Friends of Grasslands
supporting native grassy ecosystems
PO Box 987
Civic Square ACT 2608
Phone: 02 62.. ....
Ms Jo Caldwell
Fire Management Officer (Research/Projects)
Draft Fire Management Strategy Submissions
South West Slopes Region
PO Box 472
TUMUT NSW 2720
Dear Ms Calwell
Friends of Grasslands (FOG) wishes to provide comments on the Scabby Range Reserve and Yaouk Nature Reserve Draft Fire Management Strategies. FOG is pleased that NSW NPWS is providing for considered fire management of these reserves, taking into account their conservation assets.
FOG is a non-profit organisation incorporated in the ACT and dedicated to supporting threatened grassy ecosystems in south-east Australia, such as grassy woodlands, including through:
providing a range of services to members/stakeholders, including flora surveys and identifying appropriate management
on-ground work – for example FOG has established, with Cooma Monaro Shire Council, the Old Cooma Common Grassland Reserve, and has improved the quality of the remnant grassland there through weeding and other work
a varied program of activities to promote understanding of grassy ecosystems, and
dissemination of information.
FOG has over 200 members, most from the ACT and SE NSW, including professional ecologists and others associated with natural resource management sciences, farmers, landowners and managers, members of Landcare and Parkcare groups, and dedicated conservationists.
Geoff Robertson, a FOG Vice President, looked at the public exhibit of the Draft Fire Management Strategies and Operational Procedures for both reserves (20 April) and talked to Steve Cathcart (24 April). Mr Robertson is satisfied that the Strategies for both reserves are very comprehensive and draw on the science available.
The Strategies appear to take into account FoG's concern that, while recognising fire is a natural phenomenon, overuse of fuel reduction (fire hazard reduction) can lead to deterioration of soil, biodiversity and general ecological function. Unfortunately, science cannot be precise about the optimal approach to fire management. Taking account of landscape function and different vegetation communities is obviously an important element and, as recognised in the Strategies, some vegetation communities should be burnt extremely rarely.
Good mapping (the Strategies and Operational Procedures provide many maps on different topics) and giving special consideration to protecting specific sites that might be habitat for threatened and rare species, or for artefacts of cultural significance, are also very important – and FOG notes that these are also recognised.
Properly scientifically designed fire management experiments and ongoing monitoring will assist in increasing knowledge of the impacts of fire. Mr Robertson was reassured by Mr Cathcart’s statement that, since Scabby Range Reserve was severely burnt in the 2003 fire, it is unlikely to be burnt during the life (five years) of the current plan; although FOG would support grassland burning if conducted for scientific research purposes.
Mr Cathcart also pointed out that decisions on fuel reduction burning are taken in consultation with all, and a diverse range of, stakeholders, and FOG considers this most appropriate.
In summary, FOG believes that appropriate fire management requires good scientific knowledge of fire ecology and the impact of fire on the functioning of natural ecosystems, and that fuel reduction activity should be undertaken cautiously. Scientific study, to obtain a better understanding of these processes, and monitoring are essential. Decisions about fire management rely on informed judgement and need to take account of the inputs of a diverse range of stakeholders. These elements all seem to be present in the current approach which FOG endorses.
We hope that these comments are helpful.
2 May 2007