Working on the railway (1) : alternatives

Representatives of local enviro groups convened by Friends of Maldon Railway met on site with fire officers last Monday to discuss the Department’s proposed fuel management exercise south of the railway line.

The proposed burn is scheduled for autumn next year. Its purpose is ‘To develop fuel reduced areas of sufficient width and continuity to reduce the speed and intensity of bushfires’.

Fire discussions in the Maldon Historic Reserve: alternative approaches to fuel management were raised. The results will be seen when the exercise is conducted next year.

The zone is shown on the map in the Post below. It’s bounded by Railway Track, Tatt Town Track, Spur Track and Donkey Farm Track, and is about 310 hectares. Though it doesn’t cover the land immediately adjacent to the rail track, it’s pretty close, which adds some element of concern over the exercise: this strip is of outstanding biodiversity interest.

The brute political reality is that such exercises take place. Questions directed at DEECA staff focused on whether the overriding purpose of fuel reduction necessarily makes them environmentally destructive. A case in point is a very hot ‘reduction burn’ in the area a decade ago, which seriously depleted a population of locally rare Flame Heath, and also provoked rampant regrowth of Cassinia and Golden Wattle. Fire officers acknowledge that some too hot management burns can have the perverse effect of creating fuel through dense regrowth.

Questions raised at the meeting included: the possibility of rezoning part of the proposed area; the possibility of isolating patches known to contain particularly important species; and the possibility of using alternative methods to fire (for example, slashing) in defined areas.

DEECA staff at the Maldon meeting listened sympathetically to the concerns expressed there.  The actual outcome of the meeting, however, will be seen in the conduct of the exercise.

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