Strategic Fuel Breaks 2: points of contention

Readers will remember that FOBIF’s major concern is that mulching of high value roadsides will be catastrophic both from a biodiversity and amenity point of view. Further, we are curious about the relationship between the SFB program and the Fire Operations plan which governs DELWP’s fuel reduction program.

In her response to Euan’s letter, Justine Leahy, senior leader of the SFB project team, has offered the following responses:

  1. On environmentalists’ concerns about mulching roadsides,

‘Areas proposed for mulching depend on the species present, and height and density of understory growth. As a general rule, mulching would not be required where shrubs are less than 1m tall or very sparse, however all woody weeds will be mulched and some native species such as Cassinia sifton are particularly flammable so may be mulched even if less than 1 m high.’

‘The depth of mulching from the road will be less than 20 m for Walmer SF, Fryers Range, Muckleford SF. Where mulching is proposed in areas of high biodiversity value, and where shrub height and density trigger the need for mulching, it will be less than 5 – 8 m from the road verge.’

  1. On the connection of the fuel breaks program with the fire operations plan:

‘Strategic Fuel Breaks are a key action of DELWP’s Advanced Forest and Fire Management strategy. The locations and treatment options for proposed SFBs were raised by the same operational staff who undertake planned burning and other nonburn fuel treatments as part of the Joint Fuel Management Program. Though they are presented separately on the Joint Fuel Management Plan SFBs will complement the burning and nonburn fuel treatments (as presented together here). Given the cyclic nature of the burning program, at some point SFBs will be utilised as pre-prepared burn boundaries that will not require any additional treatment. The ongoing management of SFBs will become the responsibility of the land manager, so the locations and treatments chosen are those with the greatest benefit for fire prevention and response.’

FOBIF accepts the clarification of the relation between the SFB and the control burn program at face value. On mulching, however, we are VERY concerned that Fryers Ridge road verges will be mulched for 5-8 metres on both sides. Consultations this year may –we hope–bring some improvements on this plan. In any case, we believe funding problems may cause delays in implementing the project.

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