The need for proactive fire management in the WA rangelands was the main message reiterated at the second annual Rangelands Fire Forum last month.
The forum was coordinated by Rangelands NRM and held at the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife (Kensington) on 25 February 2015. Thirty-three representatives from a cross-section of the NRM community continued discussions to manage wildfires across the WA rangelands at a landscape scale and to share their knowledge and experience.
Rangelands NRM Operations Manager John Silver said to combat the threatening wildfire process we need more ‘good’ fire integrated at the landscape scale.
“The rangelands are a bushfire-prone landscape and there is a long and continuing association between fire, climate, vegetation and people,” he said.
“We need to increase the capacity of land managers if fuel loads are to be managed while enhancing both the continuity and structure of vegetation,” Mr Silver said.
The aim of the 2015 fire forum was to ‘test’ the draft Guiding Principles for fire management in the WA rangelands document which resulted from the 2014 forum.
Differing representative groups included pastoral, mining, Indigenous and conservation presented on both what was and what wasn’t working in relation to their respective bushfire regions.
The forum listened to four presentations, with no conflict or divergence in what people were saying.
“Surprisingly it was very evident the beliefs and values from all speakers and participants were in unison and very complimentary, collectively we were all on the same page, saying the same thing fire is the primary land management tool, we need more fire in the landscape,” Mr Silver said.
“Maybe next time we need invite passionate speakers from either end of the spectrum to shake things up a little more!”
Mr Silver said people undertake prescribed burning for many reasons and that it is a value judgement.
“We need more patchy mosaics in the landscape to break the country up and abate the threat of wildfire which threatens infrastructure, property and life, critical habitat, cultural assets and valuable stock feed,” he said.
Some need hot fires to manage ‘woody weeds’, while others manage fire breaks and utilise fire buffers to minimise risk.
The fire forum is predominately aimed at fire practitioners who wish to collaborate and learn from one another. As primary land managers, it is also apparent that more pastoralists and Traditional Owners should be part of the discussions.
A leadership group was formed following the first Fire Forum in February 2014 and is responsible for driving the outcomes from the fire forum. The group meet regularly and consists Neil Burrows (DPaW), Ralph Smith (DFES), Gareth Catt (KJ), Milan Zaklan (PGA) and John Silver (Rangelands NRM).
“We are passionate about advancing a shared vision and the driving principles behind fire management as the primary land management tool,” Mr Silver said.
If you would like more information or wish to be included on the mailing list please contact John Silver.
Special thanks to Stephen van Leeuwen and the Department of Parks and Wildlife for hosting the event.