Posted by: Gregoryno6 | November 13, 2019

I could enlarge on my post about politicians and bushfires, but Tom Marland said it so much better.

A slightly edited version of Tom’s post at Food for Thought and Thought for Food.

“Climate change doesn’t cause fires, fools do.”

In August, environmentalists celebrated the protests staged 40 years ago against logging of the Terania Creek rainforest in New South Wales.

Today, the same forest is being destroyed by bushfire.

The same people that jumped in front of bull dozers back then are the same ones blaming these bush fires on climate change.

“The forest wars” in the late 70s and early 80s saw 900,000 hectares of native forests in NSW and Queensland converted to national park.

NSW now has more than 870 national parks and reserves totalling over 7 million hectares. Queensland 8.2 million hectares. Today, large areas of national park estate in NSW and Queensland are being incinerated by fires that could have been avoided.

Tappin Tops, Cottan-Bimbang, Mt Nardi Bulga Forest, Gibraltar Range, Nymboida, Guy Fawkes River, Washpool, Nightcap, Whian Whian, Mt Jerusalem, Willi Willi, Oxley Wild Rivers, Styx River, Mt Boss, Mann River, Crowdy Bay, John River State Forest and Kumbatine National Parks are either in flames or about to be. The Carrie Creek Fire east of Armidale is 130,000 hectares in size alone and raging out of control.

If you leave your front door unlocked you can’t complain when someone steals your TV. Blame yourself for your own stupidity not the thief. It’s the same with bush fires in national parks.

Don’t blame climate change when you’ve restricted access to millions of hectares of densely thickened eucalypt forests, you haven’t back burned this millennium and there are no fire breaks when the whole show goes up in flames.

Some people haven’t seemed to notice that Australia is the second driest continent on earth, it gets very hot around this time of year, every year, and our vegetation has evolved over the last 60,000 years to love bushfires. Big ones.

I heard one comment from an affected landholder impacted by one fire in New South Wales that “there’s never been a fire here before”. I’m sorry, but if you think that a eucalypt forest has never been burnt before you are either a fool or delusional, or both.

Perhaps the houses that have been allowed to be built in 30 meter tall eucalypt forests may not have been there since the last fire. There will be a few less after this one.

The Bureau of Meteorology have claimed that the “strong winds and high temperatures are the reason for these catastrophic fires”. No doubt wind and heat help flame the fires but they aren’t the “reason” or the “cause”. The real reason is Governments – local, state and Federal – over the past 3 decades have bowed to conservationists and green groups by locking up more and more national parks and native forests. Now the whole house of cards is going up in flames.

The same clowns driving these conservation policies are the same ones now bleating about a “climate emergency”. The only “emergency” that’s occurring is the lack of brain cells and common sense being applied to the management of our national estate.

People often ask me – “what would you do to stop the fires” and the answer isn’t a simple one and the mess we find ourselves in is not an easy one to untangle. Often I just feel like cutting the knot and starting again.

However, here are a few less dramatic things we can do, other than trying to stop the climate changing, to prevent our national estate, our wildlife and our carbon being cooked every fire season.

1. You’ll never stop fire

Fire has always been a part of our landscape. Management philosophies of no back burning or delayed fire regimes which fail to recognise natural fire patterns lead to self defeating prophesies.

You never stop a fire but you can manage one. There will always be a lightning strike or a cigarette butt or a coke bottle or an arsonist or a blown tyre or a welding spark to start a fire at the worse possible time.

It’s the fuel load when fires hit that is really important. A fire can’t burn if there is nothing or little to burn.

2. Reform national park policy.

Just by locking up a piece of scrub and calling it a national park does not make it so. There should be a prioritisation of national parks based on their environmental significance and their risk of impact.

You can’t compare Carnarvon National Park to an area of state forest that has been logged for 150 years. You can’t compare Fraser Island to a patch of deserted scrub in the back blocks that no one can access let alone visit.

You can’t compare the Daintree rainforest to dry sclerophyll forests which cover the majority of the eastern sea board.

Expanding national parks because it “feels nice” actually dilutes the resources to protect the areas of our environment that truly are special and endangered.

I’m not saying a dry or wet sclerophyll forest isn’t “special” or shouldn’t be protected. I’m just saying that they need to be properly managed and simply locking them up causes the real environmental destruction.

I prefer the “regional reserve” system in South Australia which includes environmental protection but also facilitates tourism, grazing and resource activities. This allows economic return but with conservation principles which is a win – win for everybody.

3. Let the cows back in.

One of the best forms of fire fuel reduction is low intensity grazing. It’s low risk, low impact and also puts people into areas that actually know how to manage the country and know how to fight fires.

Anyone who says cattle are bad for the environment and biodiversity should go and ask the millions of animals, birds and insects currently being incinerated in national parks and native forests.

4. Thin the suckers out.

Every fire that is burning in NSW and QLD at the moment is in national parks or densely timbered native vegetation which, by its very design, are bred to burn. Fires in open grass lands with lower fuel loads can be managed and contained. Those in forests are uncontrollable.

Vegetation naturally thickens. Throw in some noxious weeds like lantana – you have yourself a ticking time bomb every fire season. Add some dry westerlies and hot temperatures and you’ll eventually see it explode.

We need to reintroduce low intensity sivicultural practices across our forest estate to reduce fuel loads, increase forest health, reduce noxious weeds and prevent catastrophic fires.

5. Breaks, buffers and cool zones.

There has been a lot of debate in Queensland about fire breaks.

All fire breaks should be assessed on the type, height and fire risk of vegetation not some demarcated figure, ie, 10 meters. We also need to look at cool buffers where vegetation is retained but canopy cover and stem density reduced to better manage fires.

These should be implemented off fire breaks, roads, access lines, around houses, subdivisions and towns.

These buffers should be regularly burnt (every year) which reduces the area of forest to be maintained with more frequent larger hazard reduction burns which are risky and difficult to manage. Native vegetation must also be back burned when the seasonal conditions suit, not on prescribed fire rotations set by some university academic.

In Queensland national parks can’t be back burned unless in line with their regional ecosystem description, which is usually 15 to 20 years. The volume of material in already thickened vegetation after 20 years is frightening, which damages the forest and its biodiversity.

6. Let the people back in.

For decades government policy has been focused on kicking people out of the environment. From foresters to graziers to trail riders to bee keepers to campers – there has been increasingly restricted access to our national estate.

This takes people out of the environment who are best equipped to manage it and willing to invest their own time, resources and lives to protect it.

7. STOP BLAMING CLIMATE CHANGE

It drives me absolutely insane when I hear someone bleating about climate change causing bushfires. Even if the climate is changing, does that mean we should just throw our hands in the air and let our national estate and biodiversity go up smoke every year?

There are simple, practical and common sense things we can do to prevent and mitigate bushfires. Bushfires have always been and always will be a natural part of our environment.

You’d sooner turn back the tide than take fire out of native forests.

Sitting around blaming the weather for all of our problems is juvenile and futile. If the climate is changing, it’s more important than even that we start to look at practical and affordable solutions to how best manage the impacts of fire.

My thoughts are with those families and communities currently battling these fires.

Let’s hope some common sense prevails to avoid these unnecessary disasters into the future.


Responses

  1. I’ve a niece in Bowral, NSW, who is near to the infernos. So this was really interesting. Thanks.

    • Fingers crossed for your niece.

  2. It sounds odd to say this but be thankful your major electric utility companies aren’t cutting off electricity, or threatening to do. Interesting artical to read; in these parts there was a recent headline somewhere about bringing back the fire watch stations that are no longer being utilized. We’re shifting into our rainy season this time of year so maybe someone somewhere north of So Cal will take the suggestion to heart for the entire state.

    BTW that picture is incredible, as in “Holy shit, that’s incredible!” and also, “Holy shit, that’s incredible.”


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