East Gippsland Wildlife Rehabilitators 
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Burning Our Wildlife - One Way or Another



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Fuel Reduction Burns

Click on Here: Clifton Creek Burn March 2015

We now have the evidence fuel reduction burns undermine any area where they are applied by destroying diversity and regeneration of both flora and fauna in the short term. These deliberately lit, out of control fires do however, create more fire fuel that will burn more easily than if the natural forest and understorey are left to get on with being decomposed by insects and bacteria, or even burnt by out of control forest fires.

We also have evidence and many records of fuel reduction burns not being a "controlled" or "cool" burn. They are both escaped fire and very hot, and do not just burn the trash, but also the caterpillars of Oecphorid (dead eucalypt litter eating) moths. So fuel reduction burns become a self serving, self perpetuating form of destruction which will need to be carried out regularly, in every instance. Far too often and more than the forest would be burnt under normal conditions. This will destroy the forest from the bottom up and it will do this quite quickly, revolution rather than evolution.

Just as if burnt by fuel reduction burn.


The picture above is the result of the 2003 forest fire on the road verge. This conclusion is the same as evidenced from any fuel reduction burn that can be seen on the roadsides in Victoria. The fuel reduction burn is lit more often and regularly than forest fires occur. Research into fuel reduction burns of road verges might find them to be desirable. But only by keeping the wildlife away from the worst possible interface with probable death on the road. It does demonstrate that fuel reduction burns are not all that much different from forest fires, and by scorching or almost burning the leaves in the tree canopy, it creates more fire fuel for the next year as the leaves are jettisoned by the tree. So fuel reduction burns actually increase fire fuel and risk quite considerably.

The above was a fuel reduction burn that obviously got away. It, and more, can be seen as you come down the mountain toward Harrietville. There are no houses there. If this was country with koalas in the trees, we would have heard the screaming for miles and lost more of our native animals.

Fuel reduction burns do not produce nutrient that will feed the forest environment. The first nutrient loss in a fire is nitrogen. Then ligneous material which, if allowed to be broken down by the living organisms of the forest floor, bacteria and fungi. Will create humus which will retain water and allow plants to grow. If the plants remain fresh they will be a fire retardant.

The Oecphorid caterpillars are maintaining and improving the forest floor environment and health. Fuel reduction burns kill these who break down the dried eucalypt matter. With their destruction, more fuel for fire accumulates. Before the population of caterpillars can increase sufficiently to reduce the fuel load, are burnt again by fuel reduction burns or a forest fire that may not otherwise have found fuel to burn.

This is a mad vortex created by bad forest management and flawed, incomplete science.

The erroneous idea that has driven the use of fuel reduction burns leaned heavily on the incorrect assumption that aboriginal people of Victoria burnt huge tracts of land. It was never questioned, based on early explorers interpreting smoke as burning land. Seeing burnt forest and assuming the Aboriginal first nation people of Victoria created it, hence the smoke. Not realising that many forest fires are created by lightning.

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It is also established during fuel reduction burns, all wildlife are at risk, not only the ground dwelling wildlife, even if the fire does not go viral. Some of each species are burnt to death or burnt so badly they have to be euthanased. This is mostly hidden from the public by those who are responsible for the fuel reduction burns from the bottom to the very top management. Any transparency about fuel reduction burns would cause an outcry that would not be stilled till it was governmental policy to never attempt again.

Obviously fuel reduction burns which are never cool or controlled will destroy shelter and food as well as animals and insects that are not only beneficial to the forest, mercilessly rather than intelligently logged to put money in the state government coffers, but also critical to the balance that is the Australian forest.

It has also been shown that some areas which don't lend themselves readily to fuel reduction burns and where forest fire has been in abeyance for decades, are burnt with the aid of some very suspect accelerants. These are a worry in their own right apart from the fire they deliver. These burn deep into the ground and wildlife who come in contact with them. In particular echidnas. There is a school of thought that suggests these accelerants are in fact illegal to use, even in war, and yet they are the instrument to burn difficult to light areas of Australian forest?

Above are the basic facts, but are these sufficient to demonstrate the terrible cost, the enormous loss to the Victorian taxpayer? Hardly. They are cold knowledge, ignored possibly because of this matter of fact description. As they do not describe a blue tongue lizard writhing in the flames as it runs in mindless pain deeper into the fire. Nor do they describe something that has been brought forward by those who have heard it, the screaming of a koala as it's burnt in a tree as the fire races up the trunk to consume anything in its path.

We have the ability and opportunity, with the technology we possess, to look at the iniquities of fuel reduction burns and to discover what the authority in Victoria, the DELWP, are not willing to research too thoroughly. That being in part: discover what wildlife species we have in the areas that are going to be burnt, who could be detrimentally impacted upon by an insidious, seemingly, anything but harmless marching wall of flame. Reaming out or destroying their homes, consuming their protective shelters and forage. Be it plant, insect or other, being burnt or dispossessed. Such a fire might even directly wipe out a species, by heat, flame and/or light.

Why is it, that human beings who are frightened of fire, the pain and destruction it can inflict. Deliberately light a fire to create pain, injure and kill wildlife, destroy their homes and immediate and often, long term food source? Is there no empathy? Doing this is iniquitous and without compassion of any kind.

Fuel reduction burning is not popular, nor accurate science, looking wisely, widely and seeing where everything notches into the environment. Setting fire deliberately in an attempt to reduce fuel is single issue science, very much based on an incorrect premise that aboriginal people used fire as fuel reduction burns and fire in general to manage the country they lived in. Further, this idea has been tilted and corrupted to make it suggest it will protect people and property to appease the general public. Another Furphy.

It is probably easier and less expensive than creating fire buffer zones round larger population centres and fuel reduction burning private land that adjoins it?

The wildlife burnt or their habitat destroyed for no real benefit, by fuel reduction burns are side issues to the DELWP. If considered at all, then not with any conviction. The state government has fire overlays that override everything, including common sense. We also have a new federal government, even less interested in the environment and our wildlife than the one that an minimal vote has dispossessed. The current government will not be a watchdog for the environment. This has been proven in the way it attempts to undermine or remove all legislation that protects wildlife habitat and the wildlife in general, if such a word can be used with wildlife?

It's well known that Aboriginal people did not deliberately burn large tracts of country. This fallacy was possibly grabbed at by farmers to justify their fire lighting activity for the purpose of freshening the pasture areas they have claimed.

Aboriginal people did not have any modern fire fighting equipment, which has also been shown in various instances to have limited effect when fighting fires, and shouldn't be used when the fire is in the forest anyway. So any Aboriginal clan or tribe wouldn't start a fire that might burn into the country of another tribe or clan. That would be an act of war and there would be some serious retribution delivered. Common sense is not the realm of science and in this case bases it's reasoning on something that it hasn't researched. Reading the diaries and journals of early explorers may not always be observation, but rather incorrect interpretations.

Animal survivors of even the slowest creeping fuel reduction burn, and their neighbours in the surrounding unburnt forest, will not go untouched by this insidious, unruly fire. All will be disadvantaged as the refugees move into already occupied territory to feed and find shelter. This will create an enlarged population requiring a new order be established and stress the inhabitants and the refugees. This influx will create heavier demand on both, liveable accommodation and demand for food. The balance is upset absolutely and may never be equalised again as fuel reduction burns are more often, creating a constant upheaval which never allows an equilibrium to again establish. Unlike forest fires which may never happen or happen between long fire free intervals.

The grass is alight and burning it's way toward the trees. The trees will get the blame but the grass is the fire vector.


Fallacy or Mendacity

The fallacy, possible mendacity when referring to a “controlled burn” is legendary. Fire is not a pet dog that obeys a command from its master. Fire has no master. The least damage caused by an escaped burn, which is just about every fire lit as a controlled, or fuel reduction burn, or created by natural causes as well. Is the destruction of private property. The greatest tragedy of a burn of any sort, is the wildlife that gets burnt and killed outright, or hide and die slowly from injury and those crippled and observed, who have to be euthanased.

The evidence is shown at every fuel reduction burn site, that the area so treated is degraded and the fire has actually increased the growth of plants that are prone to burning. The plants that need fire to regenerate encourage fire to become widespread. These plants are an important part of the ecology which supplies us with clean air and water. But with the first fuel reduction burn they proliferate to an extent that's not natural creating a much greater fire hazard and almost a monoculture. Each fuel reduction burn after that, burns the seedlings and decreases the seed bank in the soil even further. They increase even more, and get burnt again and they should only ever germinate when there is a forest or plains fire which occurs seldom. The hard coated seed of these is adapted to lying dormant for decades before a fire and smoke will crack them open and encourage their germination. A fuel reduction burn will germinate some, but will also burn some.

If fuel reduction burns are not escaped fires and do no harm, why are wildlife carers and shelter operators not informed when they are happening and allowed access as observers? Especially those carers who have jumped through all, some unnecessary, hoops that are required by the DELWP to have anything to do with rescuing wildlife on fire ground? Wildlife carers go through all these training courses and are still not given access to areas where fires are lit? This appears very strange indeed.

Philosophies

No reference is made to “bush” in this text, unless it slips in inadvertently. This term has been used by industry and government to clandestinely degrade the forest and make it seem less valuable. Apart from the timber it contains, the forest is all the more valuable because of the wildlife that populates it. Though seldom observed and often ignored, so as to be seen as not in residence, Terra nullius is not dead of course. Our apologies to the people who really owned this land is not enough, because the animals that allowed them to live on this continent still have no recognition. “Bush” is not used for something as valuable as our unique, in every instance; beautiful flora and fauna filled forests.

This article from Bob McDonald:

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