Category Archives: Research into fire and our forests

Research into fire, biodiversity and our forests

Muckleford Forest – a ‘KBA’ – a what?

Muckleford Forest is part of a KBA – a Key Biodiversity Area. This is an international designation! It used to be referred to as an IBA – an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area. But what’s in a name? We know the Muckleford Forest is part of a network of forest remnants across our goldfields Box-Ironbark region that are outstanding for woodland birds and many other species. They are also part of what Dja Dja Wurrung call ‘upside down country’ in their Country Plan – reflecting the impact of gold mining.

Our KBA is the Bendigo Box-Ironbark KBA and includes all the box-ironbark woodland remnants that are significant for Swift Parrots in the Bendigo region of central Victoria (as defined by Kennedy and Tzaros 2005) and includes the following remnants (with land-ownership status): Sandon (SF), Strangways (private), Lockwood (SF), Muckleford-Maldon (Muckleford NCR and Maldon SF), Shelbourne (NCR), Diamond Hill-Mandurang-Sedgwick (Bendigo NP, Mandurang SF, Diamond Hill HR, Spring Gully Reservoir and Sedgwick SF), Pilchers Bridge-Lyell (Pilchers Bridge NCR and Lyell SF), Whipstick (NP), Wellsford (Regional Park, Mt Sugarloaf NCR and SF) and Kamarooka (NP; the whole of Kamarooka forest is taken in its entirety for its population of Diamond Firetails and Purple-gaped Honeyeaters). Most of the IBA is within protected areas or state forests, with only small forest blocks on private land.

Our loose network – the Muckleford Forest Friends Group – having delivered ‘Talking Fire’ last year (have a look at the presentations, audios, photos at Talking Fire) is now planning for the first KBA Easter Health Check of the Muckleford Forest in 2018.

Broadly speaking our plan – as one of a number of KBA Guardians – is to select around 10 sites across the Muckleford Forest, and monitor them regularly throughout 2017/2018, so that when the Easter Health Check comes around in 2018, we are in a better position to make an informed assessment. We’ve got ideas for systematic recording, as well as those serendipitous encounters, and using this website and posts as a way of sharing. We’d also like to link in with anyone who is making observations in the Muckleford Forest.

We’d love you to get involved. Next step is some more planning with Tanya Loos from Connecting Country who is coordinating across this large KBA. So let us know what you are interested in – if you like planning and organisation, our next meeting is Tues 2 May – or if you’d like to put your hand up for a monitoring site or to propose a location you’ve already been monitoring – or for any other ideas – drop us a line to mucklefordffg@bigpond.com

 

Take 2 – Box-Ironbark Experimental Mosaic Burning Project

PBBIFApologies dear readers – the link on the last post to the report didn’t work – here is the correct link – https://mucklefordforest.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/box-ironbark-booklet.pdf

 

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Box-Ironbark Experimental Mosaic Burning Project

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The report is in from the project team who have been working on the Box-Ironbark Experimental Mosaic Burning Project – a collaborative project between La Trobe and Deakin Universities, DELWP and Parks Victoria. The aim of the project was to investigate the short-term ecological effects of planned burns in the Heathcote-Graytown-Rushworth forest. This project was a huge undertaking and has produced some very interesting results that will inform the use of fire as a management tool in box-ironbark forests.

Key findings have been summarised in a relatively short colour booklet. There is also a full report.  If you would like to receive a hard copy please contact Greg Holland: Research Fellow, Department of Ecology, Environment & Evolution, La Trobe University at Greg.Holland@latrobe.edu.au

The next challenge is to ensure that this work continues, and this is now with DELWP.

Updates, meetings and a grant!

EBox-Ironbark Research – Community Presentation

Presented by La Trobe University and Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning

Listen to the outcomes of the final report on the impacts of large mosaic burns on Box Ironbark ecosystems in the Heathcote/Greytown area.

 Tuesday 24 May 2016, Bendigo Town Hall, Hargreaves Street, Bendigo, 7.30pm (follows DELWP Fire Planning Open House). For more information click here for the Box Ironbark Landscape Mosaic Burning Project Invite.

Share your knowledge on fire planning

Join Forest Fire Management staff to discuss the strategic plans which outline the frequency and location of planned burns, the three year schedule of burns and the mulching and grooming activities planned for Central Victoria at one of our two open house events. For more information click here for the Flyer for FOP Open House 2016.

Bendigo Open House
When: Tuesday 24 May 2016
Where: Bendigo Town Hall, Hargreaves Street, Bendigo
Time: 2pm and 7pm- Drop in any time to discuss fire planning
Followed at 7.30pm by the Box-Ironbark Landscape Mosaic Burning Project community presentation

Castlemaine Open House
When:
Wednesday 1 June 2016
Where: Ray Bradfield Rooms, Frederick St, Castlemaine
Time: 2pm and 7pm- Drop in any time to discuss fire planning.

 

Understanding fire in our landscape: a community conversation

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Our Muckleford Forest Friends group, auspiced by Maldon Urban Landcare (MULGA), has achieved a grant from the Mount Alexander Shire to run a community conversation to explore fire in the Newstead-Maldon landscape. Supported by community and external experts, participants will learn about fire risk, local fire history, values, ecology and environmental history of the our area, and contribute to community-based approaches to landscape management for biodiversity and human safety. Thanks to those who supported our application: MULGA, Newstead and Muckleford Landcare, Newstead 2021, Connecting Country, the Coordinator, Conservation and Land Management Bendigo TAFE, the CFA and the Newstead CFA brigade and by a number of key individuals. More soon as we start planning the project, hoping those who read this blog will want to get involved.

 

Birds in the Muckleford Forest

 
For some more positive news about birds and partnerships in the Muckleford – watch this space!

A new year

Its been a long time between posts on this blog – apologies.

Based on the outcome of the last Fire Operations Plan consultations and our continued advocacy, the Muckleford Forest now has no planned burns scheduled. There are proposals for planned burns in Goughs Range and Mt Tarrangower – but not this year.

Since the Fire Operations Plan was finalised, the Lancefield fires have happened. A planned burn that went seriously wrong. The report is now out on that burn, and in recent days, the media has been full of criticism about what has been happening down on the Otways’ coast. Terrible experiences for all those involved.

Here is a good article by Phil Ingamells from the Sunday Age on prescribed burning – limits to fuel reduction burning.

What astonishes me is that we think that we can ‘manage’ nature by going in and lighting up the bush, but without the resources to control what we start.

And when I talk to a lot of people about ‘bushfires’, they believe that most are arson – deliberately lit! Not sure if my sample is mainly urban folks, but as a country dweller I know that most fires are ‘accidental’.

Reducing these accidental fires seems to be an important and ignored goal – the slasher or the motor bike in the very dry paddock grass, the car driving into grass beside the road, the grinder in the shed where the sparks stream out … no doubt there are many other careless things that any of us might do one day, by just not thinking.

But if we stopped these careless, accidental fires, we would cut the ‘fire toll’ remarkably. Most fires are not deliberately lit – they are humans being careless. We need to manage ourselves – our actions. We are the major makers of fire and we are the threat to the bush – not the bush to us.

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Scientists speak out!

There is a wonderful submission by a group of Box-Ironbark ecologists on the LEAF blog with a full copy of their submission to the current review available there as well.

Really worth a read – and do pass on the link!

Is fire on the agenda?

Not sure if planned burning is on the government’s agenda pre-election or not, but it is certainly on mine!

There have been a number of interesting things happening recently:

Neil Comrie’s latest report

The annual report by the BushFires Royal Commission Implementation Monitor – Neil Comrie – again calls for a risk-based approach to planned burning, and again rejects the 5% target.

BRC recommendation 56 seeks a state government commitment to a long-term program of prescribed burning on an annual rolling target of at least 5% of public land. Comrie has repeatedly commented on this recommendation:

  •  In 2012 he recommended that the State “reconsider the planned burning target and replace it with a risk based approach focused on the protection of life and property”
  •  In 2013 he went further stating that the target may not be “achievable, affordable or sustainable”
  •  In 2014 he says that his view is unchanged and that “area based hectare targets alone will not necessarily reduce the bushfire risk to life and property in Victoria and may have adverse environmental outcomes”. He recommends a shift to a risk based approach to “deliver an effective long-term program of planned burning”. Strong words indeed!

My question isWhen will the State government listen to the man it appointed to this role and announce an immediate change cessation of these destructive targets and shift its Fire Operations Planning to a risk-based approach?

The answer I got from DEPI today is that the current Murray Goldfields Fire Operations Plan now out for public comment is still based on the 5% targets not the new “risk landscape” system. More on the latest FOP in the next posting.

Comrie goes on to say that he believes:

 Integrated strategic planning in consultation with communities is more likely to reduce risk to life and property from bushfire in Victoria than an area based target.

To read more of the latest report – go to this website – the 2014 report and a summary is linked from the front page: http://www.bushfiresmonitor.vic.gov.au/utility/home/

 

Burnoff policies could be damaging habitats for 100 years

“The smell of smoke in the autumn and spring air is an increasingly familiar one to many Australians. It signifies that time of year when land management agencies in southern Australia feverishly try to meet their burning targets.”

Mallee Fire

Sound familiar (or perhaps I should say “smell familiar?”) That’s how a really interesting article on planned burning in the Mallee starts. It talks about the long-term damage being caused by misguided policy – the 5% target – which is still being supported by this government despite numerous reports and lots of evidence to suggest that it just can’t do what the government claims – that is, ‘save lives on disastrous days’.

Here is a link to the full article:   http://theconversation.com/burnoff-policies-could-be-damaging-habitats-for-100-years-30240