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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Wednesday, 5 January 2011
Vic bushfire dead - the families deserve the historic truth
Mood:  don't ask
Topic: wildfires

 

 

The truth is out there - in the Victorian election result. In the reform agenda to ban the logging of wet mature native forests in Tasmania. In the silence of the usually voluable and egregious Michael O'Connor on the ALP national executive.

Those who know, know: You can't log all the wet schlerophyll, rainforest, and otherwise green damfuls of water in mature forests, for 200 years and not expect megafires eventually.

Water is the limiting factor for life on this wide brown land. Scientific studies show that Aboriginal firestick farming was no where near the level of burning of colonials that effectively destroyed the forest water cycle.

Now there is barely any evidence of that original wet giant cathedral eucalypt schlerophyll forest in Victoria.  A bit in East Gippsland but mostly it's gone. The industry have been systematic in destroying the evidence of their crime against nature and humanity for 150 years now.


The brutal fact is the logging industry killed those 170 plus people over 50 to 150 years ago - out of ignorance, by their landscape conversion to new regrowth removing water out of the landscape. Coroner Justice Teague it appears is a learned fool who barely scatched the surface of land use history in Australia to it's inevitable consequence.

Just as humid forests on the equator in hot climates also tend not to burn. Or at least did not until recently when even the abused Amazon jungle is burning due to the drying process of fragmentation - by loggers.

The grim truth is we are in a diabolical land use downward spiral with the green dam of water breached and virtually empty. How to re-establish that green damful of water is the honest forestry job at hand that the 'experts' can only guess at: How to accelerate an old growth landscape with their watery sponge full of root networks where there is now only saplings like hairs on the back of a dog? Much like agri activist Peter Andrews promotes green damfuls on clapped out farms due to hopeless landscape hydrology.

It's never been done in regrowth forest, and may never be done. Meanwhile on the NSW South Coast, the logger's logger Ian Barnes rules, having operated illegally without an EIS for some 20 years to the end of the 90ies, now ratified by a corrupt NSW Government with resource security laws in 1999. Barnes is now busy preparing the way for the next megafire: Trashing any high volume wet green damful of water in the form of mature forest that he can. About 50% of forest outside national parks on the NSW south coast has now been logged in the last 10 years. A perfect patchwork of kindling for a megafire just like Victoria. How many will be barbequed in NSW? And how long until it happens?

Only it will happen. Tragically. Because of vandals like Barnes and predecessors back 150 years. Will Barry O'Farrell progress the loggers' megafire agenda via trashing of green dams of water that are left? One assumes so, over the weak objections of wets like Hartcher and Hazzard in his new cabinet come March 2011.

A sorrowful international year of the forests to be sure.


Posted by editor at 10:55 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 5 January 2011 12:43 PM EADT
Friday, 5 March 2010
Fran Kelly with Prof Lindenmeyer on logging in wet forest promoting bushfires
Mood:  hug me
Topic: wildfires
Earlier today Radio National/Fran Kelly ran Prof Lindenmeyer on forests and logging and bushfires.
Here is the link:
Our guess it's probably run in The Age in Melbourne as well recently covering the coronial inquiry into the Victorian bushfire catastrophe Feb 2009.
This echoes our understanding from as far back as advocacy documents since 1995 as here at Bushfire science, with quality science over 3 continents now reinforcing these diagrams 15 years later.
All too late for so many bereaved, especially as it relates to landscape conversion over the last 50 years of wet forest types. Really it's common sense that wet forest type is a natural bushfire fuel management system . But these forest types are all but lost in the dry winds through the dusty schleophyll regrowth.

Posted by editor at 9:44 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 5 March 2010 10:24 AM EADT
Friday, 5 February 2010
Fran Bailey MP asleep during 50 years of wet forest conversion to dry schlerophyll?
Mood:  sharp
Topic: wildfires


 

Who plays politics out of a guilty conscience over the Victorian bushfire disaster? As we always say 'the government is the government, .... is the government', and in this we include bipartisan opposition figures who support woodchipping of huge old wet forests.

Main candidates today would be Fran Bailey MP, on ABC RN radio this morning and Sophie Mirabella MP (nee Panopoulos) in the federal parliament Matter of Public Importance motion yesterday.


 

As per the pictures in the penultimate story we have giant trees in parts of Victoria even today in wet forest types that obviously have lived for centuries without fatal wildfires. Wet areas resistant to wildfire.

But over the last 50 years highly mechanised logging has changed the majority of those landscapes to dry schlerophyll eucalyptus. Same species but hundreds of thousands of hectares of dry hot dusty regrowth that builds up wildfire on extreme risk days.

The question Bailey and Mirabella need to answer is Do you support an audit of logging impact on the water cycle in regional landscapes over the last 50 years?

They never will - because the whispering in their hearts tells them it's one major root cause of bushfire intensity because ..... it's moisture levels that makes the difference between a safe day and a very, very, very ordinary day.

To get a sense of the specific mechanism of redneck logging tradition ripping miosture out of the water cycle converting wet to dry landscape refer diagrams here: Bushfire science

and the tab here wildfires re more recent profound scientific evidence of logging and wildfire problems by Australian Professor Lindenmeyer et al.

.............................

Postscript: Will the egregious moderator at The Australian take our comment on this article today, rebutting this piece Black Saturday could happen again this month authored by "Max Rheese is secretary of the Victorian Lands Alliance, which includes the Australian Environment Foundation, Australian Motorcycle Trailriders Association, Australian Trail Horseriders Association, Mountain Cattlemen, Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, Victorian Association of Forest Industries, and the Victorian Game and Deerstalking Association." 

Will The Oz block me today? Let's see? And yes I did pile burns, bushfire bunker etc this last winter and know the feeling of insecurity if not the horror.

This resource industry front refuse to address their own record of trashing huge old wet forest types, ripping moisture out of the ancient forests. Moisture which is the true difference between safety and a very, very, very ordinary day. Hundreds of thousands of hectares over the last 50 years have been converted to dry, dusty, regrowth schlerophyll eucalypt. Thanks for nothing. And that's best science talking, not just common sense.

As the good book says, look to the log in your own eye.


Posted by editor at 8:37 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 5 February 2010 9:19 AM EADT
Sunday, 20 December 2009
Bushfire in Castlereagh reported as Londonderry?
Mood:  quizzical
Topic: wildfires

It's bushfire season here. Being a Hawkesbury District local we took a drive around the latest bushfire in .... Londonderry?

Funny because all the streets we drove down in Londonderry don't have any fire indicators. But as you go west to nearby Castlereagh you can find alot. And it's "Castlereagh" based on the street signage footnote printed there.

No doubt with that 43 degree heat and gusty wind late last week the bushfire threatened Londonderry but looks alot like the bushfire was actually in Castlereagh about 4 km further west.

We put it down to the silly season, and or grim predictions of tragedy and disaster running ahead of the flames.


Posted by editor at 12:59 PM EADT
Friday, 4 December 2009
Top science confirmation logging relation to increased bushfire impact
Mood:  hug me
Topic: wildfires


 

We have published on this previously on SAM micro news based on this ecology action web page referencing: Bushfire science back to 1995 publication with science referencing.


 

Now good scientific vindication from top scientists reported in The Canberra Times yesterday, in this way:

Logging could boost fire risk: study

BY ROSSLYN BEEBY, SCIENCE AND ENVIRONMENT REPORTER
03 Dec, 2009 10:22 AM
Large-scale logging could increase bushfire risk for Australia's moist mountain ash forests, creating bigger fuel loads and drier, more combustible conditions, new research says.

A world-first study led by Australian National University ecologist Professor David Lindenmayer has found gaps in the forest canopy allow the forest floor to dry out, increasing flammability by as much as 50 per cent in some cases.

The team looked at the impacts of industrial logging in moist forests across the world, including tropical rainforest, North America and Russia's wet conifer forests and mountain ash forests in southern Australia.

Professor Lindenmayer said the study had ''huge implications'' for future forest management and bushfire control in Australia.

''We can't ignore the risks, particulary in the face of climate change. These trends are occurring in moist forests right across the planet. There are no excuses, no reason to claim Australia's forests are somehow different. We've got to face up to reality and do some serious thinking,'' he said.

The study, published by the international journal Conservation Letters found logging altered forest fire regimes by changing the amount, type and moisture content of fuels. The paper's four authors include University of Maine conservation biologist Malcolm Hunter and Canadian Forest Service senior research scientist Philip Burton.

Professor Lindenmayer said the team wanted to investigate whether logging made forests more or less fire-prone. ''This is a question that gets debated after any big bushfire, and we usually hear all sorts of uninformed opinions from lobby groups. So we said, 'Right, let's do some serious science.' We looked at moist forests because fires usually occur at a relatively lower frequency than dry forests.''

The team found logging changed moist forest microclimates, drying out understorey vegetation and leaf litter. Roads built for logging access also increased the number of ignition points for fires, and the area of forest edge susceptible to drying.

The study said research published almost 15 years ago, found clear-felling of moist forests in southern Australia led to ''the development of dense stands of regrowth saplings that created more available fuel'' than if the forests were not clear-felled. Professor Lindenmayer, who has spent more than 30 years doing research in the mountain ash forests near Marysville, said decades of logging had ''created a legacy of ecosystem disturbance that will be felt for centuries''.


Posted by editor at 8:43 AM EADT
Thursday, 19 November 2009
Bushfire science
Mood:  blue
Topic: wildfires


 

We noticed an abc Sydney radio report this morning on the Australian fire fighters union lobbying the Senate on climate change action. Here is a similar report from Feb 2009:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/02/12/2489847.htm 
At risk' firies want urgent global warming action

By ABC News Online's Cassie White

Posted Thu Feb 12, 2009 3:46pm AEDT
Updated Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:48pm AEDT

Risk ... firefighters have been told to prepare for many more extreme fire danger days.

Risk ... firefighters have been told to prepare for many more extreme fire danger days. (Getty: Scott Barbour)

Australia is at risk of more tragedies such as the Victorian bushfires if the Federal Government does not reassess its approach to global warming, says the peak firefighters union.

..................

A timely backgrounder also from our Ecology Action resources on an additional factor on how we got to this extreme wildfire scenario involving extreme dryness across NSW from local or global climate effects: There is a long run land use legacy of converting large areas of wet forest types into dry schlerophyll which burns fiercely. Refer this background paper:

These diagrams below first presented in 1995 reveal the process of landscape conversion of native forest from moist old growth fire resistant type, derived from their closed canopy, to dry sclerophyl bushfire prone regrowth type.

As long as a moisture rich closed canopy is in place a high density of ground cover remains of moderate risk and tends to break down quite quickly as well.

The most severe process of logging disruption of the closed forest canopy has been going on since the advent of high intensity 'integrated logging' for timber but also high proportion of woodchips especially since the mid 1970ies. This was around the time of the advent of bulldozers, other big machines and modern chainsaws.

Thus even if a small proportion of a forest of say 2 or 3% suffers high intensity logging per year, after 40 years of patchworking, close to 100% of the moist micro climate will have been destroyed along with the broken canopy.  It will take maybe a century to re establish the moist old growth closed canopy microclimate across broad areas of forest IF devastating fires don't constantly set the clock back to zero again in a cruel ecological game of snakes and ladders.

That's how grim the situation has become in large areas of forested south east Australia as a result of rampaging logging and greed. Even much contemporary national park has been patchwork logged already prior to reservation in the last 40 years and still to regain closed canopy moisture. Depending on the fire patterns in the future they may never regain that closed canopy and moisture level.

There are many other factors contributing to bushfire such as ignition sources like arson or naturally occuring dry lightning. Climate impact of low rainfall also impacts fire intensity and risk. Ground fuel levels are also very significant.

But what is apparent in the current anxious reflections and research into how best to deal with the impending catastrophic fires of the futre is that the modern logging industry have been getting away with environmental murder that promotes mega bushfires. It all follows from breaching the natural water cycle under a closed canopy:

 

 

The diagrams above are based on the following scientific papers:

Cornish PM (1982) The variation of dissolved ion concentration with discharge in some NSW streams, Forest Hydrologist, Forestry Commission of NSW, The First National Symposium on Forest Hydrology, eds. EM  O'Loughlin & L J Bren, May 1982,

Rieger W A, Olive L J and Burgess J S (1982) Behaviour of sediment concentrations and solute concentrations in small forested catchments, University of NSW, Department of Geography, FAculty of Military Studies, The First National Symposium on Forest Hydrology, eds. E M O'Loughlin & L J Bren, May 1982

Stokes R A and Loh I C (1982) 'Sustaining Sensitive Wildlife Within Temperate Forest Landscapes: Regional Systems of Retained Habitat as a Planning Framework', pages 85-106 in Ecology and Sustainability of Southern Temperate Ecosystems, eds. Norton T W & Dovers S R, CSIRO 1994.

Wronski E (1993) Tantawangalo research catchments, Change in water yield after logging, Report to the Forestry Commission of NSW, 1st July 1993

Declaration: The editor/author was called as witness to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry, and briefly to the Coronial Inquiry after the summer 1993-4 bushfires, as a representative of the Wilderness Society in NSW.

..............................................

More background

The public are noticing the intensity of forest fires seem to be greater and to have more devastating effects. Certainly there are many factors involved:

1.climate eg drought, very low humidity, hot winds etc.

2. ground fuel load is significant but notice

(a) closed canopy wet 'old growth' or rainforest is far more fire resistant than a dry sclerophyl eucalypt forest regardless of leaf litter, and dry sclerophyl is being spread like a curse by the woodchipping sector. The wet fire resistant nature of old closed canopy is not our invention: An excellent scientifically referenced booklet called 'Old Growth Forests and their High Conservation Values' was published in Feb 1995 by Taylor, Woof, Thomson with relevant diagrams. We submit this process has contributed disastrously to fire intensity over the last 35 years and could literally take centuries to reverse, short of concreting the lot. No one wants that.

(b) that the high ground vegetation grazing pressure by ground dwelling native herbivores has been greatly reduced as a result of feral predators killing these critters off.

3. arson: A recent Institute of Criminology report late 2004 found up to 9 out of 10 fires are started by arsonists and in NSW the government have taken action to address this. This was the concern of green groups from at least 1993 but largely ignored by authorities until now.

4. escaped logging fires. These are less arson, as negligent land practices. Evidence of these are listed further below.

In the area of fire management the politics of the Carr NSW government are on track compared with so many other land use policy areas ...if one ignores the underlying landscape transforming impact of woodchipping Carr has so far failled to ban: We submit that closed canopy forests have been systematically wiped out in Australia especially in the last 40 years, which has destroyed the natural water cycle and humidity in forest understorey and more generally.

In the environment movement we still hear, not so much in NSW, but from colleagues in Victoria and elsewhere cheap shots at greenies not pulling their weight in rural fire brigades etc. When we last investigated this point in 1994 during during the Black Friday bushfire crisis we learned that 20 or 30 places across regional NSW had greenies in their local brigade ... that rural people invariably pull together whatever their politics.

One fellow in the north east angrily commented he was the driver of the local fire truck and it was in his driveway. The letter I wrote rebutting such nasty cheap political shots was printed in virtually every local newspaper in NSW including letter of the week in The Land newspaper. People were in no mood for cheap smears during such a serious bushfire event. We have no reason to doubt that reality in 2005 and beyond.

Source documents can be found in the following links: 

13 Dec 2006 ...Howard’s divisive politics: bushfire green baiting today, dog whistle white supremacism yesterday

April/May 2003...El Grande, Tasmania: fire vandalism by govt logger/regulator exposed by expert botanist

4/2/03... loggers cause fire in Tasmania says Wilderness Society

2/2/03...How the Regional Forest logging 'Agreeements' omitted bushfire effect on volumes

22/1/03... intensity: role of logging old, closed canopy forest over past 50 years

13/5/02...Clearfell logging is making the wet forests of the Otways drier and more fire prone

1/1/02...Koperberg dismisses burn-off, Sydney Morning Herald

1/1/2002... Fire reduction burn offs useless: Daily Telegraph

Jan/Feb 2000...Serious forest fires in the Otways are started by careless logging practices

patchy, rare fire occurrence in wet forests of Otways, Vic

1997....scientific refutation of the 'burn lots and burn often' simplistic approach allegedly used by pre European Aboriginal society


Posted by editor at 8:35 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 19 November 2009 10:06 AM EADT
Sunday, 30 August 2009
NSW State Forests 'cause wildfire threatening south coast tourism'
Mood:  loud
Topic: wildfires
 The strong green movement on the NSW South Coast have gone into print about their local area:
We posted this gallery some years ago:
Gulaga/Dromadery Forest photo gallery protests 2005-2007
One example only:

gulagacollagemay07.jpg

Here is there statement
Sent: Saturday, August 29, 2009 3:29 PM
Subject: [chipstop] Fire on Gulaga Mountain

>A ‘fuel management’ fire that was started by Forests NSW (Hazard
> Advisory FNSW to RFS 28 August) in
> compartments west of Gulaga Mountain, has jumped containment lines and
> ‘got away’ burning out of control up the mountain and continuing to
> burn down the eastern flank threatening the two Tilba villages.
> Previously communities had called for no burns on the mountain and
> requested Forests NSW to extinguish this fire.  This fire had been burning
> for two weeks.  Forests NSW ignored community concerns and the severe
> drought and weather conditions.  Homes are threatened, sacred sites burned
> and rainforest decimated.
> Forests NSW “Southern Region Burning Proposals 2007” contains burn plan
> No. 07BAN3053 (the one that ‘got away’) further stating that the
> area’s last burn was in 1996, yet on the adjoining Burning Plan No.
> 07BAN3048 parts of the area were mapped as last burnt in 2000, 2001 and
> 2005.  FNSW intended to burn 1,103 ha.
> The 850 hectare fire is burning in State forest and National Park on the
> south-western side of Mount Gulaga, three kilometres west of Tilba.
> The main fire is burning on the western and south western side of the
> mountain, being pushed by westerly winds.
> A spokesman Greg Potts says a long 'finger' of fire is burning slowly
> downhill in an easterly direction towards the Dromedary walking trail that
> is near private property.
> "That fire is burning down towards the private property on the eastern
> side," he said.
> "It still is totally inaccessible to fire crews so as it starts to get
> closer to the private property then we'll have patrolling units there
> ready."
> Mr Potts says fire is also burning slowly downhill in a south easterly
> direction towards Dignams Creek. There are two spot fires causing concern,
> one on the northern end of Gulaga Mountain and the other on the south
> eastern side above Tilba.  The fire is currently burning on all sides of
> the mountain.
> Residents were being urged to decide whether to stay and defend or leave
> early and to have their evacuation plan in place. 
> At a town meeting held at the Central Tilba community building last night
> Julian Armstrong FNSW Burning Operations Unit Manager stated that Forests
> NSW started the prescribed burn in late July. 
> “The fire was kept going because the area was too inaccessible, once it
> got to 450 ha it was too big to water bomb.”
> “FNSW initially lit couple of hundred hectares,” he said.
> Fergus Thompson chaired the meeting and was noted to have stifled
> information and debate on how the fires began.
> “Neighbours  were not notified prior to the burns commencement,” said
> concerned resident Judy Beggs.  “My life and livelihood are in danger
> because of Forests NSW incompetence.”
> Smoke has affected residents at Dignams Creek, Akolele, Wallaga Lake,
> Bermagui and Bega 70kms away.
> “FNSW administrative breaches have resulted in damaging consequences,”
> said South East Forest Rescue spokesperson Tony Whan.  “But as is plainly
> shown in the Draft Report documentation for the current Regional Forest
> Agreement review process, FNSW threw out the concept of ecologically
> sustainable forest management many years ago.”
> Mr Potts said the cause of the fire and how it broke containment lines was
> under investigation.
> Fire activity yesterday and over night saw extensive spotting over the
> summit, resulting in several small spot fires, which are now burning in
> inaccessible terrain in the Gulaga National Park and Bodalla State Forest
> The community is stridently calling for a judicial inquiry into the
> incident and Forests NSW mismanagement, maladministration and criminal
> neglect of the events.
> (End)
> For more information contact SEFR on 0437471763

 


Posted by editor at 11:08 AM NZT
Updated: Sunday, 30 August 2009 12:13 PM NZT
Monday, 4 June 2007
More frequent mega fires an inevitable result of decades of logging, chipping landscape change
Mood:  irritated
Topic: wildfires

These diagrams below first presented in 1995 reveal the process of landscape conversion of native forest from moist old growth fire resistant type, derived from their closed canopy, to dry sclerophyl bushfire prone regrowth type.

As long as a moisture rich closed canopy is in place a high density of ground cover remains of moderate risk and tends to break down quite quickly as well.

The most severe process of logging disruption of the closed forest canopy has been going on since the advent of high intensity 'integrated logging' for timber but also high proportion of woodchips especially since the mid 1970ies. This was around the time of the advent of bulldozers, other big machines and modern chainsaws.

Thus even if a small proportion of a forest of say 2 or 3% suffers high intensity logging per year, after 40 years of pathworking, close to 100% of the moist micro climate will have been destroyed along with the broken canopy.  It will take maybe a century to re establish the moist old growth closed canopy microclimate across broad areas of forest IF devastating fires don't constantly set the clock back to zero again in a cruel ecological game of snakes and ladders.

That's how grim the situation has become in large areas of forested south east Australia as a result of rampaging logging and greed. Even much contemporary national park has been patchwork logged already prior to reservation in the last 40 years and still to regain closed canopy moisture. Depending on the fire patterns in the future they may never regain that closed canopy and moisture level.

There are many other factors contributing to bushfire such as ignition sources like arson or naturally occuring dry lightning. Climate impact of low rainfall also impacts fire intensity and risk. Ground fuel levels are also very significant.

But what is apparent in the current anxious reflections and research into how best to deal with the impending catastrophic fires of the futre is that the modern logging industry have been getting away with environmental murder that promotes mega bushfires. It all follows from breaching the natural water cycle under a closed canopy:

 

 

The diagrams above are based on the following scientific papers:

Cornish PM (1982) The variation of dissolved ion concentration with discharge in some NSW streams, Forest Hydrologist, Forestry Commission of NSW, The First National Symposium on Forest Hydrology, eds. EM  O'Loughlin & L J Bren, May 1982,

Rieger W A, Olive L J and Burgess J S (1982) Behaviour of sediment concentrations and solute concentrations in small forested catchments, University of NSW, Department of Geography, FAculty of Military Studies, The First National Symposium on Forest Hydrology, eds. E M O'Loughlin & L J Bren, May 1982

Stokes R A and Loh I C (1982) 'Sustaining Sensitive Wildlife Within Temperate Forest Landscapes: Regional Systems of Retained Habitat as a Planning Framework', pages 85-106 in Ecology and Sustainability of Southern Temperate Ecosystems, eds. Norton T W & Dovers S R, CSIRO 1994.

Wronski E (1993) Tantawangalo research catchments, Change in water yield after logging, Report to the Forestry Commission of NSW, 1st July 1993

Declaration: The editor/author was called as witness to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry, and briefly to the Coronial Inquiry after the summer 1993-4 bushfires, as a representative of the Wilderness Society in NSW.

..........................

Postscript #1 to and fro with pro logger Mr Chipman in crikey ezine this last week

Sent: Tuesday, June 05, 2007 7:27 AM
Subject: loggers court megafires with science references, rebuttal of Chipman here

Been a hard 4 weeks but flu is on the turn, thank God. If I'd gone to Gulaga I think it might have finished me but here is silver lining for you folks (of sorts, note the nihilistic twist in the tail to borrow Rod Qantok approach to ousting Jeff Kennett back in 1999, sadly it's quite true). Follow the link to get the diagrams and especially the fantastic scientific references, all credit to the original authors shown on the book cover, Woof, Taylor, Thomson legendary forest defenders of the south east 90-95. Crikey.com.au goes to abut 45,000 a-grade political demographic.
The central thesis is that landscape change via highly mechanised logging this last 40 years has stuffed the water cycle in forests making them highly prone to mega fires. It's grim allright.
Yours truly, Tom McLoughlin
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, June 04, 2007 10:37 PM
Subject: Reply to Chipman: Logging causes mega bushfires

Re Mr Chipman (Comments 4th June). He makes my point: Prof Kirkpatrick presumably was so dis-satisfied with the 'flexibility' as per the quote with the first 7 years of the Tasmanian RFA logging plan that he and 99 brave colleagues wrote a political letter before the last election repudiating it. Kirkpatrick's Order of Australia in 2003 just adds weight. But it was always a trick of bad public policy isolating Tas forest when Australia generally is a vast open plain and/or desert. And redundant now as we are doing national auditing of carbon store. We also have global responsibilities beyond the shire size population of Tas. And well established science here  shows that high impact mechanised logging this last 40 years has been destroying cool moist (and therefore) fire resistant closed canopy old growth forest. This is replaced with dry sclerophyl regrowth that really burns. Extrapolate this effect onto whole landscapes patchworked with 1 or 2% a year logging with a minimum 100 year canopy regrowth timeline, then turbo charge with climate change, and presto, I submit we have the root cause of frequent mega bushfires.  Truth is these 1000 year old canopies will never re establish, suggesting another climate change tipping point via cyclical megafires. We really are in big doo doo. A very basic first step is keep the closed canopy upstanding, then restore moist canopy in the regrowth somehow. We would need 100 Prof Kirkpatricks to do that ie it'll never happen. Just as we won't stop the polar ice caps melting. Truly one can say in Chipman's case, to win,  as he undoubtely has on forest destruction this last 10 years, is to lose. Just like Iraq. Suck it up.
Tom McLoughlin, ecology action Australia
Tasmanian logging:

Barry Chipman. Tasmanian state manager, Timber Communities Australia, writes: It is rather interesting that the Ecology Action Australia spokesperson (Friday, comments) didn't choose to tell the full story about the nationally agreed criteria (JANIS) for Australian forest conservation, which has brought about Tasmania's world-class forest reserve system of 47% forest biodiversity, 80% old growth, 97% wilderness. What was overlooked is the following very important element and quoting directly from application of the criteria: "Flexibility in the application of reserve criteria is needed because of differing regional circumstances. The criteria are considered to be guidelines rather than mandatory targets. In some circumstances and for some criteria, lower levels of reservation may prove adequate. The extent of potential social and economic impact may limit the ability to meet reserve criteria (see Sections 5.2, 5.4 and 6.1.1 of the JANIS document). Where different configurations of reserves are identified as meeting the criteria, the option that imposes the least cost on the community should be adopted." Also worth noting is one of the key environmental scientists deeply involved in the development of this criteria and then helping bring about Tasmania's balanced world-class forest reserve system gratefully accepted in 2003 the Member of the Order of Australia (AM) medal of his involvement. That citation reads:  "Professor James Barrie KIRKPATRICK, Member of the Order of Australia (AM). Citation: For service to environmental conservation, particularly in relation to World Heritage assessment and the development of forest reservation criteria. Date Received 09 June 2003."

 

Tasmanian Logging:

Tom McLoughlin, ecology action Australia, writes: Mr Chipman (yesterday, comments) must be baffled by his own corrupt RFA agreement specifications. 100 of our best independent forest scientists led by Prof Tony Norton, Prof Jamie Kirkpatrick and other luminaries have described this document as follows: "The Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) is widely perceived in the scientific community to have failed to deliver the intended protection for environmental, wilderness and heritage values that state and federal governments committed to when they signed the National Forest Policy in 1992. The scientific processes in the Tasmanian RFA were overwhelmed by political compromises. Established criteria for forest conservation were not fully applied. There are large areas of high conservation value forest that would have been reserved if the RFA criteria for forest conservation had been fully applied. Logging practices and the conversion of native forests to plantations have intensified in the seven years since the signing of the RFA, resulting in record volumes of export wood chip production. This intensification, combined with the well-documented inadequacies of the conservation reserve system (exemplified by the large areas of unlogged Eucalyptus regnans tall open-forest that remain unprotected) has produced highly modified forested landscapes with diminished landscape values." The full statement and signatories is extracted here. This devastating criticism was before the widespread public concern over climate change. This scientific advice was reported at the time on the radio national Earthbeat program until it was axed soon after the re-election of the Howard Government in 2004.


Posted by editor at 9:07 PM NZT
Updated: Wednesday, 6 June 2007 9:07 AM NZT
Tuesday, 9 January 2007
The Oz opinion piece on bushfires is surprisingly balanced
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: wildfires

Editor: It's a little bit waffly but also duly sophisticated unlike the wicked NAFI logging industry pre emptive smears of conservationists in the press every so often. The expert here even notes the wrongdoers in the logging industry which is quite right: They have got off scot free for 30 years for the woodchipping effect promoting landscape change and more intense bushfires in spindly regrowth in place of mature forest. A 30 year scandal on our watch.

Also an interesting comment from a contact: fires on farmland are generally not really 'bushfires' as such, they are properly described as 'grass', 'agricultural' or 'farmfires' rather than bushfires. That may well be pretty fair in relation to say the big fires of the Eyre Peninsula (SA, 2005) or South West Victoria (1983) on mainly agricultural land burning grasslands.

More on bushfires here too: http://cpppcltrust.com/ecologyactionsydney/id2.html



Kevin O'Loughlin: Burning issue begs a new solution
08 January 2007


WITH the immediate summer bushfire threat appearing to have eased, the debate has hotted up on the causes of recent big bushfires, who is to blame, and what the solution might be.

Along with the most recent fires in Victoria's alpine region, we've had some extreme fires in recent years: January 2006 in the Grampians, the NSW mid-north coast and southwest slopes; 2005 in the Eyre Peninsula and Perth Hills; 2003 in Canberra and the Southern Alps; and the Black Christmas fires of 2001 in NSW, to mention only a few. After each of these, the debate has been similar.

Given the frequency of very large fires in the past five years or so, it seems fair to aSK: are big fires inevitable? And, if so, what can we do about it?
Busfires are not confined to southeast Australia. In northern Australia, millions of hectares of tropical savanna grassland burn every year. The international perspective is also relevant. In 2003 alone, along with Australia, Portugal, France, Spain, the US and Canada experienced extreme fires.

In the US, fire and land managers, scientists and conservation groups are working together to find solutions to more frequent, severe fires. The former US Forest Service national fire director and now adviser to the Brookings Institution, Jerry Williams, was in Australia at the invitation of the Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre recently talking about mega fires. He defines them as destructive, record-breaking, long-running fires that can't be suppressed until there's a break in the weather. The US has had at least 10 mega fires since the late 1990s. Williams argues it's not just about the need for more suppression resources to protect people and properTY: it's about management of natural resources, public policy, and about how to engage all relevant parties in finding solutions.


The present alpine fires in Victoria seem to have a special message. More than two million hectares of alpine country were burnt in 2003 and the current fires are now approaching one million hectares. Are fires of this size and frequency telling us something?


Of course, the long-running drought and the current El Nino are factors. But so are the higher-than-normal temperatures in Australia over the past decade, suggesting climate change is also a factor. We have a tendency to look for the simple answer but the reality is more complex.


Despite technology, society is now more vulnerable in some ways. The already dire situation with our water supplies means that a major fire in our main catchments could be catastrophic. It could destroy water quality and, once new tree growth is well established, reduce the run-off for decades as younger, fast-growing trees use more water than mature forests.


We also have more people living in the bush fringes of our major cities as the suburbs expand. In the 2003 Canberra fires, the heavily mulched native gardens carried the fire further into the suburbs.


These fires are also devastating for our forests. The forestry sector is sometimes seen as one of the bad guys in the fire debate. But the sector has an important role. Professional foresters have expertise in fire management and these forests are assuming an increasingly important role as a factor in carbon storage.
The environment sector clearly has a role, too. The environmental damage of these big fires is drastic and long lasting. But here's a paradOX: periodic fire is essential to much of our fire-dependent ecosystems. It can improve the health of forests and increase bio-diversity. But what is the right dosage for each part of the ecosystem and how do you manage it?


The state and territory fire, park, land and forest management agencies have day-to-day responsibility for fire issues. They are the ones who struggle with the dilemma of prescribed burning. We can't control a drought or change the climate easily, but we can influence the build-up of fuels. But how do you achieve the desired targets when the fire season starts early and the fuel loads cause extreme behaviour even in moderate weather? Research to improve weather forecasting and fuel assessments is part of the answer, but there are no simple solutions.


The community, too, is a critical factor. Will it accept more regular local smoke from prescribed burns as a lesser evil? In major fires, many people now understand they can't necessarily rely on a red truck to save their house.


The Bushfire CRC is now halfway through its first seven-year term of multi-disciplinary research on some of these complex issues. A national bushfire forum in Canberra on February 27 will be a step in this direction.


Are more big fires inevitable? I believe the answer is probably yes. We need to know more about the complex issues involved, but the time has come for nationally co-ordinated action based on what we already know.


Kevin O'Loughlin is chief executive of the Bushfire CRC.


remote Posted by editor at 8:01 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 9 January 2007 8:13 AM EADT

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