Image for Tarkine ... fuel reduction burning marginalises endangered species

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Pic – Swift Parrot

First published March 19

It is well known that the endangered Swift Parrot is under constant threat due to habitat destruction from irresponsible logging across Tasmania. Now it appears that the poorly planned hectare-based fuel reduction program is also a threat to its survival. Both of these unacceptable practices need to cease to prevent another species heading towards extinction.

The Swift Parrot requires an ideal habitat to breed, including mature tree hollows, and suitable foraging grounds with flowering and seeding flora. The loss of either creates unreliable breeding populations.

For the past three consecutive years I have recorded swift parrots around the Mt Frankland area near Balfour in November/December. The Mt Frankland region is predominately heathland with notable clusters of eucalypt woodland and scrub.

For the Swift Parrots, the Eucalyptus brookeriana is a desirable food source, which flowers from late spring through early summer. Within the western Tarkine there is notable distribution on E. brookeriana,  and E.nitida, so the Mt Frankland, Balfour area should be considered an important, if not imperative habitat, for the conservation of the swift parrot.

The broadscale Tarkine wildfires of the 2015 summer burnt near 100,000 hectares of heathland and forest. Despite that, the state’s fuel reduction program still planned to torch more areas across the Tarkine, such as the unburnt 2015 sections of the Norfolk Range and the Mt Frankland region. This fortunately did not eventuate because the fires crews were simply exhausted from the extensive fire-fighting season.

Rest assured that proposed burning of the Mt Frankland region is probably still on the pyros agenda!

A hectare-based fuel reduction burning agenda is fundamentally flawed. Fire experts in Victoria claim that their statewide burning program is not obtaining its desired objectives and should be revised. Tasmania has also based its torching methodology upon Victoria’s model.

Burning for the sake of burning to reduce fuel loads is a myopic approach to maintaining ecological processes.

In the short term, planned burning may reduce fuel loads, though in high frequency it will ultimately promote fire-encouraging flora.

The more frequent the burning of a forest/heathland community, the greater the loss of biodiversity.

A greater the loss of biodiversity reduces the rate of ongoing ecological evolutionary processes.

Obviously the above does not register with any government agency even though it has a legal responsibility to protect a threatened species.

The Swift Parrot may be under notable threat from logging and firewood collection, but another threat seems to be from knee-jerk political policy in response to wildfires. Both the Victorian and Tasmanian governments have adopted a hectare-based fuel reduction programs after the catastrophic fires of 2009 and 2012 respectively.

Rather than focusing on fuel reduction activity around human settlement areas, the Tasmanian government has promoted torching thousands of hectares of heathland/scrub in remote regions such as the Tarkine, just to obtain their objective hectare figures.

There are compelling arguments that small mosaic burns along the West Coast should be undertaken to provide ideal foraging habitat for parrots, particularly the Orange-bellied, though any remote area hectare-based burning, if done on a regular basis will not assist endangered species.

The plight of the Swift Parrot is just another reason why the Tarkine should be free from forestry clearfelling and gross fire mismanagement ...

*Ted Mead is convinced that Tasmania hosts some the country’s, if not the world’s, most pre-eminent pyromaniacs. Every autumn Tasmania’s skies are thick with haze, combined with the overwhelming stale stench of smoke, and carcinogenic C02 particles. Forestry regeneration burns, and nonsensical hectare-based fuel reduction torching has seemingly become part of the Island’s degenerative culture. Ted is bewildered as to why such retarded activity is permitted to continue given the global crisis we face with increased C02 into our atmosphere.

• The planned burn program for 2018 ...  HERE and HERE