As we all struggle to come to terms with what is happening with so many fires burning across Australia here is a message from the Victorian National Parks Association. It contains some useful references for those who want ‘measured commentary’ in preference to some of the more prevalent rhetoric currently circulating.
“Victoria is clearly facing an unprecedented fire season, with more than one million hectares burnt already, much across the east of the state.
Fire has already had a huge impact on the safety and wellbeing of regional communities, and a devastating impact on many people.
The fires have also had and will continue to have, a significant impact on Victoria’s wildlife and on some of our beloved natural areas, many of which we have together sought to protect.
Our deepest appreciation goes out to the firefighters, emergency services, park rangers, community volunteers, wildlife carers and health workers on the frontline, and our thoughts are with everyone who has been touched by this crisis.
Victoria is one of the most fire prone places on earth, and this is being made a far more severe problem by human-induced climate change.
And while fire has long been a natural disturbance in the Victorian bush, in recent years many of our special natural areas have been experiencing fire too frequently, allowing insufficient time for habitat recovery. Even our normally fire-resistant temperate rainforest areas are burning, a situation which they have not evolved to cope with. Read more here.
Sadly, many animals have been killed and will continue to perish following the fires. More here.
This is devastating for endangered species like the brush-tailed rock wallabies of the upper Snowy River, but also for common species already experiencing a decline in populations.
Here lies the challenge: many species are not given time to replenish before another threat comes along, whether it is more fire, predators, pest animals such as deer which eat regrowth and trample already polluted wetlands and waterways – or the logging of either burnt or unburnt areas.
Once these fires are controlled, we will need urgent surveys, condition assessments and expert management advice and action for the recovery of critically threatened species and highly localised habitats. Every bit of unburnt bush is now a vital refuge for the recovery of species, especially in East Gippsland and the North East. See more here.
We will also need considerable resources, over some time, for the recovery of rural towns, communities, and families impacted by fire.
While this season’s fires are not yet out and may burn for some time, efforts are already shifting from response to recovery for many local communities.
Inevitably, there is community and political debate about causes and remedies, with a confusing array of opinions and information currently circulating in the media about the role of fuel reduction burning, the role of parks and fire, how best to respond and so on.
With a changing climate we need to move beyond old practices, have evidence-based strategies, and think long term and creatively about how best to protect life and property, and also our natural heritage.
Here is some of the more measured recent commentary:
RMIT ABC Fact Check https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-20/hazard-reduction-burns-bushfires/11817336
If you’re wondering what you can do to help, here’s a list of organisations to support.
- There’s now an official Victorian Bushfire Disaster Appeal.
- The Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund provides emergency cash assistance to families affected by the fires.
- Wildlife Victoria is collecting for wildlife shelters and carers.
- East Gippsland Bushfire Wildlife Emergency Fund https://www.gofundme.com/f/australian-wildlife-emergency-surgery-fund?fbclid=IwAR2S_6IrjAGDCJ4Q4fulh-v9ozZrEdJrnOWZTIT6cC0E7Ci3WEkqr0RtKD4
We urge anyone contemplating travel or going out to the bush to carefully check current fire safety information, by visiting:
- The Vic Emergency webpage: https://www.emergency.vic.gov.au/respond/
- The Victorian government’s VicEmergency App: https://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/plan-prepare/vicemergency-app
Stay safe and take care!
Matt Ruchel and the team at Victorian National Parks Association”