For the last few months there have been sustained, decentralised protests happening against logging operations in Victoria. Check here for some notes on previous actions. It has continued today (June 29) with protests in the Black Range, Toolangi, Lakes Entrance Mt Disappointment and the Pyrenees State Forest, with a symbolic connection to protests being held in NSW.
In Victoria, the frequency of ‘mega’ fires (those greater than 100,000 hectares) has grown significantly over the past century.
- 19th century – 2 mega fires
- first half of 20th Century – 4 mega fires
- 2nd half of 20th century – 7 mega fires
- In the first 20 years of the 21st century – at least 8 mega fires
This is in spite of the huge advances we have made in fire fighting technology over the past 50 years.
The ABC is reporting that ‘fire-affected communities in eastern Victoria are calling for a permanent firebreak running 170 kilometres along both sides of the Princes Highway to the New South Wales border’.
The old growth forest of Kuark is (I can’t bring myself to say ‘was’) a jewel in the wild landscape of East Gippsland. It provides habitat for threatened species such as the Sooty, Masked and Powerful owls, Greater gliders and Long footed potoroos, and is a rare rainforest type where warm and cool temperate rainforest blend together in an ‘over lap’ assemblage.
There was a long campaign, led by Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) and The Wilderness Society to see the Kuark protected. It had considerable success, and was scheduled to be fully protected under a Bill in parliament to include Kuark in the Errinundra National Park.
Then this summer happened. I watched in horror as parts of the legendary Errinundra Plateau burnt and the rainforests of Martins Creek were devastated. I hadn’t heard news of the Kuark until now.
Ed Hill led the campaign to protect the Kuark forest. He has been up there recently. This is his report.
Following this summer’s devastating fires in East Gippsland, it has taken enormous effort by the authorities to get roads re-opened and made safe. Removal of many thousands of fire affected trees is essential for the safety of road users. However, the scale of the clear felling of large habitat trees occurring along thousands of kilometres of East Gippsland’s roads has disturbed many people.
Residents describe ‘unprecedented clearing’ occurring around Buchan, Black Mountain, Combienbar, Orbost, Goongerah, Cann River, Mallacoota, Cape Conran, state forests inland from Bairnsdale, along the Great Alpine Way and many other fire affected roads in East Gippsland.
The fires across East Gippsland this summer have had devastating impacts on land and forests, waterways and native species, local economies and people’s lives and properties.
One glimmer of good news has been the fact that many of the cool temperate rainforest strong holds have been spared from much of the fire. Most of the famed Kuark forest has not burnt (or has possibly been ‘burnt lightly’ according to reports from the field), and the Errinundra Plateau has been spared any major fires. It appears that the Goolengook rainforest has been partially burnt. (Extra info here).
But now there are reports that back burning operations were carried out several days ago between the VIC/NSW border and the Errinundra Plateau, in order to save the Bondi pine plantations in southern NSW. Yesterday (JAN 30) in the 40 degree heat, the fires from these spotted across the Coast Range Road into the most valuable area of the Errinundra national park. The scale of these fires is not yet known.
We will update as additional information comes to hand.
[With thanks to Jill Redwood for this information]
In late November, fires started in East Gippsland as a result of lightning strikes. As noted by Peter Gardner, these went on to become major blazes. On new year’s eve, lightning storms started fires across the Victorian mountains and fire season came to the Alps with a vengeance.
Since then, huge areas of the Victorian Alps and Snowy Mountains have burnt. As at January 14, many of these are still going and, of course, the key priority is containing them.
But once it’s all over, we will need to count the ecological cost of these fires. Some areas in the Alps have now burnt three times in about 15 years. There is no doubt that longer fire seasons, driven by climate change, are already impacting on mountain and foothill environments.
The short answer at this stage is that we just don’t know what the full ecological impacts of these fires will be.
The following is a fairly random collection of reports on local impacts of the fires on mountain areas. It focuses on ecological values and impacts. Of course, this does not mean that human and economic impacts don’t matter. The narrow focus here is simply to try and share some information about what the impacts will be on natural systems, as the other stories are already being told widely in mainstream media. It will be added to as areas are re-opened to the public. I would welcome your reports for inclusion: please email text and stories to email@example.com
[WED Jan 1 – UPDATE: I am away with the CFA at present and not in a position to update this page until further notice so please don’t rely on it for updates – please check the relevant government agency websites which you will find if you scroll down. Thanks]
There are some links on how to support recovery and emergency efforts available here.
And I’m still doing some updates on the Mountain Journal facebook page, mostly around park and road closures.
[Monday December 30 2019]
Here we go. We have a long, hot, scary day ahead of us, with extreme fire risk across all mountain areas.
In Victoria, authorities are calling on all people in East Gippsland (east of Bairnsdale) to leave the area, in case the Princes Highway needs to be closed. Mountain communities like Goongerah are at imminent risk of being hit by fires. The W Tree Yalmy fire is still not yet under control, nor is the Ensay Ferntree fire. Firefighters and aircraft are responding to four new fires north-west of Gelantipy which were started by dry lightning earlier his morning.
In NSW there has already been at least one small fire started by dry lightning in the Snowy Mountains (it is under control).
In Tasmania, today is a Day of Total Fire Ban, but authorities warn that tomorrow could be even worse, and that people in bushland areas should consider leaving for urban areas.
In the Australian Seasonal Bushfire Outlook produced in August, it was clear that East Gippsland and the Alps were facing a long and difficult fire season. Even though it is only early December, there have already been a series of large fires on both public and private land in both these sections of the state.
The ABC reports:
There have been six fires of significance over the past two weeks in East Gippsland.
Authorities were most concerned about fires near Gelantipy, Bruthen, and Ensay.
The fires were caused by dry lightning that ignited dozens of fires along the Great Dividing Range.
Incident controller Andy Gillham said the Country Fire Authority and DELWP were not caught off-guard by the fires.
“With all the modelling that has been done by the fire researchers, they said it would be an above-average season for East Gippsland,” he said.
“Because the landscape is so dry we had lightning and fires. We did have an early start to the season, but we weren’t caught off-guard”.
Check the Emergency VIC website for updates on fires.