Firebreaks pretty useless: green groups

Firebreaks pretty useless: green groups

 22 October 2007

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Australia — Environmental campaigners are calling formore independent scientific research to determine the best solutions forprotecting Victoria’s forests from bushfires.

In the aftermath of last summer’s devastating bushfires that destroyed almost1.2 million hectares across Victoria – the state government authorised a 600kmnetwork of fire breaks to protect water catchment areas and create better accessfor firefighters.

But the Wilderness Society is calling for a “dramatic rethinking”of current fire management policies, saying the fire breaks – including some upto one kilometre wide – amount to the “indiscriminate” and unnecessarydestruction of pristine wilderness areas.

“Fire breaks of up to one kilometre wide – it’s pretty extraordinarygiven the jury is still out on how effective fire breaks are,” theWilderness Society’s Victorian campaigns manager Gavan McFadzean told AAP.

“The capacity for fires to jump large distances means many breaks arepretty useless, even the extremely wide ones.

“We would prefer to see more expenditure and investment ininfrastructure – for example, bring in more water-bombing helicopters – and aquicker response to fire outbreaks.

“Fire breaks and fuel reduction measures around populated areas is greatfor protecting people and properties and local communities but large-scale firereduction measures in remote areas is very unnecessary and quite indiscriminate.”

More than 1,000 bushfires blackened much of the state over a harrowing 69days last summer, with communities in the state’s north and east the worstaffected.

The disastrous fire season prompted the state government to launch aparliamentary inquiry to examine the impact of public land management practiceson the frequency and intensity of bushfires.

The inquiry’s brief also included examining the effectiveness of prescribedburns and permanent fire breaks, the provision of large water access points oncrown land and the impact of climate change and land use on bushfires.

Mr McFadzean said bulldozing huge tracts of land to create fire breaks inremote areas also served to further the interest of the commercial loggingindustry.

“You cannot treat Victoria’s forests as a single, homogenous landscape -different approaches are needed for different areas.

“The whole issue needs more impartial scientific research on thedifferent types of forest that require fire management, rather than beingtreated as a single homogenous area,” he said.

“We’d also like to see an end to logging, which destroys wetter oldgrowth forests and replaces it with young, dry and more fire-prone regrowth overvast areas.”

Comment was being sought from the government’s Department of Sustainabilityand Environment (DSE).

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