ON December 1, the first day of summer here in Australia, residents of the little town of Barmah in northwestern Victoria, drove cattle into their forest in defiance of a government ban. The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) has threatened legal action, but so far the cattle are still there. The forest has historically been grazed and the Barmah locals believe this is important to reduce the fire risk. http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/2008/12/cattle-still-in-the-forest/
Yesterday Police turned up to remove the cattle, residents turned up to protest, there was some mediation, some media interviews, and the Police left without any cattle – they couldn’t find them in the large forest.
Peter Newman, chairman of the Rivers and Red Gum Environment Alliance said yesterday from the forest, “Dozens of officers have arrived here this morning to remove the cattle and I have been threatened with arrest if I do not comply with directions of police who have blocked entrances to the forest”.
“The Barmah community and supporters are being mobilised now to safeguard the community’s interest. Earlier in the week, the community discussed putting even more cattle into the forest because the grass is growing so fast from recent rains. This followed a four hour inspection of the forest on Tuesday by three CFA captains and a First Lieutenant from local brigades who said the fuel load in the forest was too high.
This whole situation could have been avoided if DSE had honoured their commitment given at the Fire Plan meeting with the community on December 9th to slash the grass in the forest.
“We feel that as a community living right alongside the forest we have been treated very poorly by DSE. This is about managing fire risk on public land and how that affects local communities. We have put a solution to the forest manager on October 23rd to have 70 cattle in the forest for eight weeks to remove the serious fire risk. That has been rejected. DSE have told us they will slash the grass. That has not happened. The community have acted to protect themselves.
“This whole exercise is a glimpse into the future management of red gum forests and we don’t like it” concluded Mr Newman.
Photograph taken by Max Rheese on the edge of the Barmah Forest, December 18, 2008.