Victoria to adopt risk based fire management – NSW remains off track

The Victorian government has recently confirmed it will be dropping its annual 5% burning target. Introduced as a result of the 2009 bushfires, the death knell for the target was a planned burn on State Forest near Lancefield, that jumped containment lines. Although the burn was intended to be 266 hectares, over 3,000 hectares, including several houses, sheds, stock, fences etc. were consumed before the fire was controlled.

According to the report on the fire the risks had not been adequately assessed, there was a series of cock-ups and in essence the fire, a spring time burn that coincided with Victoria’s earliest total fire ban, should never have been lit.

Rather than the target, the government has opted for a risk based approach to fuel management, to be introduced on July 1 2016. In the interim it is aiming to improve it’s communication with local communities and work toward developing methods for dedicated monitoring of ecosystem resilience, to gauge whether they are being maintained and improved.

Sounds like something the conservation movement should be pushing for in NSW. If that were the case, one of the considerations may be the value of burning in spring, when many critters like Blue wrens are trying to breed.

 

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Further north, James Cook University put out a press release about a new study on koala genetics. Undertaken with  the University of Sydney and in partnership with the NGO Science for Wildlife organisation and San Diego Zoo, the study found that low levels of koala genetic diversity may not be the reason for declining populations and local extinctions.

Testing of  koala genetic samples from ‘ from all key locations on the east coast of Australia’  found diversity was greater than originally thought.  In addition little evidence was found to support the notion of three distinct koala sub-species, ranging from north to south.

According to Shannon Kjeldsen, a PhD student working on the project, “ . . . We know that it would be unwise to move koalas between these regions, because they live in different climates and have adapted to different environments, but we do not know where the management boundaries lie”

For its koala management boundaries the Federal government employed average annual rainfall. However, the issue is made a little more complex,  due to the translocated koalas.

In the absence of information to demonstrate otherwise, it could be assumed the NSW government has gone ahead with it’s proposal to translocate koalas from plantations in the Strzelecki ranges to the Southeast National Park. A significant difference between this proposal and koalas around Numerella, that we can be reasonably certain also came from Victoria, is the different climates. The Strzelecki ranges and Numerella being in the same Bio-region

The press JCU release also quotes Associate Professor Zenger saying ” . . . (the) management and implementation of a national koala conservation program was vitally important to protect this charismatic species.” I couldn’t agree more, although it’s difficult to see how the NSW government could be on the right track.

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