OK, we have some facts: what do we do with them?

A disappointing feature of the ARI gathering was the disconnect between the findings and any possible management implications. Several questions aiming to find a practical response to the research were batted away. It’s very obvious that there are in fact serious policy and management challenges in this kind of research: to do with fire practices and water management, for starters.

The low point in the gathering came with this exchange:

Question: This a pretty doom and gloom scenario. Can you show us some positive prospects?…For example, if you had a hundred million dollars to spend on measures to improve resilience, what would you recommend?

Answer (from a visiting interstate academic): If I had a hundred million dollars, I’d be out of here.

This is an amazingly flippant answer, the effect of which was not softened by some subsequent very general remarks about control on development. This research was financed significantly by several Victorian land management agencies, including the NCCMA, DELWP and Parks Victoria. Let’s hope they, and the public, draw some urgent practical conclusions from it.

For our part, we’ll write to local fire managers and ask what conclusions they can draw from the finding that long unburnt box ironbark environments are more resilient to drought conditions. We still haven’t quite recovered from an answer given to us by DSE in 2012 in response to a question we put them about their disastrous Tarilta valley burn. The question was, what was the ecological reason for the burn? The answer: ‘Apart from several small bush fires, the burn area has no known fire history. The ecological objective of the burn was to introduce fire into the long unburnt forest.’ If the current research is right, that burn—and a few others like it—significantly reduced the resilience of that patch of bush.

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