Burke’s Backyard Infested with Native Invasive Scrub: Media Release from Community Group

The following media release was distributed by a group called the NSW Regional Community Survival
Group
* after TV personality Don Burke was interviewed by radio personality Alan Jones in Sydney yesterday:

“Australia’s pioneer lifestyle presenter and Chair of the Australian Environment Foundation, Don Burke, has called upon the Iemma Government to make further changes to native vegetation laws so that farmers in western NSW can control infestations of invasive scrub.

“Premier Iemma must act fast to stop the destructive invasion of native scrub before it is too late for the environment
and farmland of western NSW,” said Don.

“Recent changes to native vegetation regulations announced by the NSW Government are a step in the right direction, but they still don’t provide farmers with enough flexibility to rehabilitate land degraded by invasive scrub.
“Hundreds of farming families will be forced off their land if this problem is not fixed: who then will be left to care for the environment of western NSW?” Don said.

Invasive scrub (also called woody weeds) are native shrubs that have increased greatly in density over the last 130 years, invading the formerly open grassy woodlands of western NSW from the Queensland border to the Riverina in southern NSW.

Scrub infestations now cover up to 12 million hectares of western NSW – an area twice the size of Tasmania – with another 6 million hectares vulnerable to invasion when the drought breaks. It is estimated that up to 1,000 farms are fighting the problem.

“I was invited by farmers from Nyngan and Cobar to view first-hand the destructive impacts of invasive scrub on the landscape of western NSW. What I saw was not a natural feature of the environment.

“I was shocked to see how near ‘monocultures’ of scrub had out-competed native grasses for moisture and nutrients, leaving the soil prone to severe wind and water erosion.

“Vast tracts of land are now an ecological desert, exacerbating current drought conditions,” said Don.

Don said that for thousands of years, Aboriginals used fire to suppress outbreaks of scrub.

“Original infestations of scrub can be traced to a lack of bushfires after the land was first settled and coincided with periods of above average rainfall in the 1860s and 1870s. High rainfall seasons in the 1950s, 70s, 80s and 1990s resulted in further outbreaks. Overgrazing in the distant past – including by rabbits – also contributed to the invasion of scrub,” explained Don.

“With the introduction of tighter land clearing laws in 1996, farmers in western NSW have been ‘straight jacketed’ ever since in their efforts to stop the insidious spread of native scrub. With native grasses virtually obliterated in the last ten years, the country will no longer carry a fire, so it can’t naturally thin dense areas of scrub.

“Clearing and short term cropping are now the only effective tools to remove scrub and suppress regrowth, giving
native grasses a chance to rejuvenate,” said Don.

“Farmers want to restore the landscape to its natural state of open woodlands and grasslands, but political pressure from radical greens has put a bureaucratic handbrake on land restoration.

“In return, farmers are prepared to set aside a minimum of 15 per cent of their land for the preservation of native
woodlands. Combined with rehabilitated native grasslands, this will lead to an average cover of 50 to 60 per cent of
native vegetation on farms in western NSW.

“After making statements about the vital role that farmers play in protecting the environment, I’m calling on moderate
green groups such as the Australian Conservation Foundation to support farming families in their efforts to rehabilitate the degraded landscape of western NSW,” ended Don.

———————
* The NSW Regional Community Survival Group was established about a year ago to draw attention to the problem of invasive woody weeds in western NSW. Some of the groups members were interview by the Sunday Program as part of its feature on ‘The Great Land Clearing Myth’.

76 Responses to Burke’s Backyard Infested with Native Invasive Scrub: Media Release from Community Group

  1. Nexus 6 November 16, 2006 at 9:02 am #

    Hmmmm…….it that a wif of astroturf I just detected.

    I do wonder whether woody weed infestations might have more to do with land clearing than lack of fire.

  2. Hasbeen November 16, 2006 at 9:24 am #

    There is none so stupid, as he who doesn’t want to learn, [or listen].

  3. Nexus 6 November 16, 2006 at 9:56 am #

    Bahahaha!!!! I gotta laugh.

    Maybe it was just coincidence that on our property we selectively cut or pushed mulga for feed in dry times while our neighbour knocked everything down using chains. We he didn’t control the sucker re-growth properly, he ended up with major ‘woody-weed infestations’. Our paddock right next door didn’t. Now, why do you think that is?

  4. Nexus 6 November 16, 2006 at 9:57 am #

    we he.. should be.. when he

  5. Luke November 16, 2006 at 9:58 am #

    Nexy – there’s considerable amount of evidence to support the fire sub-climax story – i.e. the balance of grasses to woodies/shrubs in savannas and woodlands is moderated by fire. Evidence: historical records, many photo comparisons or 50 years difference, C3/C4 isotope profiles showing grass to woody conversion. International evidence also from southern Africa and Texas.

    Why not enough fire – overgrazing perhaps, roos, rabbits and reluctance to light fires (lessons from El Ninos years when no more growth will be forthcoming and you are caught if you burn). And better fire breaks and dozers.

    So the Cobar woody weed patch is an artificial ecological yuk. The “innocence” of the graziers in this is well cover defended in the opening piece. They have presided over its conversion but who’s perfect eh?

    But is it economic to fix with clearing? I reckon numbers would be dodgy. Good for army training perhaps?

    We have had graziers on here saying clearing itself creates a sea of sticks. Bealey will tell us.

    So what’s to stop it happening elsewhere – well it is. So where’s Don Burke advocating better land management by graziers then? And how about something on managing for better ground cover too. Why pick on a boutique land management issue and not cover the main game which is ground cover by grasses, cryptograms etc.

    But if graziers want to clean it up go for it? Get up it ! But do they? Or is it really permission to clear other remnant woodland closer to the cropping zone. I’m not cynical.

    And how does thick scrub leave the soil open to wind erosion ? Has Don really looked?

    So yep – just astroturfing one side of the equation IMHO – but what did you expect.

  6. rog November 16, 2006 at 10:28 am #

    There is a problem where the state seeks to gain a benefit by compulsion by controlling otherwise legitimate farming activities on freehold land. This is unfair, the state does not pay for that benefit, farmers do.

    Link back to the previous article on forests, “When countries protected forests, they could grow. At the same time, when farmland was preserved, farmers were less likely to encroach on forests, Mr Waggoner said.”

  7. Allan November 16, 2006 at 12:59 pm #

    In the 1980’s the landuse of a large area of the Tinderry Mtns, southeast of Canberra went from grazing to Nature Reserve.

    I have only been in the district since 1990 but I have seen Teatree spread so quickly from what was open grazing to inpeneratable scrub 2 to 3 metres high.

    This has also happened on adjoining land that was doze and then sub-divided into rural residental blocks.

    I have no suggestion on what the solution is, but it is disheartening to see land that had such a varied cover of native grasses and flowers change into a monoculture of teatree.

    Even under mature tree canopy this native weed is spreading.

    At least it seem’s to keep the serrated tussock at bay by shading it out.

    No doubt mother nature will provide an answer!

  8. Julian November 16, 2006 at 1:07 pm #

    Bare in mind that the very ‘environment’ group that Jen Marohasy is a board member, was started by a man who thought it would be a good idea environmentally to let cattle graze in native bush…

    Still if the land is already cleared, i dont understand why it cant be maintained. Its unlikely to be providing any notable ecological benefit. Shoe on the other foot though, does that mean that native bush cleared illegally should be regenerated at the land-owners cost?

  9. Luke November 16, 2006 at 1:14 pm #

    Julian – area under discussion hasn’t been cleared. Lack of fire has caused shrubs to dominate over grasses over decades. In the “natural” state periodic fires would have killed many of the woody schrubs leaving the area as open grassland with scattered shrubs.

  10. Nexus 6 November 16, 2006 at 1:29 pm #

    Sure it hasn’t been cleared? ……formerly open grassy WOODLANDS. I can’t help wondering if it hadn’t somehow become a bit more open in the last 200 years. Just sayin’

  11. Ian Beale November 16, 2006 at 2:50 pm #

    Nexus,

    Put the rest of the emphasis in:-

    OPEN grassy WOODLANDS

    and now check your Specht classification

  12. Nexus 6 November 16, 2006 at 3:27 pm #

    Don’t have my Specht handy, Iain. Fill me in.

  13. Luke November 16, 2006 at 4:08 pm #

    Prof Raymond Specht (retired UQ) is one of the great Australian botanists.

    In 1970 plant ecologist Ray Specht devised a system for classifying Australian
    vegetation based on its structure. The system is based on the life form occupying the
    tallest vegetation layer (stratum), the height of that stratum, and the percentage cover
    it provides. This system is widely used to give standard names to plant communities.

    The 1981 modification of Specht’s classification is summarised and described in:

    Recher, H.F., Lunney, D. & Dunn, I. (1986) A Natural Legacy. Ecology in Australia.
    Second Edition. Pergamon Press, Sydney.

    The full account is available in:
    Specht, R. (1981) in Gillison, A.N. and Anderson, D.J. (eds) Vegetation classification
    in Australia. CSIRO/Australian National University Press, Canberra.

  14. Michael November 16, 2006 at 4:28 pm #

    “Clearing and short term cropping are now the only effective tools to remove scrub and suppress regrowth, giving
    native grasses a chance to rejuvenate,” said Don.

    ———————————————–

    Funny, that’s exactly what Mr Ryan said a few months earlier, word for word if I remember rightly.

    It’s interesting the way this group of “grassland restoring farmers” are so good at slipping “cropping” into the mouths of their celebrity puppets.

    Removing dense trees and shrubs benefits grasslands…. Cropping destroys grasslands. Repeated cultivation, even if then left to regenerate will only return to a simplified and unstable system which is then a magnet for monocultures of dense shrub invasion, worse than before.

    We all know the real reason they want to clear the regrowth in segments large enough for modern wide machinery.

  15. Michael November 16, 2006 at 4:53 pm #

    “Evidence: historical records, many photo comparisons or 50 years difference, C3/C4 isotope profiles showing grass to woody conversion.”
    —————————————

    Do we really need evidence that things have changed? What I want to see is the trial evidence in Western NSW that shows that fire can be used to suppress shrub growth (in the long term). I don’t believe it.

    Most of the shrubs in these rangelands are stimulated by fire. I’d go as far to say, they possibly only existed there because of fires that occassionally opened up the blanket of grasses that sucked all the moisture and nutrients out of the soil.

    Maybe we should all start being more precise about what kind of “scrub” we are talking about. There are many different types and they all respond in different ways.

  16. Luke November 16, 2006 at 5:59 pm #

    Michael – this is Cobar – cropping ?? cultivation?

    Well you’ll have to argue with rangeland ecologists on 3 continents about the role of fire in savannas and woodlands.

  17. Luke November 16, 2006 at 6:08 pm #

    Species – we’re talking woody shrubs – Eremophila, Dodonaea, Senna spp.

  18. Michael November 16, 2006 at 6:25 pm #

    Luke,

    This is not only Cobar. Dense woody re-growth covers a lot of areas in all directions from Cobar, I’m not sure why you keep referring to it as the “Cobar woody weed patch”.

    The areas where most of the illegal clearing occurrs is in the eastern portion where cereal crops can be grown (especially Nyngan/Walgett regions), nobody is doing diddly-squat with the stuff further west.

    And the worst mistake you make is your common reference to these areas being a complete ecological mess and there is nothing worth saving. This is absolutely wrong, there are still large patches of healthy country and small islands or pockets of healthy country sorrounded by oceans of scarred stuff(where people havn’t tried to fix it yet). And even the “stuffed” country (at least the areas that have not been ploughed), still contain an amazing diversity of life, and with a bit of genuine care could rapidly improve.

    I think you should take your own advice and go and look at these areas yourself.

  19. Michael November 16, 2006 at 6:38 pm #

    Ok Luke,

    Dodonea can be suppressed a bit by fire (Dodonea is actually the most useful of the woody shrubs).

    Senna and Eremophila usually just regrow and depending on the conditions following burning (ie rainfall patters -grass growth) the burning will improve their health an competitive edge.

  20. Luke November 16, 2006 at 6:59 pm #

    Cobar as the epicentre or focal point .. ..

    Yes it’s BIG in area. And noticeable from space. Type Cobar, Australia into Google Earth.

    If you read my posts above and previous you’ll notice my references to further east where some controversy exists on cropping. It would be a pity to see IPA/AEF campaigning without any regard to the exact vegetation at hand and crimping back further east.

    Yes I have seen it but not for a few years.

  21. rog November 16, 2006 at 7:35 pm #

    Not sure where all this chit chat is going – the aborigines used fire to shape the environment to suit their purpose.

    Now we have someone who wants to shape the environment – to Save The Locust?

    A rational source of food for humans – mmm, no thanks

  22. Ian Beale November 16, 2006 at 8:08 pm #

    I might have thought that there would be some mention of some reams of scientific publication on woody weeds in western NSW done by the likes of NSWDA, Soil Con and successors and CSIRO Rangelands in this discussion.

    Seems a bit like the Federal Minister for Environment proclaiming the lack of research on mulga in Qld as happened recently.

  23. Luke November 16, 2006 at 8:20 pm #

    Well Bealey – don’t keep us in suspense – inform us. Or do have to ring Dick in retirement.

  24. Ian Beale November 16, 2006 at 8:38 pm #

    Luke, Comments on a couple of points:-

    “And how does thick scrub leave the soil open to wind erosion”.

    Use some of the next Google ration (or is this shades of Brendan Behan – time for a Google?) and try “boundary layer vortices”. I reckon I can show small scalds started by old-time very intense fires that are maintained in thick tree cover and too far from water to be blamed on domestic or other grazing.

    “We have had graziers on here saying clearing itself creates a sea of sticks. Bealey will tell us”.

    Many factors involved, and I’m not about to do another thesis, but 3 points on seas of sticks:

    “Clearing” is usually a misnomer as many woodies were missed with the axe or go under the chain/blade for a rolling start without further management.

    Regeneration – we have places with 3 generations of rung trees and the 4th waiting since about 1900.

    State and transition – to quote Dean Graetz “In Australian rangelands Clementsian succession is botanical astrology” – i.e. removal of grazing pressure may well not restore to previous community, as can happen when fodder trees are harvested and non-fodder left.

    Nexus – I’d be suprised if the suckers were mulga

  25. Nexus 6 November 16, 2006 at 8:44 pm #

    Nah…suckers were box mainly.

  26. Ian Beale November 16, 2006 at 8:45 pm #

    Well Bealey – don’t keep us in suspense – inform us

    Luke, the Ref-11 printout is too large for blog

  27. Luke November 16, 2006 at 8:51 pm #

    Just the highlights Ian – give us the explanation for the woody weeds problem and remediation recipe. Is fire involved. We seem to be all over the place here.

  28. stewie November 16, 2006 at 9:54 pm #

    I have a video, that we at the Wildfire Taskforce Inc. (East Gippsland) shot about a year or so ago.
    The video was shot on our presidents property (just out of Bairnsdale, East Gippsland) where he has conducted ecologically appropriate, cool burns for the last 35 years. It is a grassy woodland EVC which abutts Mitchell river National Park.
    Essentially, our president who has a profound knowledge of things ecological, has only just in recent years got the likes of wattle, tea tree, etc. back in balance. His property is now a superb example of what a healthy, vital open grassy woodland should look like, unlike the National Park over the fence which is a contigious mass of scrub that disappears over the hill, and the next and the next. The contrast is frighteneing.
    And he has acheived this on his own.
    There are a few ‘experts’on this site, who I am sure this man could give an earful and set them right. Unfortunately, he is computerphobic.
    Jen the footage (interview style shot by amatuers) is approx. one hour long. If you are interested I can arrange a copy for you. I wish you could interview this man and a few others within the WTInc. They have many decades of hands on experience, a love of the bush and their farms.

  29. Jen November 16, 2006 at 10:51 pm #

    Thanks Stewie, please send a copy to PO Box 2293, Graceville East Q. 4075.

  30. Michael November 16, 2006 at 11:23 pm #

    Stewie,

    Sounds like it might be a very interesting and meaningful video evidence for people who are trying to manage/restore grassy woodlands in EAST GIPPSLAND and similar climatic zones.

  31. rog November 17, 2006 at 6:42 am #

    It has been estimated that country known as “open grassy woodland” has been reduced to some 0.5% of the pre 1778 area – some say 2 hot burns <7 years is sufficient to return land to its previous state.

  32. Schiller Thurkettle November 17, 2006 at 8:52 am #

    Allan was likely speaking tongue in cheek when he said, “No doubt mother nature will provide an answer!”

    That’s actually worth considering. Is there a rule somewhere that says humans have to intervene to keep nature “natural?” Or does that involve some inherent contradiction?

  33. stewie November 17, 2006 at 9:48 am #

    Jen,

    In my last post, I used the word ‘expert’, sarcastically……..I shouldn’t have. I really don’t like doing that, even though some people, like Pinxi for example, are a …….

    I’ll get the footage to you shortly Jen. A couple of weeks (max.).
    What I will do is edit the video down a little, as well as go out there in the following week and take more photos of his property and the adjacent National Park. This National Park is the one that Joan Kirner declared, to essentially hobble the building of a dam. It is now a wildfire time bomb. The contrast to Robs property is, as I said earlier, frightening. Are these bureaucracies (sParks Victoria) trying to deliberately burn down these farmers’ fences or something?!?!?
    I will see how I go, getting further interview material (video and/or sound) from Rob (president), pertaining to his property and the surrounding forests (including before and after vegetation inventory). He has a deep understanding of it.

    But how to extract and record it, so as to give it full impact (and respect). Mmmmm. Thinking cap on.
    I want the interview to be thorough, so if anybody out there has questions they would like to ask, post them here and I will include them. Anything from soil to vegetation to fauna to history to politics to …….. ANYTHING!

    Rog, all due repect, your comment on a less than 7 year timeframe is incorrect, I believe.

    Using intense fire, would greatly increase chance of crowning (not good), while the question of mass accumulation and dispersal of residual seed, from decades of ‘no fire’, is not tackled, due to the short timeframe you propose.

    The comment on 0.5% of “open grassy woodland” being left of original. No doubt, this is a type of forest preferred by settlers and taken up as grazing licences but I think when it comes to fire regimes, there are many other forest types, which fall within the ‘dry eucalyptus’ category or similar, that require very similar fire prescriptions. I’ll get back on that one, with more detailed, humble opinion.

    Allan, the forests surrounding Bairnsdale have large areas now reverting to impenetrable scrub, 10+ ft. This has come about since Joan Kirners’ green bueracracy was put in place in the 1980’s, when fuel reduction burning was seriously curtailed, while she lapped up the green vote.
    Prior to this time, cool burns were carried out on a regular on-going basis.
    A few years ago I took a gentlemen out who was involved, since the 1960’s with the previous cool burning regimes. When he saw the scrub that now exists, from creek to ridgelines, he was shocked, saddened, angry. I think he had a tear in his eye.
    Sad to further think they recently released Koalas into this area, under a relocation program to ‘save’ this species.
    This area will crown real bad now, during intense wildfire weather.
    A complete and utter sad joke really.

    Greenie equals fool.

  34. Ian Beale November 17, 2006 at 11:27 am #

    Luke, Hell, that’s asking me to review 30+ years of work and there is a drought on here!

    Some points that come to mind:-

    While E = M*C^2 was a unifying equation in physics, the Nobel Prize hasn’t yet been awarded for the biological equivalent. So one should be very careful of assumptions of being able to extrapolate rangeland management from one area to another. As a generalization, the arid zone recipe seems quite often the inverse of that for high rainfall areas. Which is why that love of bureaucrats and politicians, the one size fits all approach to prescription management, (aka the shifting spanner approach in honour of that much maligned mechanic’s tool) is doomed to failure.

    My experience is SW Qld mainly.

    So – does fire work in woody management? Basically yes, but there are lots of conditionals and interactions

    Like:-

    Enough fuel (but in mulga one can have too much fuel). Unlike Gavin’s comments on another thread, increasing tree cover in these parts rapidly reduces potential fuel load and thereby fire potential. I’ve heard of only 1 canopy fire locally in my time – my father also talked of 1 in his experience.

    Species – some are fire succeptible e.g. mulga, some less so. More resistant, more persistence required, but more conflict with other management needs.

    Soil seed load. In places with low seed load, one fire can give spectacular control(e.g. Er gilesii in a 1980’s research example, Er mitchellii recently in a local example). With high seed load, one fire may have negligable lasting effect.

    Multiple fires will work over time – e.g. check out Bob Purvis (NT) references in Aust Rangelands J around late 1980’s I think. They will even deal with supposedly fire proof eucs with enough fuel – first one damages the bark, second produces exposed dead wood, third takes out the tree.

    But you’re then at the mercy of fuel production, influenced by season and grazing (domestic, feral and native, and we’re in the area with the highest k populations in Qld). Jim Noble was using round-up to knock the leaves off in place of one of the fires.

    Timing – as I recall optimum time of treatment is about 6 months out of phase depending on summer or winter rainfall.

    Willingness to drop matches – my father wasn’t a match dropper, our 3 sons have probably already caused more (supervised) smoke than he did in a lifetime.

  35. Davey Gam Esq. November 17, 2006 at 1:09 pm #

    Stewie,
    I am interested in information on restoring former vegetation through astute use of fire. Will you be doing a full story on this blog?
    Prof Steve Pyne of Arizona (author of ‘Burning Bush’ and other outstanding fire histories, and a good bloke) once said, on a visit to Perth, that removing fire from vegetation (for a while anyway) is easy; putting it back in is difficult.
    In SW Australia we now have such a heavy, connected fuel load in State Forest and National Parks that a fire has the potential to run right through, and into Perth suburbs (remember Hobart 1967?). The Minister for the Environment, and the CEO of the Dept of Environment & Conservation (used to be CALM) seem unconcerned. As far as I know, neither has any hands-on bushfire experience. Perhaps they believe prescribed fire destroys biodiversity, and only natural lightning fires are ecologically acceptable. Summer is icumen in, and I am looking at property in New Zealand …

  36. rog November 17, 2006 at 1:39 pm #

    Its interesting to go over historical observations;

    “‘..the omission of the annual periodical burning by natives of the grass and young saplings has already produced in the open forest lands nearest to Sydney thick forests of young trees… Kangaroos are no longer to be seen there, the grass is choked by underwood; neither are there natives to burn the grass, nor is fire longer desirable among the fences of the settlers’ (Mitchell 1848)

    and from WA

    “‘On our way we met a party of natives engaged in burning the bush, which they do in sections every year. The dexterity with which they manage so proverbially a dangerous agent as fire is indeed astonishing. Those to whom this duty is especially entrusted, and who guide or stop the running flame, are armed with large green boughs, with which, if it moves in the wrong direction, they beat it out. ‘ (Stokes 1846)

    However I dont think that all was burnt annually it was more pockets or patches done on rotation, themeda and other sp are used to a cycle of 3-4 years.

  37. rog November 17, 2006 at 1:51 pm #

    I hear Luke reading from his WWF primer “wot about the biodiversity?”

    “…The New Holland Mouse has a restricted range and occurs in disjunct populations in Victoria. The species is regarded as being under threat due to the alteration and loss of suitable habitat. This may have been caused initially by clearing but is now predominantly due to inappropriate prescribed fire frequencies, which result in unsuitable habitat.

    There is substantial evidence to indicate that, in some habitats, composition and diversity of the vegetation communities are important criteria in habitat selection for the New Holland Mouse (Opie 1983, Norton 1987, Wilson et al. 1990, Wilson 1991). Posamentier and Recher (1974) proposed that the optimum habitat for this species was heath which was actively regenerating after fire. The studies of Fox and McKay (1981) showed that New Holland Mouse populations survived wildfire and reached maximum abundance at 2-3 years postfire. Coastal heath vegetation undergoing early to midsuccessional regeneration as a result of habitat disturbances (e.g. fire, mining, clearing) appears to be preferred habitat in many areas (Fox 1982, Braithwaite and Gullan 1978, Kemper 1976, Opie 1983, Wilson 1991). The capacity for New Holland Mouse to actively re-colonise such areas after disturbance is well documented (Fox and Fox 1978, 1984; Wilson and Moloney 1985).

    ..Some populations of New Holland Mouse do not persist as vegetation ages (Wilson 1991). ”

    http://www.ourwater.vic.gov.au/CA256F310024B628/0/2EE718873C0EC3E5CA2570EC0081DE20/$File/074+New+Holland+Mouse+1996.pdf

  38. Rhyl November 17, 2006 at 3:07 pm #

    The Qld DPI (or whatever they call themselves, now) had an article about controll of woody weeds in SW Qld and NW NSW in the 1970s. They considered that a piece of the scrub had to be kept free of grazing for 15 years for sufficient fuel to accumulate for a fire to be hot enough to burn the woody weeds. This did not consider the roo population – maybe there were less of them in the 70s, I don’t know.

  39. Rhyl November 17, 2006 at 3:27 pm #

    Let me tell one of my Great-grandfather’s stories. From a transcript from his reminiscences:

    ‘In 1864 I was told about a new route from Coonabarabran area to Walgett. “Travel 60 miles NW until you come across a set of yards located in a patch of scrub.

    I found the yards and set Billy Button – the horse loose in the big yard but a mob of dingos had followed me since about 4pm and they started harassing Billy, so I put him in the small yard and lit fires around it. I spent the night sitting up on a big post and kept the fires going. In the morning, following the directions I set off in a SW direction. On leaving the scrub I came out on a vast sea of shining water. The whole plain was covered. I decided to keep going and the best thing was the dingos did not follow.

    It was scary going through the water which was stirrup deep, because there was no way of knowing when we would meet a hole. After an hour or so I came upon a man up a small tree (the only one) so I put him up behind me and shared some of my food with him. He was in a bad way as he had been there for a couple of days.

    We continued until we came upon the Namoi River which we determined by the current and the trees along the banks. Walgett was across the stream with the pub’s upper level verandah above the water. We hallooed until someone came for us in a row-boat. I let Billy Button go, taking off the saddle and bridle, and we went across to the pub.

    The point of this is that he travelled for close on 60 miles across a treeless plain. Today it is farm land that the farmers are not allowed to clear of the very large trees that cover most of those miles.

    Refer also to ‘A Million Wild Acres’ by Eric Rolls about the Pilliga scrub. It was not there in the early 1850 either. He describes it as having a large cypress for each acre with open grassland in between. Now you can’t swing a cat in it – AND it has been listed as a heritage place!

  40. Luke November 17, 2006 at 3:52 pm #

    So while woody weeds would be expected to reduce wind erosion McTanish and Leys, 1993 Condon (1986, 2002, Miles (1993) and Leys (1991) draw attention to cases where woody weeds actually accelerate wind erosion processes .. .. well I’ll be. Wind gets squeezed under the foliage.

    Noble (1997) says :

    “Data from fire experiments on woody plants in western NSW and Central Australia are highly significant because they provide unequivocal evidence supporting the theory that frequent bushfires prior to European settlement were capable of maintaining open savannas by killing the majority of shrub seedlings germinating after fuel-generating rains.”

    Noble J.C. (1997) The Delicate and Noxoius Scrub: CSIRO Studies on Native Tree and Shrub Proliferation in the Semi-arid Woodlands of eastern Australia. CSIRO Canberra.

    Noble classifies shrubs into 3 groups:
    (1) extremely sensitive to fire – Mulga, pine with regeneration through seedling recruitment
    (2) moderately sensitive to fire (25-50% survival)
    (3) tolerant of wildfires with plants resprouting from stem bases and roots

    Noble concluded that low rainfall, rabbits, overgrazing and wind erosion all combined to increase woody weed densities by reducing fuel for burning.

    The more gradual process of woodland thickening in central Queensland (Burrows) is similar but not as dramatic.

  41. Luke November 17, 2006 at 3:56 pm #

    But maybe the scrub is worth something after all !!

    New greenhouse gas scheme pays farmers for carbon rights

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200611/s1790841.htm

  42. Luke November 17, 2006 at 3:59 pm #

    Now the above is what should have happened in the first place – how to inject some city and industry dollars into the bush and get a win-win benefit for farmers, numbats, greens and industry.

    Even help with economic resilience to episodic droughts.

    But as it is farmers have been ripped off billions for their carbon rights.

  43. Ian Beale November 17, 2006 at 4:47 pm #

    Luke,

    Carbon credits could be a wild ride if it’s based on the European market (the only one?).

    Interesting that there is a link available to that ABC news item on carbon rights, while I still can’t find one to the interview on the Steve Austin show the other night. One of the points made in that one was that there has just been a hell of a crash in the price of carbon on the European market which makes the blips in the stock market since 1929 look like small bickies (I’ve since been told a fall of about 60%).

    Is the only call in ABC bingo “No 9 the party line” by any chance?

  44. Luke November 17, 2006 at 5:05 pm #

    Come on Ian – the mainstream papers have their share of attack dogs e.g. our good friend Mr Bolt and many others. It’s a rich media – pick and choose.

    Anyway back to the carbon issue – do we think that sequestering carbon will become more or less a thing of value in the future?

  45. stewie November 17, 2006 at 5:10 pm #

    Luke, a quick note on your reference to :
    Recher, H.F., Lunney, D. & Dunn, I. (1986) A Natural Legacy. Ecology in Australia.
    Second Edition. Pergamon Press, Sydney.
    I note that one of the ‘contributors’, Allin Hodson, a lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Sydney, is described as one who, (in part)
    “believes that ‘academic’ ecologists can do much to bridge the gap between conservationists and those they oppose, and that they have a responsibility to try.”
    I take this from my 1979 publication of this book.
    This book of course, was the ‘bible’ used by teachers within the TAFE run Natural Resource Management Course, at a time when (1980’s) the ALP introduced ecologically based management legislation. The very first of its kind.
    Furthermore, ecology teachers employed by TAFE, during this time, were known left wing activists. Many of these are now employed within flora and fauna departments, of DSE and are clearly greenies, who have in the past been part of green activist groups. The type of groups who would not listen to anybody else’s opinion.
    Here’s a paragraph I found within by the way. Remember this is the 1979 edition, a couple of years after ‘scientists’ wre predicting an ice age was nigh. The same scientists I believe.
    “During the past century of rapid industrial growth the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by 5%. This increase has mostly occurred during the last 20 years. Carbon dioxide retains heat within the atmosphere and some scientists are concerned that an increase in carbon dioxide could cause a warming of the biosphere. The main effects of such a warming trend would be an increase in cloud cover and a melting of the polar ice caps. If the polar ice caps melted, the oceans would rise by nearly 100 metres and flood most of the world’s major cities. Although the possible effects of burning fossil fuels sound like science fiction, the example illustrates the ease with which people and technology can unwittingly alter world ecosystems”.
    Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
    100 metre sea rise. This statement seems a bit deep and meaningless to me. Could advice me on its purpose and how it got into such a reference book that students had to use.
    Remember, this book was the ‘bible’ of above mentioned course. This course became the conduit through which a whole new set of ‘experts’ were funneled through in the late 1980’s, during the reign of the green inspired Kirner government. And ecology teachers, I know of, were left wing greenies. Often husband and wife teams, with left wing green ideologies were employed at this time. (Kept within the network as such.)
    One of these ‘first of a kind’ ecology teachers I know of, left that job in recent times, only to become a Community Steward employed by DSE. She helps community groups (read greenies) apply for government funding for ‘community programs’. These programs often include facets of local flora and fauna management. Which is interesting because her husband is the local senior flora and fauna officer for DSE.
    I know people, with a very good understanding of local environments, who have worked with her husband in the field and have said he is an absolute twit. No idea. Clueless. His claim to fame, like John Thwaites is an interest in birds.
    Oh, and that’s right, John Thwaites was a photographer for Bob Browne in the 1970’s, producing a book on National Parks.
    Oh, and that’s right, many of the authors in this book have associations to the National Park service or similar.
    100 metre sea level rise. Mmmmmmm.
    Do you think, just as Holden or Ford must recall models of vehicle that have serious faults, TAFE should recall students that have serious faults due to manufacturing processes?

  46. rog November 17, 2006 at 5:53 pm #

    Stewie, stay focussed.

    States are using farmers as defacto carbon warehouses but they pay no rent. It is theft by the state. And Bob Carr now works for the fee factory (Mac Bank).

  47. Phil Done November 17, 2006 at 6:31 pm #

    Stewie – my reference “A Natural Legacy. Ecology in Australia” – wtf ?? huh?

    Sea level rises? Ice ages ?

  48. stewie November 17, 2006 at 7:17 pm #

    Phil Done or Luke,

    This paragraph:

    “During the past century of rapid industrial growth the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by 5%. This increase has mostly occurred during the last 20 years. Carbon dioxide retains heat within the atmosphere and some scientists are concerned that an increase in carbon dioxide could cause a warming of the biosphere. The main effects of such a warming trend would be an increase in cloud cover and a melting of the polar ice caps. If the polar ice caps melted, the oceans would rise by nearly 100 metres and flood most of the world’s major cities. Although the possible effects of burning fossil fuels sound like science fiction, the example illustrates the ease with which people and technology can unwittingly alter world ecosystems”.

    is taken from the book ‘Recher, H.F., Lunney, D. & Dunn, I. (1979) A Natural Legacy. Ecology in Australia.’ , which Luke used (posting No. 13) as a reference.

    This book was used extensively (read exclusively) by TAFE in its Natural Resource Management course in the 1980’s.

    Line 5, of above extract reads,

    ‘If the polar ice caps melted, the oceans would rise by nearly 100 metres and flood most of the world’s major cities. Although the possible effects of burning fossil fuels sound like science fiction, the example illustrates the ease with which people and technology can unwittingly alter world ecosystems”

    This book is planting the idea of seas rising 100 metres, due to human carbon emissions altering weather patterns and melting the polar ice caps.

    Hello. 100 metres sea rise. You got to be kidding me.

    WTF sort of BS is that to be teaching the kiddies.

  49. Gavin November 17, 2006 at 7:30 pm #

    I had a brief chance to comment on the subject of burning the bush during the debate on ABC radio today. Guests were Val Jeffery and Paul Collins author of “Burn” The Epic Story of Bushfire in Australia (Allen & Unwin 2006).

    Val at least misses his native bush after 2003 and remains critical of our current lack of programs. Paul reckons his high country property where he lost a house (Snowy Mts Shire) has recovered well since.

    The core of the debate between them today was how far do we look back to find “natural” bush. ANU research with sediments from Lake George puts it around 40,000 years when this country was covered in sheoak not eucalypt..

  50. Luke November 17, 2006 at 7:58 pm #

    Stevie or Stuffie – more wtf – yes I am quoting to a prior comment about who is Specht or where Specht is detailed. I’m not advocating the entire book nor what you’re banging on about. I’m referring to where the work is documented. If I quote something out of the Australian newspaper on page 1 are you going to complain there’s an error in another story on page 3.

    Get adjusted !

  51. Gavin November 17, 2006 at 8:43 pm #

    rog hits the nail on the head. Wood now standing on farms has been accounted for but hey; it all went howard’s way

  52. stewie November 17, 2006 at 9:20 pm #

    Luke. I’d like to ad just this.

    The Australian newspaper is not an education department sanctioned reference.

    This book in question, however, was advocated by the education department, as an education reference, in a course, from which ‘land managers’ are produced. This book was a prescribed book, on the official book list. The chapter it appears in, was written by the author, Recher.

    So what do you think, of the inference, that seas could rise by 100 metres, due to human induced global warming?
    Who are the scientists they refer to as advocating this?

    Come on now Luke, I thought you liked banging on about human induced global warming theories.

    Yours faithfully,
    Stewie, Stevie, Spivvy or whatever amuses you, matey boy.

  53. Luke November 18, 2006 at 3:56 am #

    Well Spivvy – perhaps you should write a strong letter to the education department then. Pls tell them that I also found mistakes in my son’s maths book and daughter’s biology book. A Royal Commission is clearly called for.

  54. Michael November 18, 2006 at 9:03 am #

    I can just imagine the group of Aboriginals heading off on a grand adventure into woop woop, 100km from water, just to make sure they performed their follow-up cool burn to control the woody weeds that came up after their previous grand adventure into woop woop 2 years earlier.

    Ok, so in some situation fire can scorch woody weeds. Maybe even if you get the timing perfectly right, and are extremely lucky with the seasons, you could use it to reduce woody weed cover (in the short term)..

    I believe the suppression of dense woody weed growth actually had a lot more to do with long lived perennial grass competition and less to do with fire.

    My farm is in a similar climate zone to the rangelands (lot closer than East Gippsland). I do have some trouble with dense woody weed growth, but only on former cropped country, or where the perennial native pastures have been weakened by rabbits etc. The places where the perennial pastures are healthy, there is never enough available moisture for dense woody germination.

    These perennial grasses are kept healty by periodic grazing. In some situations, fire is likely required to keep the perennial grasses healthy, especially following exceptional seasons when the grasses become thick and rank.

    No doubt widespread fires occurred in the rangelands following exceptional seasons. But would there ever have been a need for the Aborginals to encourage them in Western NSW? – I think not. Not only would it have been a tremendous task, they would never have had the need.

    In an area approximately 10km square, we have had 4 fires started by dry lightning storms in the past 5 years. Without CFA intervetion these fires would have done a nice job of forming a mosaic of burnt an unburnt country.

    So my point is that perennial grass competition was probably the sigle most important woody weed suppressant, possibly enhanced by the occassional wild fire, which may have even been occassionally encouraged by Aboriginals.

    Is it really logical to think that all the rangelands in Australia (or even a minute fraction of them) could be carefully managed by regular burning by humans?

  55. Luke November 18, 2006 at 12:13 pm #

    Well they patch burn in the NT and successfully.

    And you also have to explain the conversion of the Pilliga to denser forest.

    I agree perennial grasses are very important part of the equation. These get flogged out by overgrazing. Fire opportunities are not common – managers need to consider using them when they have them. However experience with El Nino events and other droughts would make many graziers fire shy.

    Fire is also important in the main Queensland grazing zone for selecting palatable species such as spear grass over unpalatable species wire grass.

  56. Ian Beale November 18, 2006 at 12:28 pm #

    ‘It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know
    for sure that just ain’t so’ (Mark Twain)

    Michael, if you check the literature you’ll find aboriginal management by fire was widespread in the rangelands of Australia. As I recall, Marg Friedel or Garry Bastin would be names to start with for a picture of fire in the NT. Also those Bob Purvis articles.

    I’d also suggest that the aboriginals and the game went that 100km only when there was water available, and both retreated to the permanent supplies as the ephemerals dried up.

  57. Ian Beale November 18, 2006 at 12:36 pm #

    Stewie,

    The Journal of Irreproducable Results once ran an article on the rate of increase of knowledge, at that time doubling every 7 years (from memory).

    This lead to the proposal that any degree etc issued should be printed with ink that faded in that time, and was then invalid till re-inked after post-graduate updating.

  58. Ian Beale November 18, 2006 at 12:57 pm #

    Without rain for about 6 months the perennials start dying out without any grazing what-so-ever. They then have to re-establish from seed, in the face of whatever didn’t die out, or managed to get a start with any small falls of rain prior to a drought-breaking event.

    John Steinbeck gives a description of similar happenings in “The Log from the Sea of Cortez”, which pre-dates this comment by a long way.

    In areas where “State and Transition” is to be expected (the bulk of the rangelands), one has to allow for flips from one stable state to another after disturbance – see eg. Westoby, Walker and Noy Meir (1989) and Walker, Ludwig, Holling and Peterman (1981).

  59. Luke November 18, 2006 at 7:44 pm #

    Michael – perhaps not regular burning – strategic yes – mosiac yes – opportunities probably few.

    Of course we could offer another controversial issue into the equation. It’s said that increasing atmospheric CO2 will favour the woodies but a debated topic nonetheless.

    Certainly CO2 applied in FACE experiments changes things.

    And in the far rangelands – good grass cover isn’t the norm. So what do we know about cryptograms and crusts that hold the surface together?

  60. Ian Beale November 18, 2006 at 7:51 pm #

    Luke, CSIRO Rangelands published some on that too.

  61. Michael November 18, 2006 at 9:06 pm #

    Ian B,

    I’m aware of the perennial grass death under extreme dry conditions, the same thing happens in the Riverina, but the value of the perennial grass butts lives on after their death. The butts continue to encourage more even moisture absorption (ie. less runoff and run on zones), resulting in less deep soil moisture and therefore more moisture stress to trees and shrubs.

    Here’s a Question Ian B.. Are there any perennial grasses in Western NSW that don’t die in extreme dry conditions?

    In the Riverina we seem to have only one species that survives any dry period (Enteropogon acicularis) I’ve never noticed it die even when growing on the gilgai puffs of cracking clay soils. No doubt it also has it’s limit though.

  62. Ian Beale November 19, 2006 at 8:20 am #

    Michael

    I didn’t work in western NSW. Try Ken Hodgkinson for example for that answer. There is also considerable detailed measurement of cover and run-off in the CSIRO publications that came out of Lake Mere and some from Charlevile. The latter documented how erosion in mulga areas is a double-barreled process – water forms a thin soil crust which is then wind eroded.

    For western Qld mulga the work of Silcock and Brown may have some pointers. For mitchell grass yabilla and white spear might make it – white spear was still surviving in long-term exclosures long after the loss of mitchell grass (this one doesn’t like the exclusion of grazing). I haven’t seen what happened over this last run of dry seasons, but Richard Silcock has.

    Basal covers in western Qld rangelands are low – good condition mitchell grass and mulga pastures up to about 5% basal cover, fair condition about 2 – 5%.

    I’ll also remind you of the quote from the Qld Salinity Management Handbook (DNR 1997) “Areas receiving less than 600mm/yr are not usually at risk of salinity because insufficient rain falls to satisfy plant demand and recharge the ground water”. If you look, something like 3/4 of the Qld part of the Murray-Darling is <600mm, which isn’t widely publicised.

    Nor is it widely publicised that in this area there is negligable connection between treatment of woody vegetation, deep percolation and dryland salinity for the same reason. For complete irony, work at Lake Mere documented the improvement in soil nutrient status and reduced soil erosion under fallen mulga branches in comparison to control areas (David Tongway).

    Luke, for more on soil crusts etc try David Tongway or Richard Greene

  63. stewie November 19, 2006 at 9:20 am #

    Re: Promised video of Rob’s property and applied fire regime in an open grassy woodland.

    Hi Jen.

    Looks like I jumped the gun a little here in that, due to recent experiences, our president Rob is a little guarded when it comes to passing on hard copy information. His concerns lie with copyright, intellectual property and being recently bitten over such issues. Nothing personal towards your good self but he does have good reason.

    What he has proposed is that you get in contact with him by phone as he is more than willing to have a chat, as a starting point.

    He wanted me to tell you that he would discuss his knowledge regarding fire regimes across the mountains, including the following points:

     The geological tertiary junctions and their change of inherent properties as you go up the mountains, from the coast to the Alps, and beyond.
     The corresponding vegetation changes/types according to these tertiary junctions.
     The unique transpiration and precipitation qualities of the vegetation types.
     The changing fire regimes according to the above discussion.
     His application of cool burns over 43 years, in an open grassy woodland, taking into account riparian and temperate rainforest interface(s).

    Further, he said that you were welcome to come to his property and see, discuss and record what you see.

    He is also interested in discussion concerning the dingo, its history, current status and DNA. He has extensive knowledge with breeding, trapping and hybridization issues.

    As I am a ‘go-between’ I expect (hope) you will treat his personal information with confidentiality and respect, unless otherwise permitted by Rob.

    I will email his contact details.

  64. Gavin November 19, 2006 at 3:14 pm #

    It seems we are finally getting round to the idea the aborigines knew all the time what they were doing, opening bush and refining woodlands. It also seems we have almost completely lost that info in the last 50 > 100 years following the chemical alternative.

    I met a few old farmers who still had that skill relative to their own land. Young ones tried to follow and buggered it up. For a long time I thought the oldies were match heads. One I knew sure had it worked out after years of experience killing off heavy introduced pasture infestations like blackberries and rush.

    I’ve thought for decades bark blood in the background helped more than a few settlers battling the bush. This connection is never written up in recent family history. Local knowledge depended a lot on who knew what about ancestors.

    Two aspects of fire management for wiping crops or enhancing, stressed plants and ripe seeds can both be hit with routine fire, the other is thinning the bush and converting organic material to ash and soil as fertilizer eliminating competition; partial burning versus sterilization. Touchy feely stuff today.

    It’s also been my view they never lost their whiskers in the act.

    Most modern day arsonists I knew fluffed it up when they miss read the afternoon breeze. I’ve watched hundreds of fires and many break away. Too much too soon in every case, since it’s also a crime we don’t say. Scientists haven’t a hope of catching up impact by location and when it’s done right.

    From experience working slowly with up slope drafts is a sea breeze is hard. Old timers had only swishy green beaters for edge control, a great way to redden your face on a big day out at the front.

    To hell with academia, good control needs lots of experienced people working in ahead of the advance on a very cool day or night

  65. Michael November 19, 2006 at 6:45 pm #

    “I’ll also remind you of the quote from the Qld Salinity Management Handbook (DNR 1997) “Areas receiving less than 600mm/yr are not usually at risk of salinity because insufficient rain falls to satisfy plant demand and recharge the ground water”. If you look, something like 3/4 of the Qld part of the Murray-Darling is <600mm, which isn’t widely publicised.”

    —————————————

    Hi Ian B,

    Thats an interesting concept when you consider the amount of dryland salinity problems in the Mallee in Victoria and the Western Australian wheatbelt.. Could I suggest the exception would be in winter rainfall zones, when the perennial vegetation is replaced by annual crops?

    I have seen a presentation by D. Tongway on the fallen Mulga branch scenario, and it was good to see science capture what is visually very obvious.

    It’s a shame the tree pullers around Nyngan rake it up and burn it to plant their annual crops.

  66. Ian Beale November 19, 2006 at 7:01 pm #

    Michael,

    Qld salinity management handbook, Qld conditions. They quote <200mm for southern Australia, so we’re not really arguing. But extrapolaters from southern Australia need to be aware of these different numbers before they preach.

  67. Michael November 19, 2006 at 7:06 pm #

    Isn’t the topic we are discussing here in relation to Western NSW rangelands?

    Please forgive me for believing they require slightly different thinking to the NT monsoon zone and the East Gippsland Grassy Woodlands.

    Ian Beale just acknowledged that the lack of permanent water would have added another hurdle that these Aboriginal firemen would have had to work around. How could they possibly get the fire-timing right to control the woody weeds right across the NSW Rangelands, when they had so many variables to work around?

    I think we tend to forget how much influence lack of water would have had on the landscape now that we have scald erosion, ground tanks, table drains and bores everywhere.

  68. Gavin November 19, 2006 at 7:33 pm #

    Michael should be aware the old timers anywhere had no 4 x 4 to escape or uni to analyse their mistake. They above all could live or die solely on what they each saw.

    A universal link; smoke watching is more than a just pastime everywhere.

  69. Ian Beale November 20, 2006 at 6:58 am #

    Michael

    Lack of permanent water is only a problem if you aren’t prepared to deal with rangeland ecology at dis-equilibrium.

    You’ll also find fire recorded as part of the more arid NT rangelands

  70. stewie November 20, 2006 at 8:08 am #

    Some (off post) bushfire trivia:

    Ash and charcoal deposits are embedded in New Zealand glaciers that originated from the 1939 wildfires here in Australia.

    I thought some on this site might be interested in that.

  71. Davey Gam Esq. November 21, 2006 at 1:36 pm #

    Stewie,
    Yes I am. If there are no other layers of ash in NZ glaciers then it would seem the 1939 fires were of unprecedented intensity. We have such evidence here in WA, where recent hot fires (20 y.o. fuel) have killed 200 year old trees. How did they survive before, if the bush was only burnt every 20 or 50 years, as some claim?
    Have you read Steve Pyne’s latest book on Australian bushfire (Still-burning bush, Scribe Short Books, Melbourne, 2006)? It is a follow up to his previous ‘Burning Bush’. I have not read it yet, but there is a review by Ian McDougall at http://www.webdiary.com.au/cms/?q=node/1311 – he picks fault with Steve’s flowery language, but agrees with his findings. So do I.
    For those interested in North American work on Indian use of fire, see Gerry William’s stuff at http://www.wings.buffalo.edu/anthropology/Documents/firebib.txt

  72. Pandanus November 21, 2006 at 3:11 pm #

    Long term research plots inteh Pilliga clearly demonstrate that dense regrowth must be managed if there is to be a positive biodiversity outcome.

    Thinning trials established in 1964, maintained a number of control plots not subject to any silvicultural treatment or other management. These plots have remained “locked up” so to speak and have grown in diameter by ony one or two millimetres in the ensuing period ( remeasured in 2000, I think).

    The defining feature of these plots is the complete absense of an understorey. With site capacity reached any germinating understorey shrub or grass was comprehensively outcompeted. Where the forest was thinned a grester level of understory diversity was achieved.

    Western Plains Zoo published a paper on similar work that they carries out and the biodiversity benefits of thinning invasive woody scrub (from memory sometime between 1999-2001).

  73. stewie November 21, 2006 at 3:29 pm #

    G’day Davey,

    I have been tempted to write more to you but instead have opted to wait until I see what eventuates from conservation that will happen between our president of the Wildfire Taskforce Inc, Rob, in a couple of weeks and Jen. Following that conversation I hope to get together with Rob and write an article(s) for posting, if Jen agrees with that proposition. And also I’d expect you be more experienced in the matter of fire ecology than I. I have a deep interest and I’m learning.

    I have read sometime ago an article by Stephen Pyne some years ago (forget title) and it was excellent.

    The 1939 fires destroyed (virtually) all stands of Snow Gums as the fire crowned from Mt. Hotham to Omeo.
    Before this fire these trees were predominately a large single trunked tree in the order of hundreds of years old. After the fires they grew as they are now, with each tree being a multi-trunked specimen.
    Due to the perverse politics of endangered species, today’s departmental experts have declared that fire is not a part of the alpine and sub-alpine landscapes and yet the Aboriginals probably burnt that country every year as they headed up for the Bogong Moth ‘festival’.
    I have photos somewhere of what it looked like a week after the fire went through there. Obliterated in a word.
    This accounts for the great reduction in Pygmy Possum numbers, Brushed Tailed Rock wallaby and other species that inhabit/inhabited such areas. The department does not want to talk about that to much, and flora and fauna management plans hardly give it a mention. Post 3 years ago it was never mentioned at all. Zero. Zip. None.

    I’ll give you another interesting bit of trivia. Sorry if I already posted it.

    After the 1939 fires had come down from Hotham and burnt out Cobungra station, a pile of animals were found dead in the corner of a paddock. There was a mix of animals in there, sheep, cattle, wallabies, wombats. All piled on top of each other against the fence.
    The interesting bits, apart from the mix of animals was,

     None had actually died from burning, as there was noticeably no singeing of the fur.
     The closest forest was at least 1 mile away.
     Due to the severe drought of that time, there was not a skeric of vegetation, green dry or otherwise on the ground prior to the fire.
     When we took either Phil Cheney (or was it the local DSE fire manager) up to Mt. Hotham, in 1999 to show and raise concerns of excessive fuel loads, the bones that had been lying there ever since 1939 mysteriously disappeared.

    To think what had happened there on that day boggles the mind but if you understand how hours later that fire jumped into the Livingstone Valley, Omeo, exploding 4 kilometres across it, in one mighty whoosh, then you could only think that this fire had one head of steam on it. Certainly not something that seems environmentally friendly.

    You mention 20 y.o. fuel.
    A few kilometers out from town here we have forest that is a type that should probably see fire between 7-15 years. It has not seen fire for 80-100 years. When a wildfire gets hold of this on a bad day kiss the fauna goodbye. Scary, sad stuff.
    And they have the gall to nominate endangered species in there, from threats other than wildfire.

  74. Davey Gam Esq. November 22, 2006 at 1:37 pm #

    Stewie,
    I recently read an old copy of the West Australian newspaper, from February 1961, just after the uncontrollable Dwellingup fires. The fires were due to insufficient resources allocated to the then Forests Department for controlled burning. The editorial strongly supported more controlled burning. How times have changed. Half baked journalists now blether about bushfires being entirely due to global warming.
    In 1961 a Mr. P. Riegert, of Yarloop, wrote to the paper, saying that an old settler had told him that the bush was burnt ‘by the natives’ as often as it would carry a fire. For jarrah forest, that is every 3-4 years. There were no uncontrollable fires in the jarrah forest then. They could all be put out by hand, with wet bags, or green branches, if anyone bothered. A man could step over the flames. Sanity must, eventually, penetrate the pudding heads of the ‘ignis nullius’ brigade. How many more uncontrollable fires (deaths?), followed by expensive government inquiries, and glossy reports, do we need? Judge Leonard Stretton said it all in 1939. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, especially if they are as thick as two short planks, with a tuppenny degree in ecomythology, taught by tuppenny ha’penny professors, who have never seen a real bushfire, and dismiss bushfire history as ‘anecdotal’. How’s that for a rant?

  75. Davey Gam Esq. November 22, 2006 at 5:12 pm #

    P.S. My liver must be playing up…

  76. Geoff Collet December 15, 2006 at 8:18 pm #

    An interesting collection of comments.
    My background is south east NSW forested land.
    Critical of tunnel vision greens. Full marks for caring and dedication, zero for broad vision and an open mind on how the ecology evolved. Polys who are elected to manage for all,suck up to where the votes are percieved to be.
    The SE bush ecology evolved for thousands of years on controlled small cool burn for thousands of yeats. National parks who are supposed to care for the flora and fauna refuse to continue this nethod. They do not have the funds even if the will is there. Result, wholesale destruction of flaura and fauna by broad front wildfire every 15 or 20 years.
    I have photographic evidence ot 200 year old trees which have been killed by wildfire since Nadgee Nature Reserve was declared around 1952.
    How did these trees survive for previous 200 years? Ben Boyd National park will be next. Not if but when. When it goes there will be no stopping it on a wide front with the accompanying bush barbecue.
    I despair for the future of wildlife in National Parks.
    I rest my case

Website by 46digital