There were 233 bulldozers out there pushing our forests, streams and mountainsides around during the peak of last summer's fires.
The bulk of these massive clearing operations did naught to slow or stop the drought-fuelled fires, but it did give the impression that something important was being done by lots of blokes on big machines.
Two hundred years ago the Sooty Owl was abundant and fed on 18 ground species of prey in Gippsland. Today they have two or three to choose from. Other wildlife's ability to thrive is similarly threatened by decades of habitat change.
At the time of going to print, there are FIVE CREWS working on a GOVT SANCTIONED 70 mts x 256 kms CLEARING that cuts across the Thomson catchment.
The DSE claimed it learnt from the squandering of the Yalmy Road and the Snowy National Park in the 2003 fires. Now we understand how! The Minister has approved an even longer broad and lifeless band of dirt to encircle the entire Melbourne water catchment! And hey - just look at those logs coming out of the Yarra Ranges National Park!
Of the million-plus hectares of forest that burnt in last summer's fires, DSE's Chief Fire Officer, Ewan Waller, admitted they lit up 100,000 ha of that area in back burns. Many of which got away and threatened the towns of Bruthen, Tambo Crossing and Swifts Creek.
A recent scientific survey of the impact of the 2003 fire in the upper Snowy River on Tiger Quolls calculates a reduction in the quoll population of between 67.5-90%. The impact of this loss on the state population (without taking into account the impact of the 2003 fires from the north-east through the Alps and Gippsland) would be between 33-45% reduction.
Given the ongoing decline in range and abundance of quolls in Victoria a sudden decline of this magnitude should be sounding the sirens.
Despite plans to burn 130,000ha of bush last season DSE only managed a massive 49,000ha. The year before 127,000ha was scorched and before that 95,000ha of healthy undergrowth ecology was turned to ash. Gippsland had a planned 54,000ha to be flambéd but only managed to dry out and modify 10,000ha.
The Tambo or Gippsland forests, north of Bairnsdale, first suffered a 700% increase in woodchipping after its RFA was signed in 2000. On top of that, they were burnt in the 2003 fires and have been "salvage" logged at eight times the legally sustainable yield level since then.
A new US study of fire damaged forests in Oregon shows that allowing trees to naturally regenerate works as well or better than logging and replanting. Salvage logging actually reduced regeneration by 71%. The study also showed that undisturbed forest areas may be at lower fire risk, as logging adds to the material that would fuel another fire in the near future, because of the waste left on the ground after logging. Leaving that material up in the air on dead trees that will fall, years or decades later, is more likely to reduce fire risk during the early stages of regeneration.
It’s the kind of destruction we’re used to hearing about in the rainforests of South-east Asia, not in our own backyard. The Auditor General’s investigation into the Yalmy Road illegal logging during the 2003 fires, was released in early May 2004. It criticised the Bracks government for allowing three laws and 17 prescriptions and guidelines to be broken during the intended construction of a major fire control line. It also said the DSE’s internal investigation was inadequate.