Alien Environment in Australia Fuels Firestorms
The catastrophic fires that have ravaged Australia have a green background. A recent report from friends who suffered terrible losses of buildings, fences, pasture and cattle in the Coonabarabran fire commenced with the ominous and oft-repeated message: "a raging fire came out of the National Park straight for us".
There is only one way to limit fire damage - reduce the fuel available.
Fuel load can be reduced in three ways - by grazing animals, by planned small "cool" fires, or by mechanical reduction with slashers, mulchers or dozers.
Australia's grassland landscape was created and managed by generations of Aborigines who were masters at using man's most useful tool - fire. Every explorer from Abel Tasman (1642) and Captain Cook (1770) onwards noted the smoke in the sky and the burnt trees whenever they landed. This burning created the open grassland landscapes that dominated pre-European Australia. Aborigines lit fires continually, so their small patchwork fires caused no permanent damage to the environment and created and maintained the healthy grasslands on which many animals and Aborigines depended.
Misguided tree lovers and green politicians have locked the gates on ever-increasing areas of land for trees, parks, heritage, wilderness, habitat, weekend retreats, carbon sequestration etc. Never before on this ancient continent has anyone tried to ban land use or limit bush fires on certain land. The short-sighted policy of surrounding their massive land-banks with fences, locked gates and fire bans has created a new alien environment in Australia. They have created tinder boxes where the growth of woody weeds and the accumulation of dead vegetation in eucalypt re-growth create the perfect environment for fierce fires. Once ignited by lightning, carelessness or arson, the inevitable fire-storms incinerate the park trees and wildlife, and then invade the unfortunate neighbouring properties.
Many of today's locked-up areas were created to sequester carbon to fulfil Kyoto obligations. Who pays the carbon tax on the carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere by wild fires?
The green bureaucracies and politicians are clearly mis-managing their huge land-bank. Aborigines and graziers did a far better job. There should be a moratorium on locking up any more land and a return to sustainable management for existing land holdings.