The Examiner newspaper is reporting that the Mersey Forest Road has re-opened. There is a 1.4 km walk to the start of the Walls track, and access is still not available to the end of the valley (ie the track into Chalice Lake, Arm River, Lee’s Paddock.
Mountain Journal has published a number of stories on the fires that devastated large areas of Tasmania’s high country in 2016. At the time we suggested that the ecological damage would be very long term because of the nature of the high elevation vegetation.
Sadly, that seems to be the case:
The following comes from a news report by the ABC.
A year on from bushfires in Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area (WHA), some areas are showing signs of recovery but others are not.
Ecologist Professor Jamie Kirkpatrick said once alpine flora such as pencil pines were burnt, they died.
“They haven’t got any seed stores, so there’s no seed in the soil and there’s very seldom seed in the trees themselves, so if you burn the stands you’ll often get rid of them for a very long time period,” he said.
“It’s those plants that actually make it a world heritage area because they’re really highly significant scientifically as paleo endemics from the cretaceous period.”
The fires wiped out plants more than 1,000 years old.
Researchers will travel to Lake Mackenzie next month to gather data about how the landscape is faring.
Widespread wildfires in early 2016 caused huge damage across large areas of the Tasmanian World Heritage Area, including significant sections of vegetation which is not fire adapted.
Inquiries into the fires were held during 2016, with a senate inquiry recommending the creation of specialist remote area fire fighting capacity.
The question of how much climate change influenced the extent and severity of the fires has been debated at some length, in the media and the inquiry processes.
This article by Emilie Gramenz from the ABC is a further update on the outcome of the process and the need for further research into the links between fire and climate change. A key message from researchers is that “climate change would likely make future fires more intense and more frequent”.
The report from the Senate Inquiry into the terrible fires that happened in Tasmania last summer has now been released.
The inquiry looked at ‘responses to, and lessons learnt from, the January and February 2016 bushfires in remote Tasmanian wilderness’. The committee was chaired by Greens Senator Nick McKim.
Probably the key recommendation in the report is the proposal that the state and federal governments should investigate the establishment of a national remote area firefighting team. Coalition committee members dissented, saying informal and formal relationships already exist between the state and federal governments and that the Army is also brought in when needed. However the slow pace at which a number of remote area fires were tackled indicates that there was a shortage of fire fighting resources able to be deployed quickly into remote areas. The devastation of areas such as around Lake McKenzie on the Central Plateau was compounded by the delay in getting fire fighting units into the area.
The Coalition MPs on the committee also disagreed with another call in the inquiry report for Australia to report annually to the UNESCO Wilderness World Heritage committee about the state of conservation within the Tasmanian WWHA.
Other issues raised in the report include the need to ensure adequate funding of research into how climate change will influence fires in the world heritage area. For instance, the committee recommends that the Australian Government recognise the need to enhance protection and conservation efforts in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area by allocating increased funding:
- to the Parks and Wildlife Service, Tasmania, for appropriate management activities and resources; and
- for research projects aimed at providing qualitative and quantitative data specific to climate-related and ecological threats to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (such as dry lightning strike). It appears that the frequency of dry lightning strikes has already increased in recent decades.
On a recent walking trip in Central Tasmania, I drove past an old lodge near Lake Augusta that was being renovated. My immediate reaction was that if someone was throwing lots of money at a restoration of a large building located almost at the end of the road in a remote area, that they must have plans for something big.
This opinion piece by Nicholas Sawyer in The Mercury seems to re inforce that suspicion.