In a significant move, volunteers with the Country Fire Authority (CFA) in north east Victoria have called for a halt to planned fuel reduction burns in the Strathbogie Ranges. Mountain Journal has previously reported on community calls to halt the burns because of the likely ecological impacts.
This highlights the problem with the 5% target – the political imperative to burn large hectares of forest often means that the ecological impacts of burns cannot be properly assessed before the burn is done. While these controlled burns are generally seen as being good in terms of environmental management and protection of human assets like houses, finding the right balance of burning is a complex issue. For instance, according to recent research, prescribed burns did not significantly slow the spread of bushfire in the catastrophic conditions of Black Saturday in 2009.
The 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission’s suggested a target of 5 per cent of public land to be burnt each year. The Andrews commissioned the Review of Performance Targets for Bushfire Fuel Management on Public Land (this was done by the Inspector-General for Emergency Management) to look into the question of targets.
The review made four recommendations for the way forward in Victoria’s fuel management, including a shift away from a hectare-based fuel reduction target to a risk-reduction target, which is also the view of the Bushfires Royal Commission Implementation Monitor.
However, at this point, there is evidence that many scheduled burns may either lead to negative ecological outcomes or have minimal impacts on fire risk mitigation. The proposed Strathbogie burns appear to be an example of these.
CFA volunteers call for a halt to this season’s planned burns in Strathbogie Ranges
CFA volunteers from local brigades in the Strathbogie Ranges and nearby districts have banded together to form a new group calling themselves ‘CFA Volunteers for Forests’ to save the Strathbogie Ranges’ last extensive stands of mature native forests from an unnecessary and destructive burn planned for this autumn.
“We are all committed CFA volunteers who have responded to hundreds of call-outs to fires and other emergencies over our years of involvement with the CFA”, said spokesperson Andrew Townsend. “But, we also care about our local natural environment and we do not support DELWP’s plan to burn 30 square kilometres of some of the best quality forest in the ranges. We are all part of this local community and as CFA volunteers we do not see any logic from a human safety perspective in burning these forests right now.
- The burn is too big
- The forest is too dry, the burn will be too hot
- The risk of damage is too great
- We care about this forest
As members of CFA brigades surrounding the Strathbogie Forest, the voices of CFA volunteers need to be heard. Andrew Townsend again “We want to be involved in decision making about planned-burns in the area.”
This group is very concerned about protecting life, assets and the forest and is convinced that a truly collaborative approach can achieve this. Genuine community consultation is a central platform of the Victorian Government’s ‘Safer Together’ approach to bushfire risk. We fully endorse Minister Lisa Neville’s statement “We will involve local communities in decision making, taking into account what people value in their local area.” And we urge the Minister to be true to her words.
We call on DELWP to defer this season’s burns in the Strathbogie Ranges and commit to genuine community consultation in the future planning of fuel reduction burns.
0488 965 066
CFA Volunteers for Forests acknowledges that the views expressed in this release have not been endorsed by the Country Fire Authority, Victoria.
Feature image: CFA Volunteers for Forests – a group of 36 local volunteers representing 600+ years of collective service. Members are from the districts of Strathbogie, Swanpool, Euroa, Gooram Valley, Miepoll, Violet Town and Ruffy.