Maldon, Newstead and places in between – Talking Fire

Talking Fire

Join us in a conversation to better understand fire in our landscape at the Newstead Community Centre over the weekend of 12/13 November.

‘Talking Fire’ will discuss what fire means for our local communities and the environment. The aim is to bring local expertise and knowledge together with outside experts in the field of fire behaviour and fire ecology, so that the community can talk about and better understand, plan, and live with fire.

Some of the questions driving our conversation are:
– What is the history of fire in our area?
– How have the landscape, community & fire policies changed?
– How can we protect what we value?
– How can we respond to fire risk, now & in the future?

You may have other questions, ideas or solutions.

We are also seeking local knowledge and stories. Do you have a “fire experience”, direct or indirect, to share? As a…

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Maldon, Newstead and places in between – Talking Fire

bushwalk-dry-diggings-2015-035

Join us in a conversation to better understand fire in our landscape at the Newstead Community Centre over the weekend of 12/13 November.

‘Talking Fire’ will discuss what fire means for our local communities and the environment. The aim is to bring local expertise and knowledge together with outside experts in the field of fire behaviour and fire ecology, so that the community can talk about and better understand, plan, and live with fire.

Some of the questions driving our conversation are:

  • What is the history of fire in our area?
  • How have the landscape, community & fire policies changed?
  • How can we protect what we value?
  • How can we respond to fire risk, now & in the future?

You may have other questions, ideas or solutions.

We are also seeking local knowledge and stories. Do you have a “fire experience”, direct or indirect, to share? As a part of the weekend Gordon Dowell will be recording the stories and histories of locals. The Newstead CFA Auxiliary are amongst those we will be keen to hear from.

We hope that from the weekend our local landscape can be seen anew, through the eyes of scientists, fire experts and long lived locals alike, and through a wider, “landscape lens”, not just from a household or property viewpoint.

Whether you live in Newstead or Maldon town, or the bush and farmland surrounds, we invite you along to ‘talk fire’. Come to any or all sessions. The event is free, but we need bookings to help our caterers, the Newstead Preschool and Mens’ Shed, provide enough for all.

Thanks to Mount Alexander Shire, Maldon & District Community Bank and Norman Wettenhall Foundation for supporting the event. Many more supporters are contributing in non-financial ways. See our website http://www.talkingfire.org and to book.

Please download and share our flier too, and look for Talking Fire on Facebook.

Talking Fire: A Community Conversation (12-13 November, Newstead)

Our Community Conversation will explore many questions. For example: Will bush regeneration change fire risk?

Our Community Conversation will explore many questions. For example: Will bush regeneration change fire risk?

Muckleford Forest Friends Group has received a grant through the Mount Alexander Shire Council 2016 Community Grants Program to present a Community Conversation on Understanding fire in our landscape.

The idea comes from the Newstead Community Plan, and reflects a concern about the way that prescribed burning has targeted public land without a landscape-wide consideration of risk and risk reduction. The new approach adopted by the State Government – Safer Together – suggests that new approaches are possible, and that it is a good time to open up a community-wide conversation.

During the weekend we will explore the history of fire in the Newstead-Maldon landscape, looking back to land and fire management practices of the Jaara people, reflecting on landscape changes, mapping what we value, and building an understanding of risk and different ways to we can respond to risk.

This event is being designed for in Newstead, Maldon and everywhere in between and close by!

Planning is underway for the weekend and we’d welcome your input – ideas, possible speakers, helping planning walks and site visits, sourcing maps and resources – and of course coming along and being part of the Community Conversation. Able to help? Please email mucklefordffg@bigpond.com

This project is supported through the Mount Alexander Shire Council 2016 Community Grants Program, auspiced by MULGA (Maldon Urban Landcare Group), and supported by local groups including Newstead Landcare, Muckleford Catchment Landcare, Newstead 2021, Connecting Country, Newstead CFA Brigade.

You can download a summary of the grant application here and also look at page 42 of the Newstead Community Plan.

 

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

PBBIF

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.

Conservation triage: clarity or confusion?

This is a very interesting piece by Ian Lunt that I thought was worth sharing. So many conservation processes today are based on this awful choice – what can live, what can die. Prescribed burning is the same – we will sacrifice or (less emotively) reduce risk of fire by ‘treating’ a patch of bush in a way that will ‘save’ other places and lives. The medical terminology – ‘treating’ and ‘prescribed’ has intrigued me for for a while now. The bush needs this kinds ‘medicine’? Amazing it survived for so long without our ‘care’. Read on for this post by Ian Lunt on the importance of clear communication for conservation science. What do you see when we talk about triage? A spreadsheet or a corpse? Triage is one of the most contentio…

Source: Conservation triage: clarity or confusion?

Burning public land – keeping a watching brief

The world has shifted on its axis – just a little! The 5% target has gone, and in its place is a ‘risk’ based approach. Based on the drop-in session in Castlemaine on 1 June 2016, and noting the comments posted by FOBIF after the session in Bendigo the week before, here’s my take on it.

Before the burn: Demo Track west side

Targets have gone

Many burns on the previous FOP (Fire Operations Plan) have been ‘withdrawn’ because they were not needed as part of a strategic approach or (in one instance) couldn’t be achieved effectively (see below).

The risk landscape analysis method has been used to identify a few new planned burns based on risk – but nothing for the Muckleford Forest so far.

Burns withdrawn

In the Newstead-Maldon area, the planned burns that have been withdrawn are:

  • West side of Mt Tarrangower: this was a planned burn of 518.5ha scheduled for autumn 2018. The rationale for withdrawing this burn is that it would be difficult to achieve safely (steep slopes). A better solution might be a firebreak to the west on private land, given that the main risk is a grass fire running from farmland into the Mt Tarrangower reserve and then straight up those steep slopes – but despite the new ‘tenure-neutral’ approach, this option was not shown on the plan.
  • Goughs Range: this was a planned burn of 8ha, scheduled for autumn 2018.

 Burns or treatments going ahead

  • Newstead – CAS056: a small area, already approved and close to town, but on the south east side and the rationale for a burn has not been clearly explained
  • Maldon – CAS048: series of small areas, mainly mulching and near town (MULGA exclosure plots now recognised and excluded)

What seems tricky?

1 – What is the FOP process this year?

It seems like the drop-in sessions in Bendigo and Castlemaine are the consultation on the draft FOP – I have asked for a copy of the plans for our area and will post on this blog once I get them; comments are welcome until the end of June. A draft FOP will be signed off in July and be made public in August. In previous years, the draft FOP has been published for comment.

2 – Zoning review

There is a review of zoning underway. The zoning determines the approach taken when a planned burn is done, and the percentage of the landscape to be burnt. The first stage of the review is looking at APZ and BMZ:

There are four fire management zones:

  • Asset Protection Zone (APZ): where intensive fuel management provides the highest level of localised protection to human life and property by reducing radiant heat and ember attack
  • Bushfire Moderation Zone (BMZ): where there is fuel management to reduce the speed and intensity of bushfires, either close to towns or as they spread through the landscape
  • Landscape Management Zone (LMZ): where fuel management is done to reduce fuel hazard, improve ecosystem resilience and manage the land for particular uses (such as forest regeneration and water catchment protection)
  • Planned Burning Exclusion Zone (PBEZ): where there is no planned burning, mainly to protect particular areas that can’t tolerate fire.

The current zoning is shown on Map 7 (page 25) of the Strategic Bushfire Management Plan: West Central. From what I could see on the draft zoning plans, this review will increase the areas covered by the two zones (APZ and BMZ) and this will mean a high percentage of those landscapes will be burnt. It will also reduce the area of LMZ (there are almost no PBEZ areas across the whole region). The test is whether these changes are really strategic and focused on risk-reduction. I was told the review of the APZ and BMZ zones is focusing on risk to life and property. This review is expected to be made public for comment in the next month.

There will then be a review of the LMZ which may take 1-2 years; it will seek to establish specific objectives for blocks within each LMZ and these might range from protecting old growth Box-Ironbark from burns for 100 years, to burning to create a range of age classes, to burning to control gorse etc.

A draft of the revised zones – apparently based on the risk landscapes approach – was up on the wall. One of the proposals presented to the Bendigo drop-in session the previous week got a pretty strong reaction, and an alternative with a very reduced BMZ was on the wall in Castlemaine. The draft proposal for the Muckleford Forest includes a new area of BMZ around Spring Hill Track, another to the south of the highway at Green Gully, and a large area across the northern side (Maldon Historic Reserve/Smiths Reef area).

But why not review all the zones together to achieve a more holistic, integrated approach to sustaining and recovering our forests. And despite the new Safer Together policy, DELWP are again solely focused on public land. The Safer Together policy says:

This new approach sees us move from a hectare target for planned burns, to a risk reduction target for bushfire management. It means a more integrated approach across public and private land, with fuel management just one of the range of different management actions we will take to protect lives, homes, jobs and the environment.

The approach presented by DELWP shows no evidence of being ‘tenure neutral’ – either in relation to the new risk-reduction burns, nor in the zoning review. Why not?

Is the zoning review just a back door way to continue large burns on public land? We need to understand the rationale for the proposed zoning changes and what actions will be taken within each zone – for example, what is the proposed frequency of planned burns? What monitoring will be undertaken to confirm that fuel loads and therefore risk have been reduced? And when will a strategic, tenure-neutral plan be produced?

3 – Community knowledge

Again I raised the importance of integrating community knowledge into the data sets they are using – particularly around biodiversity. The Dja Dja Wurrung Community Plan is going to be considered, and there will be a careful exploration of some cultural burns (hurrah!) but what about the knowledge of others – those who walk these landscapes, care for them, study them. There is no process for bringing that knowledge into DEWLP’s practice. And when I asked about this, the answer was that the community will continue to be offered the opportunity to comment on plans. Or we can enter our data into the very complex Victorian Biodiversity Atlas if we have the time and energy. But where is the outreach by DEWLP to help gather in the valuable information held by knowledgeable individuals, groups and communities?