in Victoria on a 20 year rotation.  This was decided
> that it had to be for every national park / reserve.  So they were
> going to burn the old growth mallee.  This would have been a disaster
> for mallee / spinifex species.  I wrote a letter to the department
> against this. I don't know the final outcome.
> 4. In WA, there have been occurrences where 'controlled burns' got
> out of control.  My understanding of the Margaret River fires is that
> they tried on 13 days to set it alight, and finally succeeded on a
> day of forecast severe conditions (40+ knot winds, hot weather,
> etc).  There have been controlled burns in the Fitzgerald River NP
> that burnt out a camp ground (including the Malleefowl that had an
> active mound), and almost burnt down the rangers house.  There are
> others I am aware of.  I have heard that a control burn to protect
> Western Ground Parrot habitat in Cape Arid NP got out of control and
> burnt out about 40% of the WGP habitat they were trying to
> protect.  They did not have emergency equipment on standby (e.g. the
> water bombing aircraft), or it was needed for other purposes.  Was
> this because the WGPs were not valuable enough.
> 5. My impression of CALM / then DEC / now DPaW in WA is that they
> have people heavily involved in wildlife, others who are experienced
> in managing reserves, and others who are experienced in fires.  The
> former (too few for all the conservation issues we have) don't seem
> to have much influence when it comes to burning off practices.
> 6. In south west WA, I am sure they would like to burn more in
> spring, but I think they get issues with winds, and also conditions
> moving the smoke over the metropolitan area which is a bad look.  So
> my impression is that a lot of the control burns are done in
> autumn.  They always complain that they can't reach their target.
> 7. The Kimberley and areas such as Kakadu have the crap burnt out of
> them year after year.  They fly planes over dropping fire
> balls.  This is not good for the environment to happen year after year.
> 8. When I have been to inland areas with spinifex in the past few
> years, it has been getting harder and harder to find areas of old
> growth spinifex suitable for species such as grasswrens,
> Rufous-crowned Emu-wren and Spinifexbird (plus all the mammals and
> reptiles that prefer this habitat).  e.g. Cape Range NP.  Near
> Newman.  Near Paraburdoo.
> 9. This issue seems to be 'the white elephant in the room' to a large
> extent.  Noone wants to seriously discuss it.  If you do, you get
> attacked and all the wildfire damage is brought up, as I said as
> though the lack of controlled burns is the major cause.
> There does need to be some control, but I cannot agree with any
> blanket burning of large areas, whether it is spring or autumn.
> There, I have got it off my chest.  It won't change things though.
> _________________________________________________________________
> Frank O'Connor           Birding WA
> Phone : (08) 9386 5694              Email : 
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