The announcement of a new year of fuel reduction activity by DELWP provokes the usual thoughts: will the program be effective in actually reducing fuel? Will it be properly monitored? Will there be negative effects environmentally and economically (over-hot burns, smoke damage to wine grapes, etc)?
In that context, it’s worth drawing attention to the growing interest in indigenous cultural burning, and in particular to the Victorian traditional owner cultural fire strategy, produced by the traditional owner cultural fire knowledge group. You can find this 28 page document online here.
The six principles outlined in the document are as follows:
- Cultural Burning is Right Fire, Right Time, Right Way and for the right (cultural) reasons according to Lore. There are different kinds of cultural fire practices guided by Lore applicable across Victoria’s Countries.
- Burning is a cultural responsibility. Traditional Owners lead the development and application of fire practice on Country; the responsibilities and authority of Traditional Owners are recognised and respected.
- Cultural fire is living knowledge. Aboriginal fire knowledge is shared for continual learning and adaptive management. Traditional Owners will work together on each other’s Country to heal Country and guide practice development. Knowledge and practice are shared.
- Monitoring, evaluation and research support cultural objectives and enable adaptive learning. MER will be used to build a body of evidence that allows cultural burning to occur and grow.
- Country is managed holistically. Traditional Owners manage Country holistically to address multiple values and objectives, healing both Country and culture. Partnership arrangements and management objectives are tailored to each regional and cultural landscape context. This includes analysis of the tenure, regulatory and operational arrangements to support cultural fire application, other beneficial Indigenous management practices, together with a process of learning to continuously improve planning, management and action.
- Cultural Fire is healing. There are substantial positive impacts to Traditional Owner wellbeing and confidence through providing access and authority to practice on Country.
The whole of this document is worth an attentive reading. The authors acknowledge that the strategy has limitations: ‘Traditional Owners have limited authority, resources and capacity to develop and apply cultural fire practices on Country according to the principles described in the strategy.’ Therein lies a particularly interesting challenge.
Here is a copy of an email I sent to Paul Bates and his reply.
OFFICIAL: RE: Planned Burns
Paul G Bates (DELWP)
Mon, 15 Mar, 10:46 (22 hours ago)
to me, Adrian, Steffen
I hope you are going well.
The two planned burns you refer to are scheduled for the 22/23 and 23/24 seasons.
They are bushfire moderation zone (BMZ) burns, as identified in the Loddon Mallee Region Strategic Plan. The purpose of the BMZ and these burns is to slow the speed and intensity of bushfires. The modelling used to develop the strategic plan has identified these areas as sites where planned burning will reduce risk to the community by reducing the overall fuel hazard.
I know we have talked about these matters before and compared thinking and science on effectiveness of planned burning in reducing risk.
Planned burning is a major part of the states fuel management program and is a priority for government to deliver when conditions are suitable.
While I know you may not agree with our planned burning program, I hope you are able to understand why this work is undertaken and delivered by DELWP Regions and Districts.
Paul Bates | Acting Regional Manager – Forest and Fire Operations – Loddon Mallee Region
Forest, Fire and Regions | Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
T: 0409 407 697 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org
From: Robert Simons
Sent: Friday, 12 March 2021 4:53 PM
To: Paul G Bates (DELWP)
Subject: Planned Burns
EXTERNAL SENDER: Links and attachments may be unsafe.
Your department has asked for feed back on future planned burns.
I notice that there are 2 planned burns in the upper Loddon forest , one at Helge track LM MGF0245 and the other near Wewak track LM MGF 0244.
History of previous burns in this forest has shown that the bushfire risk after 2 to 3 years is FAR worse than if left unburnt.
This is the very same area we toured a few years ago and it was agreed that previous burning was a disaster.
The Department has a duty of care to residents to reduce risk, so why is this area being burnt ?
Appreciate your reply
Rob & Anne Simons
I would like to organise a tour of old planned burns in my area of Tarilta and show how dangerous the regrowth is.