Today, the NSW Rural Fire Service, in collaboration with the Nature Conservation Council, OE&H and others, are running a ‘Hotspots’ fire workshop at Four Winds, south of Bermagui.
According to the blurb, the workshop is about ‘Supporting sustainable fire management for healthy landscapes’. Of course the immediate issue is whether one goes along with the Forestry Corporation’s original idea that fire creates healthy landscapes, in non-grassy forest ecosystems. As the workshop organisers clearly support this claim, I wonder if they also support forestry’s associated theory, that making forests healthy with fire gets rid of koalas?
As a collaborative effort, OE&H, RFS and FCNSW have “ . . . developed 11 options for where to locate Strategic Fire Advantage Zones where fuel loads will be managed. “ From these options the ‘most cost effective’ (read cheapest) options have been adopted.
While the workshop is largely directed toward individual fire management plans, credible evidence to support the fire and healthy landscape claim is difficult to find. The single study referred to, titled ‘The effects of a low-intensity fire on small mammals and lizards in a logged, burnt forest’, indicates –
“ . . . Our results, however, suggest that the biodiversity impacts of burning are complex and multidirectional, posing a significant challenge to conservation managers.”
Another significant challenge, yet to be acknowledged by the aforementioned agencies is die-back, as indicated in the photo above, taken in the small area of rain-forest on this property. In this case and since it was illegally logged and burned back in 1981, all of the remaining large emergent eucalyptus (background of photo on left) in the rain-forest have succumbed to BMAD and died.
What has done well is some Australian red cedar (Toona australis), (foreground of photo on left) I planted in the open spaces back in 1992, two years before the Bell-miners appeared. Although well south of its natural range, north of Ulladulla, this tree, its base showing development of buttress roots in photo on the right, has attained 48cm DBH.
Red cedar was virtually wiped out due to over-cutting and nowadays commands a high price, around $3,000 a cubic metre. It is possible that the growth of these trees is more consistent with the OE&H theory, that the loss of koalas is associated with climate change.
While looking forward to any NSW government movement toward forest restoration, this seems unlikely given the NCC and it local arm, SERCA, seem happy to work with the government. It is regrettable that this approach requires ignoring the issues and arguably, simply allows unsustainable forest management, including logging, to continue.