Plans to burn the state’s public land at a rate of 5% a year is the biggest and most risky experiment ever carried out on our environment. Already it is destroying huge swathes of the Mallee and threatening its already fragile ecosystem and species.
The VNPA and the Royal Society in late 2011 hosted a seminar to look at what this might mean. The summary of findings and presentations are here (PDF).
Attended by 120 scientists, land mangers and other interested people, the symposium looked at many aspects of this new policy and what we still don’t know about the impacts of inappropriate fire regimes.
It was fairly clear that the 5% target was not something recommended by the expert scientific advisory panel of the Bushfire Royal Commission. It seemed to be more of a political recommendation to appease certain sectors of the community. This decision could only add to the loss of species and habitat which is already struggling with climate change, developments, logging and so on. The other devastating part of this is that there is no evidence these planned burns do anything to prevent large bushfires. In fact their broadscale application could be counter-productive.
This screen grab of one of his slides shows that as you move into the extreme Fire Danger Index, fuels become less of an influence and the fire becomes weather dominated. The interesting point here is that loss of life mostly occurs when the fire is in the extreme or above.