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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Monday, 16 February 2009
Victorian bushfires: Select redneck media ignore moisture element to protect their logger mates from blame?
Topic: aust govt

Picture: Skinny dry sclerophyll regrowth as pictured here burns intensely. How much of this was once wet old growth and semi rainforest - and therefore fire resistant - until the logging industry started in with intensified mechanisation of chainsaw and bulldozer up to 50 years ago? Less than 10pc of wet forest types remain due to logging policies.

Very revealing to see select big media bigots parade their falsehoods in the wake of an unprecedented bushfire tragedy.

Andrew Bolt has been frothing with this most recent column determined to create a wedge between the G/greens and respected veteran Barry Cassidy of the ABC:

One nasty redneck dissembler is here in the string:

FOEHN replied to strange days indeed
Sun 15 Feb 09 (02:22pm)

Look on the SMH letters page from Friday, 13 February. Some clown from the Friends of the Earth is advocating no burns, no fuel reduction in the forests.

But that letter said the exact opposite as copied and posted here on SAM elsewhere (at the end of the article). That's an evil and cynical attempt at dis-information.

Indeed Bolt's articles have a comment string that read like Young Liberal brown shirts holding a branch meeting and frothing and lacing up steel cap boots. Honest debate is not really the purpose. It's adolescent testosterone filled rambling. Ironic since Bolt once referred to lefties as "kindymedia". Seems he runs a kindy of sorts too. Or is that Lord of the Flies?

What is most galling, and probably evil, is that the advocates and allies of the logging industry, especially from ex forester bushfire experts, is the dishonesty over how we got to this situation: A 50 year systemic process of conversion of wet old growth semi rainforest types into dry sclerophyll eucalypt in the name if not reality of logging for timber, and since the 1970ies especially virtual mining for export woodchips. A situation most likely irreparable by any natural means in terms of wet forest type.

Today we have a landscape wide drying out not in just one or a few areas, but across whole landscapes and regions. This is a bushfire scenario (mechanism via diagrams explaining how here) decades in the making with or without constant fuel reduction via prescribed burning. Indeed in hot dry windy weather this dry sclerophyll bushfire becomes wildfire in the crowns. Now with climate induced rainfall reductions and drought (as per the CSIRO report of July 2008 reference) we are experiencing dry sclerophyll wildfire as megafire.

The reduced rainfall works in two ways. The fuel is not only dry and therefore more flammable, but there is more of it because the forest floor doesn't reduce by natural decay (eg fungi, moss, lichens and native critter foragers). Water limits all processes of life just like a composter at home in the garden.

It would be a whole lot easier to read such as Piers Akerman, Miranda Devine and Andrew Bolt who are ideological and bigoted if there was more honesty about their allies in the logging industry region wide determination to liquidate wet old growth and rainforest areas over decades. Particularly since mid 20C mechanisation of chainsaw and D9 bulldozer and high volume export woodchipping (now at 8 million tonnes a year) from native forest.

Akerman in particular today repeats this hoary old chestnut today at page 10 of the Sydney Daily Telegraph (offline):

"Every basic firefighter is taught the "fire triangle" - its three components are fuel, oxygen and heat source. / No-one can do much about the oxygen factor, it's almost everywhere, [sic] fire sources roughly fall into two categories - deliberate or accidental - which leaves fuel. / Demonstrably, it is the only factor over which a level of control can be exercised through controlled reduction."

Trouble is like expert Rob Incoll today in the Sun Herald this is wrong, via the same limited equation. The fourth factor as explained in our headline is moisture, including humidity. We submitted a comment but suspect it won't get in:

"You say as a forester:
"A fire needs fuel, heat and oxygen to burn./ Fuel is the only factor that can be altered. "

No. Fire also needs absence of moisture. And low humidity helps alot too. You left that out, and I suggest it's for this reason. Your industry as with illegal logging [of rainforest] at Dingo Creek, and smashing of semi rainforest at Goolengook, have been transforming the wet old growth forest types to dry sclerophyll [for 50 years]. That's the brutal truth. Time to be honest.

So now how to deal with the spilt milk? Fuel load can be managed in various ways. One I'm interested in is the Walmsley/Earth Sanctuary high concentration of native critters behind feral proof fences. That might be of interest to the inner ring of Kinglake West or similar. My understanding the firestorm came from middle ring farmland, and outer ring State Forest. True?

Now that our forest estate is down to less than 10% of the wet forest type (as per a 1993 scientific paper by then Dr now Prof Tony Norton of ANU Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies) the loggers are responsible for creating a landscape wide problem. The loggers' spilt milk, but now our society's/governments' and G/greens problem. Thanks for nothing, rednecks.

The loggers and their friends do have a point about attention to fuel reduction in buffer zones especially close to homes. Too bad their land use policies in the loggers' own state forests and plantations didn't change the outcome in Victoria. Or on farms with their long grass. At least as we understand it that's the land tenure where these fires got the firestorm run up like a lethal Geof Thompson bouncer.

Even better to not create the problem in the first place. Yet the last wet old growth forest types are still being logged in Australia every day including in East Gippsland Victoria. In preparation for the next megafire. Thanks for nothing rednecks.


Posted by editor at 8:31 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 16 February 2009 10:55 AM EADT
Sunday, 15 February 2009
Sunday political talkies: Bushfire pall of loss, pain, confused anger and guilt despite $42 billion stimulus
Topic: big media


Picture from Fairfax press of the farmland surrounding the badly hit towns of Kinglake West and Kinglake, which fire break did not protect from a firestorm that originated on farm, plantation, and state forest for logging.

Author's general introductory note

This is not a well packaged story. It's a contemporaneous traverse of the Sunday television free to air political talkies indicating the agenda of Establishment interests: Better to know ones rivals and allies in Big Politics and Big Media.

For actual transcripts and/or video feeds go to the programme web sites quoted including Riley Diary on 7. And note transcripts don't really give you the image content value.

Media backgrounders

*Andrew O'Keefe proves his worth with one comment about 'cool Greg Brady with his lava lamp'.

* Laurie Oaks homes in on Gary Nairn fairly politicized bushfire inquiry frozen out by the ALP states, not least NSW which had done most of the hard work since 1994 in policy adaptations.

* Steve Price Sydney Sunday Telegraph declines the greenie bashing blame game unlike a certain opinion writer colleague based in a sister paper in Melbourne. Price here, and we heartily concur:

A bit too early to point fingers | The Daily Telegraph By Steve Price. February 14, 2009

10 Meet the Press: 8- 8-30 am

Inner Melbourne MP Lindsay Tanner as Finance Minister on stimulus 2 rationale re lurch of nation into debt. Speculations about Shadow Treasurer. Looking fatigued and sad too.

Out take with MP for McMillan Russell Broadbent emotional speech on bushfire impact with Wilson Tuckey MP asleep/unmoving for 30 second grab.

Panel on the couch new set, Jennifer Hewitt and Milne news corp.

Milne quotes ABN Amro critique of not economy building. Tanner disagrees firmly.

JH raises pressure on maternity leave. Missed answer deliberate droning (?).

PB- going to call an election early by end of this year?

2nd out take Moir cartoons.

Second guest Dr Damon Muller, criminologist, lack of research. Needs to be in the Royal Commission. Cost of $1.6B per year from arson, that includes structural value.

When it comes to bushfire hard to value heritage loss, tackling will free up resources a lot.

Crime reduction to monitor known arsonists. Other states follow South Australia example. Bureaucratic infighting question.

Younger males of lower socio economic, quite likely from the same area for familiarity and escape from fire. This is rich best part of the interview and very valuable info.

Q, fair line of inquiry from JH re arson as scapegoating re other policy failures natural bushfires. Agrees only one part of the solution. Anger of public noted.

Out take shows journos pursuing the conversation.

Meet The Press - Watch Political Video Online - Channel TEN.

Riley Diary 7, from 8.30am

Bushfire round up, upset pollies, Rudd hugs, Gillard, Broadbent as ex fire crew at Beaconsfield, upsetting just to write a report here. Ends on the point "mass murder".

Q&A Riles says voice of the people wavered, cracked, etc. Very difficult of the parliament regarding laws, but also voice of the nation.

Q re playing politics? Govt stumbled stimulus linked to this package. Reasonable to link to public housing and relief, but seen as threat to those undecided vote.

Notes Xenophon incredible success as independent in making a deal.


9 Sunday newshour Laurie Oakes interview 8.40 am

Julie Gillard as deputy PM. Looking fatigued and sad. Q re federal govt role. Recovery Authority being set up.

Criticism of state govt re factors, clearing vegetation around homes, hazard reduction of national parks, building and planning rules.

Says extreme yes, but extreme weather huge and unprecedented event. Not about laying blame, about bringing people together.

LO - host of inquiries. Same recommendations. Disagrees everyone will want to hear this RC and nationally will want to see action. [misconception in question that it?s all the same - but it's not]

LO re fires in 5 states including ACT [that last one is the real escalation] not acted upon, why not?

JG - can't speak for the past.

Topic moves on to the stimulus package.


Insiders 2: 9- 10am

Panel - KA Walsh, Sun Herald Sydney Fairfax, Atkins Qld Courier Mail news corp, Bolt Melb Sun Herald news corp,

Bolt hammers lack of hazard reduction, Barry Cassidy draws him back to hazard reduction around the towns impacted not just the forest [perhaps realizing it's not conservation reserves that carried the firestorm.

Minister Jenny Macklin interviewed about how to rebuild.

Film grab of PM Rudd praising MP Bailey for being out in the electorate, highly marginal seat.

Fran Bailey MP for McEwen covering most of the impacted area. Focused on the future. How to rebuild. Get communities involved in that. Refers Bolt on fuel reduction. "Enormous area" to address she says.

[Consider this comment by "Mark of Moorabin" on an Andrew Bolt Melbourne Sun Herald blog of 12 Feb 2009

Just in case it escaped anyone's attention, a repost from yesterday's article on the fires:

There is a 150 meter wide "fire break" (under the high tension power lines) about 2km north west of Kinglake.

Crown fires create sheets of flame hundreds of metres wide that speed up hill at furious speed and spot kilometres ahead.

In 2008, an area of approximately 8 square km was burnt as a fuel reduction measure. This area is approximately 1 km north west of Marysville.

So, did your firebreak and fuel reduction burn work?

What are you gonna do now, cut down all forests? Replace them with plantations that are even more flammable? Even houses in the middle of paddocks were burnt out. But you just keep denying everything that?s going on with the climate despite all the evidence that is clear to the rest of us as that ugly red nose on your face.

I am also distressed by these events but I cannot sit back and let people exploit the emotional sensitivity and desperation of the moment to push half-baked and ignorant agendas that will lull people into a false sense of security.

In Victoria, these conflagrations are, and always will be, inevitable.


[same reader with later comment which does look quite instructive]

How about some more facts instead of emotional outbursts?

Kinglake fire:

Fire started with powerline in cleared farmland.

Then hit pine plantations and jumped Hume Hwy.

Back into farmland.

Hits more plantations.

Back into farmland with pockets of forest.

(all privately owned so far)

Fire enters publicly owned forest that is managed for timber production (featuring lots of clear-fells and regrowth).

HitsKinglake National Park. Mainly `39 regrowth with some old growth.

(back into privately owned land)

Exits park and hits more plantations.

Enters more farmland with scattered trees and pockets of bush scattered with houses.

Hitting, en route, Clonbinane, Wandong, Humevale, Kinglake West, Strathewen, Kinglake and jumping a 150 metre powerline fire break.

So where does the fuel reduction help here?

It's a beat-up. Fuel reduction will not stop bushfires and, as I have shown with earlier comments on Marysville, is of limited value. Even with fuel reduction burns the bush will still monster up like last Saturday.

The myth and misinformation you are pedalling will only result in a false sense of security leading to more disasters of this kind. That?s more children, women and men who will eventually die if reactionaries gain any purchase over public policy. It?s populist drivel.

As for David "eco-terrorists waging jihad" Packham, Athol Hodgson and Peter Attiwell, they are fossilised '39 relics who need to move with the times and stop grandstanding. Once things have settled down, I expect that plenty of experts with both sensitivity to the moment and a more considered approach to the science will make their cases.

Now, how about looking at some of the facts instead of shrill and emotional, ill-informed rhetoric?


Notes the kindergartens and schools were out on Saturday but that would have been incomprehensible.

BC notes "pity" about class legal action story arising so early (why?) [over a electricity pole and 1 km snapped power line and whipping the ground in the high wind and sparking on the ground.]

Everyperson segment - Q re politicians performance, response of victims showed they were appreciated.

Senator Brown notes fear of question time by major parties quarreling at time of a national tragedy.

Discussion of linking bushfire with stimulus package. Panel and implied gallery see it as despicable.

Senator Xenophon looking better slept. Argues money brought forward [but in a deficit that's priority over money that doesn't exist.]. Got 900M not 4B still effective relying on experts.

Bolt says 35B deficit on measures won?t help us pay it back.

[This is very arguable, less congested city economically more efficient, less health costs from cooler homes with oldies dying in summer, other economic benefits to account for? Tanner contests the point.]

Home page is http://www.abc.net.au/insiders/

Posted by editor at 12:19 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 15 February 2009 3:46 PM EADT
Saturday, 14 February 2009
Victorian bushfires: Jill Redwood responds to Barry Bullsh*t pandering to logger theories
Topic: aust govt
Jill Redwood, convenor of Environment East Gippsland, featured in Woman's Day and other popular media, and who has lived in the heart of forested country in East Gippsland at Goongerah for decades writes as follows:
Sent: Saturday, February 14, 2009 11:28 AM
Subject: [chipstop] Planet rapers fire picnic

Whoever saw/heard the 7.30 show on fire last night .....Below are some points that have already been sent through this week by various people, but are again resent for reference if needed.

* The Greens do not have a policy that advocates no fuel reduction burning - but a more scientific approach. They have never made a campaign out of this. Similar policies are held by environment groups in general.

* How after 12 years of drought and the recent mega fires and a policy of so much fuel reduction burning, do we get the claimed record levels of fuel? But how do you control a fire under the following circumstances?

  1. Temperatures where there hottest ever recorded at 47 degrees.
  2. Relative humidity in single figures and winds constantly hitting 100kmh.
  3. A 12 year drought.
  4. 1ml of rain in 6 weeks.
  5. The previous week had a run of 5 days each over 40 degrees. Unheard of.
1) Much of the fire burnt most intensively through dry forest. On the Modis fire satellite image, the fire appears to have burnt these forests most intensively, whereas the wetter forests are patchy. The towns of Marysville, Kinglake and St Andrews are surrounded by these drier forest types, where we see the highest levels of devastation.

2) These fires burnt very aggressively in plantations. The Churchill fire burnt through large areas of plantations. These are intensively managed for wood production, with no understorey or fuel loads, yet these burned very intensively.

3) Around Whittlesea, Wallan and East Kilmore, much of these fires burnt through long grass on farmland. The argument of forest protection around these areas is irrelevant, given that these areas are cleared farmlands and had very little forest areas upwind on Saturday.

4) The fire on Mt Riddle was ignited by a lightning strike and burnt the northern slope. At the beginning of last year, the DSE/Parks Victoria lit a large control burn on this slope, of which it even scorched the crowns of the eucs. This control burn did not prevented the ignition and spread of this fire into Healesville and surrounding forest.

5) Many of these fires have started on either private land or non-forest areas (ie the fire that burned over Mount Disappointment). The only fire at this stage to have started in National Park was the Mt Riddle Fire.

6) Large fire breaks had been cut through Mt Disappointment bounding the Wallaby Creek water catchment. This is 'active management', yet they were useless in preventing the fire from spreading from the state forest into the protected Wallaby Creek catchment.

7) It is suspected that the fires west of Mt Disappointment and Yarra Glen, along with Churchill, were deliberately lit. This is a case of managing 'people' rather than forests.

8) These fires are being intensified by a rapidly changing climate. Scientific models developed by the CSIRO have predicted that high fire danger days are going to increase dramatically with increased greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.
9) Scientific studies around the world indicate that highly disturbed ecosystems are more vulnerable to the climate crisis than less disturbed ones.

* The Kilmore fire started on the edge of a farmland, was not catchable, ripped through plantations and across huge firebreaks like the Hume freeway and strategic breaks. It had burnt around the farmland trapping people trying to escape out of Kinglake long before it burnt through the National Park and into Kinglake. It burnt quite slowly through the Wallaby Creek catchment (unlogged) compared to the Mt Disappointment state forest. Mt Disappointment state forest is a mecca for 4wds and other recreationists that claim by allowing them into the bush, then fires will be stopped. Eventhough it was still moving at over 10kmh. A fire is pretty well much uncontrollable at around 2kmh.

* This fire has burnt through the urban interface, the most heavily fire managed areas around. The Kinglake National Park is on very poor quality soils. Hence it is mainly only low growing grasses.
* The Murrundindi fire started in very close proximity to a timber mill. It burnt to Marysville 20 kms away in just over an hour. This is in the most heavily logged and woodchipped area in Victoria and also a mecca for the 4wd and associated groups. It has spotted across the Acheron valley and raced up areas heavily woodchipped as a crown fire (not initially burning through ground fuel) into the closed O'shannassy water catchment.
* We are getting a picture that SOME areas of old growth ash forest remained unburnt in the initial fire storm. But they are burning at very low intensity and will hopefully survive.
* The Old growth of Maroondah catchment has generally survived to date but again fires are just starting to enter them. hopefully they will stay at an intensity low enough for the eucs to survive.

* Apart from Bunyip, I cannot think of any major fire this season that hasn't been in a plantation or other heavily logged forestry area. It is almost like they are being targeted.

Taken from DSE data current to this week:

  • 50% of estimated area of Vic fires are on private property
  • 12% in national parks
  • remainder in state forests, crown land or undisclosed.

Hard to see how this can be turned around to blame national parks

The senate inquiry in 2007 was at pains to point out that in uncontrollable firestorms like this, tenure and land management is irrelevant and we have to build community preparedness to survive the onslaught.

Full quote from conclusions is

?... there will always be uncontrollable bushfires from time to time. This is most evident from evidence regarding the Australian Alps, which experienced their worst fires in 1939, under a completely different land tenure and management regime to that in place when fires burnt there in 2003. A significant part of living in and managing the environment must be acceptance of fire and ensuring preparedness for it.?

Posted by editor at 12:08 PM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 14 February 2009 12:35 PM EADT
Victorian bushfires: NSW 1994 precedent - wilderness areas, national parks were innocent factors
Topic: aust govt

In the fallout of the 1994 bushfire disaster in NSW the cynical misinformation industry with their political axe to grind and bigoted prejudice against the green movement were exposed by the real statistics of the emergency:

Here are some more instructive fallout from the huge 1994 bushfire emergency with parliamentary and coronial inquiry that followed:

The Fire Authorities did major housekeeping to get rid of people like this:

Lines of communication between farmers and other private land holders and the fire authorities was addressed and improved:

State and local government was forced to get organised and standardised with new planning legislation and expert committees across regions:

Nothing really changes, even with the hundreds dead in this latest tragedy. The blame shifting and lies are being spread like merde by sinister creeps, fools and so called objective experts, in effect industry advocates rather than honest brokers. And the biggest industry with most dirty secrets is not the tourism or conservation sector but the logging industry converting landscapes to tinder dry sclerophyll forest over decades.

Some recent rebuttal in the big press here:

Posted by editor at 9:31 AM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 14 February 2009 10:09 AM EADT
Victorian Bushfires: Peter Attiwill, the loggers friend
Topic: aust govt


Tonight we saw an ABC TV bushfire special "After the Firestorm". And sitting there on screen was local federal MP in the Opposition Fran Bailey who brought with her Professor Peter Attiwill described as a "forest ecologist".

However one ought to be very clear about the antecedents of Peter Attiwill. He's a champion of the logging industry, ever since his graduation from the Creswick School of Forestry here:

"John Chinner took up his appointment as Senior Lecturer in charge of Forestry in the Faculty of Science in 1945. He successfully pursued research grants and support for lectureships from industry and government agencies. Many of his postgraduates went on to lead the development of forestry research in government agencies, industry and universities in Australia and internationally. The names of postgraduates to 1979 include: Drs Peter Attiwill, ..." in Chapter 7: Forestry At Creswick And The University, 1910

Here he is again in 1996 as the Howard Govt took office and the loggers needed a framework to continue expansion of the woodchipping industry of public forest heritage for private profit:

[PDF] Victoria's Mountain Ash Forests: A Case of Sustainable Management, Agenda, Volume 3, Number 2, 1996, pages 229-240

 And again here adopted approvingly by the National Association of Forest Industries. The man does not appear to be independent.

So Attiwill, it is safe to assume, will never criticise loggers for destroying wet old growth forest over the last 50 years leaving barely 10% of this forest type now, converting it into bushfire prone dry schlerophyll. Nor will he observe that the firestorm in Victoria originated in highly disturbed logging or farming country.

Nor will Attiwill note the loggers love of post logging burns which sometimes escape or smoulder on until a hot north wind arrives. He will never criticise the loggers smashing of a semi rainforest old growth complex like the infamous Goolengook in East Gippsland which probably has never burned for 150 years. And never by Aboriginal firestick either.

He will say once its all converted and dried out you have to promote broadscale burning off every 7 to 10 years. Which is exactly what he said on tv tonight.

No account for promotion of fire weeds. No account for destruction of rainforest or mature wet old growth forest types. No honesty about how we got to this situation today from 50 years of logging context, his very own discipline. We say this as a zoology graduate from the Australian National University (1986).

And just by coincidence this form of fire regime is perfect for defacto conversion of the public's natural heritage into a defacto timber production plantation with much reduced flora and fauna diversity and water catchment values. That's okay if you are only managing for timber production and your logging mates. That's okay if you support an effective privatisation of public land.


But what about the rest of society and their values? And the rest of nature for that matter, in some cases stable forest eco-systems (eg the forest type shown here) for thousands of years? And indeed prevention of bushfire risk from dried out forests?

Far better to find natural methods of fuel reduction in forests of this type perhaps by breeding up native critters as grazers and browers of the understorey and fencing out of ferals. It's probably just as practical and as expensive.

What about the skinny regrowth forest already stuffed by Attiwill's mates? They do need longer term restoration logging to ever return to their former glory, perhaps by thinning out the regrowth to allow large dominant old growth overstorey to restore the water cycle. But that could take hundreds of years to re-establish which is not very likely, with all the fire risk that entails in the meantime.

At the very least logging of wet old growth forest should be banned as criminal vandalism for promotion of bushfires as much as any arsonist. And the real fire history of mechanised logging should be told.

Nor was Barry Cassidy much sense with his folksy and dumb comment "I grew up in the bush and we had a saying 'expect to to be burned if you don't burn'". Yeah Barry, but how often? And where? And how practical over huge areas with limited time is it? That is the problem and Cassidy obviously doesn't have a stick of sense to add to that quandary in an age of climate change and limited days in the cool season.


If Attiwill had his way his mates would be burning and logging rainforest as happened here with this illegal logging in East Gippsland court saga:

Hastings v Brennan & Anor; Tantram v Courtney & Anor [2005] VSC 37

.... with further background here.



Forest giants laid waste

Look familiar?


And see this this 'before' photo ....

And after ....perfect for bushfire prone regrowth ...


Posted by editor at 12:06 AM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 14 February 2009 12:40 PM EADT
Friday, 13 February 2009
Victorian bushfires: Detail of firestorm origins on multiple use highly impacted land tenures
Topic: aust govt

This email is forwarded from Jill Redwood who received it on behalf of Environment East Gippsland lead group, and as land owner and CFA (Country Fire Authority) volunteer and renowned environmentalist of Goongerah, East Gippsland unaffected by the Victorian bushfires. However we understand she has been involved in support work.

We have added bold to instructive bits about type of land use type with high speed fire storm which has proved so devastating. The message appears to be that the highly disturbed, logged areas of dried out forest has burnt the fastest and most dangerous.


Sent: Friday, February 13, 2009 2:03 PM
Subject: [chipstop] Responding to incorrect fire information
Hi various listers -
this was sent in by a friend. I thought it might be of interest. Jill

I find it deeply disturbing that people think they shouldn't enter into the bushfire debate. These fires provide a great opportunity for conservation advancement.

If you look at the facts there are so many opportunities and every time, some dickheads like Boswell or Turkey or the Australian newspaper go unchallenged more people will believe them.

As a movement are we prepared to be kicked down with lies and then try to challenge an entrenched view in months or years.

After I watched 200 people loose their lives, I want you to read some very basic information.

The Kilmore fire started on the edge of a farmland, was not catchable, ripped through plantations and across huge firebreaks like the hume freeway and strategic breaks. It had burnt around the farmland trapping people trying to escape out of kinglake long before it burnt through the National Park and into Kinglake. It burnt quite slowly through the Wallaby Creek catchment compared to the Mt Dissapointment state forest. Eventhough it was still moving
at over 10kmh.
A fire is pretty well much uncontrollable at around 2kmh.

Mt Dissapointment state forest is a mecca for 4wds and other recreationists that claim by allowing them into the bush, then fires will be stopped. Didn't do a thing to slow the fire down and it sped up to a speed that fire fighting agencies couldn't even get around to warn communities what was coming.

This fire has burnt through the urban interface, the most heavily fire managed areas around. The Kinglake National Park is on very poor quality soils. Hence it is mainly only low growing grasses.

The Murrundindi fire started in very close proximity to a timber mill. It burnt to Marysville 20 kms away in just over an hour. This is in currently the most heavily woodchipped area in Victoria and also a mecca for the 4wd and associated groups. It has spotted across the Acheron valley and raced up areas heavily woodchipped as a crown fire into the closed O'shannassy water catchment. We are
getting a picture that SOME areas of old growth ash forest remained
unburnt in the initial fire storm. But unfortuntately they are now burning because there are not enough resources to go and put them out and a little inaccessible. But they are burning at very low intensity and will hopefully survive.
DSE are putting there emphasis onto stopping the fire from getting into the Upper Yarra catchment and this may include back burning the rubicon state forest and private land and other catchments.

The Old growth of Maroondah catchment has generally survived to date but again fires are just starting to enter them. hopefully they will stay at an intensity low enough for the eucs to survive.

Apart from Bunyip, I cannot think of any major fire this season that hasn't been in a plantation or other heavily managed forestry area. It is almost like they are being targetted.

Current lifestyle of making everything drier and hotter. We can expect fire events like this again.

Now is the time for the logging industry to be moved into the plantations.We've barely got any forest left. The burnt forests will eventually re-grow - Australian native forests can recover from fire. Moving into plantations is a better way for the industry to move forward.

In a way this event is wiping the slate clean of our past land management mistakes and giving the australian bush to continue to evolve as it has for thousands of years with fire.

Salvage logging - will strip everything there. At the moment the situation is that the forests have burnt, but that's happened for millions of years in Australia. Fire does provide opportunities for nature, native forests recover from fire.

The plantations need to be salvaged - these are private investments that farmers and other landowners have made - in the face of losing other assets, they need to be worked with to make the most of what's left and what they've invested in over years. Help stimulate the economy, protect communities and stop it from being a burden on tax payers.

How after 12 years of drought and recent mega fires and a policy of so much fuel reduction burning, do we get the claimed record levels of fuel. But how do you control a fire under the following circumstances.
where there hottest ever recorded at 47 degrees celcius. Relative humidity in single figures and winds constantly hitting 100kmh. A 12 year drought. 1ml of rain in 6 weeks. The previous week a run of 5 days each over 40 degrees. Previously unheard of.

Please respond with fact and dont create hatred at a time when Australian are bonding.


Posted by editor at 8:05 PM EADT
Updated: Friday, 13 February 2009 8:54 PM EADT
Stimulus II $42 Billion: Senate go 'large and timely' as cross benchers get on board 11.30 am today
Topic: aust govt

As we write the Australian Senate are in the endgame of the approval of the Stimulus II package.

We managed to capture an image of the National's Senator Barnaby Joyce spitting chips at the effective negotiation of the ALP Govt senators and Greens Senator Bob Brown:

Senator Brown (Greens) had already outlined his amendments which apparently are moderate bolt ons earlier today.

Joyce was sledging the Greens for being gazumped by independent Senator Xenophon.

Senator Carr was tub thumping at the failure of extreme capitalism after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Investment Bank in Sept 2008.

Now the Opposition's Liberal Senator Eric Abetz is refering to the "economic tsunami" and the high debt 'sugar coated pill' with "a very very bad after taste in the mouth".

One can imagine a speech of the critical vote of Independent Senator Xenophon will be made soon. Sure enough by 11.30 am we see Senator X speak in the committee phase of the debate regarding amendments. X is very flattering of other cross bench senators particularly his Green counter part from South Australia Hanson-Young. X along with Fielding table letters from the Government of the amendments agreed:

Next is independent Senator Fielding who has buckled down to supporting the government package with a $200M Get Communities Working pilot programme. Fielding has also been flattering to his cross bench senate colleagues X and Brown (Greens):

Senator Wong for the government gets up to accept the deal is made. We missed our screen print of the Senator. Never mind.

And now the Opposition Senator Minchin underlines the concern at the deficit and recession looming in losing the vote. He mentions what the Howard Government would have done if elected. Which tells the story - it wasn't. Minchin is mild with Xenophon's principled stand for the Murray Darling Basin, Minchin being a South Australian colleague. Then back to defending "the Howard Government" removed from office in November 2007.

Lastly we see the Government's Senator Evans accept the deal with the cross benchers:


In conclusion we seem to be witnessing the effective rollback of all the revenue raised by the GST since 1998 (?) in order to build an economic bridge to hopefully some kind of safe haven on the other side of a global recession.

Posted by editor at 9:50 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 13 February 2009 12:27 PM EADT
Thursday, 12 February 2009
Victorian bushfires: Rednecks project blame for their own 50 year logging legacy?
Topic: aust govt

Picture: A helicopter dumps water on the blaze along Kennedy Creek
Source Geelong Advertiser 13/1/00. In January/February 2000 two forest fires were started by bark heaps in logged forest catching alight in the Otways. These fires occurred at Kennedys Creek and Mount McKenzie Track. Many fires are apparently unreported by the media, as they are extinguished before they pose a serious threat


We wrote this comment recently on a long string in The Australian:

Most of these arguments are re-runs of the 1994 bushfires in NSW. The redneck know alls reckon fire only needs fuel and oxygen. WRONG. It also needs ignition. It also needs low moisture and/or humidity. So much for these one eyed experts.

Rainfall trend going down?: Leaf litter rots to soil in wet conditions quite fast. Ferals kill native grazers? Logging patchworked landscape makes for tinder dry schlerophyll instead of wet old growth (now barely 10 pc left after 50 years of mechanised logging).

I was called as state rep for The Wilderness Society to 2 inquiries Parliament and Coroners in NSW. I was shown the door because there was no case to answer. Nil. Zilch. Nada. None. 14 months later Carr was elected on forests.

I was elected 4 years local councilor. Quite right the govt carries the constitutional burden for 'peace, welfare and good government'. This is still a democracy for all voices until the policy decision is made by the elected. Packham and Wahlquist don't name a specific green/group. Why is that? How many Green Party councilors on Nillumbik? None?

The logging industry have more responsibility for wildfire than they know. Or they are in denial. The Blacks never disrupted forests like the D9 bulldozer etc.

This was in relation to these two stories:

Victoria bushfires stoked by green vote | The Australian Victoria bushfires stoked by green vote. Font Size: Decrease Increase; Print Page: Print. David Packham | February 10, 2009


Council ignored warning over trees before Victoria bushfires | The ... 11 Feb 2009

As suspected, our inconvenient comment has not been published which is why we saved it for archival record here for the more objective SAM readership.

And there is more like this today in one strand of malign prejudiced reportage. Not so surprising coming from allies of the logging industry whose business after all is death: Death of moist old growth forest and rainforest, death of native fauna with their poison baits for plantations, who are natural grazers of undergrowth and leaf litter, and death of water catchments for the export woodchip industry.

This is a legacy over more than a decade or two. This is a legacy of old growth extermination over 50 years or more. It's likely we can never regrow this cool wet old growth forest which take hundreds of years to establish and one logging season to destroy. We are now reaping as a society that 50 year legacy and kowtowing to the cynical logging industry and their political representatives of big corporations.

Bushfire scientist David Packham now retired (?) makes a bogus argument in the press today that "elements" of the green movement in Australia oppose essential prescribed burning and hazard reduction, "eco-terrorists waging jihad against prescribed burning and fuel management". Packham says they want to let the forest grow to close the canopy and create moist old growth. That's almost certainly a reference to our SAM article earlier this week. Only he deliberately misrepresents the article because that article refers to the spilt milk of conversion of existing moist old growth destroyed systemically over the last 50 years of highly mechanised logging.

No where do we say:

"They believe fundamentally that if we keep all fire out of Australia's forests, the trees will grow, the canopies will close up, the ground will become moist and there will be no fires. This is absolute and total nonsense."

What we said was that the logging industry has reversed the status quo of a closed canopy moist forest, and what's more it can be easily enough proved by the harvesting plans and volumes pulled out in the records held by the state agencies. We never said it could be re-created - a Packham fantasy apparently. You can almost see Packham frothing at the mouth as he levels this egregious misrepresentation. Not surprising given his 2003 submission here that without broadscale prescribed burning - possibly everywhere -"The hardwood timber industry will be obliterated". His bias is pretty obvious.

Here Packham is quoted approvingly in 2006 by a lcoal bushfire captain who seems to hates greenies (from the Cattleman's agenda to graze for free in national parks):

"There is little prospect of the serious fire risks being addressed from increasing fuel that threatens the safety of surrounding landholders, park visitors, water supplies and the timber industry. If this continues it will bring this state to its knees from lack of water and cause more destruction than any terrorist group is ever likely to do." [bold added]

The point is these folks have an axe to grind and are not objective. The bushfire captain goes on:

" On Tuesday and Wednesday 7 - 8 March 2006, two bushfire experts visited Wonnangatta at the request of Mountain Cattleman and members of the Licola Fire Brigade. David Packham has been a bushfire scientist for over 40 years including 8 years as Supervising Meteorologist for bushfire weather with the Bureau of Meteorology. Rod Incoll was the states former Chief Fire Officer." [bold added]

If Mr Packham and The Australian would like to specifically cross reference our SAM article we would be happy to commence defamation proceedings against him, speaking as a former commercial litigation lawyer. We will be happy to bankrupt the man for his opportunistic smears.

For instance we would be quoting this scientist:

1997....scientific refutation of the 'burn lots and burn often' simplistic approach allegedly used by pre European Aboriginal society

By John Benson of the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney:

Abstract from "The nature of pre-European native vegetation south-eastern Australia" (condensed from J.S. Benson and RA. Redpath, Cunninghamia, 5(2) December, 1997)

"Based on a selection of quotes from early European explorers and settlers, it has been suggested that, at the time of European settlement of eastern Australia: the vegetation was mainly composed of grassland and grassy woodland; that Aborigines burnt most of the country every year or so; and a lack of fire after European settlement led to thick regrowth that was subsequently ringbarked and cleared by settlers for agricultural expansion. This overlooks the extensive scientific literature on past and present vegetation, and on fire ecology in Australia.

The claims of frequent burning mainly cover parts of south-eastern Australia between Tasmania and Brisbane, but do not deal with particular regions in a systematic way. They generally refer to one type of vegetation formation grassy woodland, which mainly occurs on clayey soils in drier coastal valleys, on non-siliceous soils on the undulating tablelands and on the western slopes. The explorers may have favoured travelling through these areas because they occur near rivers (water), had an open understorey and because some explorers were employed to seek out suitable grazing lands.

Using three historical estimates of tree density in grassy woodlands, we estimate there was an average of 30 large trees/ha spaced about one tree width apart. We found frequent references in the explorers' journals to vegetation containing a dense understorey including coastal heath, shrublands, rainforest and dense eucalypt forests. We found no evidence that most of south-east Australia's vegetation was annually burnt by Aboriginal people and provide examples where explorers' notes about fire have been misinterpreted or inappropriately extrapolated.

While some journal entries reveal that Aboriginal people used fire for cooking and burning the bush, the extent, frequency and season of their use of fire is largely unknown, particularly for southern Australia. Vegetation types such as rainforest, wet sclerophyll eucalypt forest, alpine shrublands and herbfields, and inland chenopod shrublands, along with a range of plant and animal species, would now be rarer or extinct if they had been burnt every few years over the thousands of years of Aboriginal occupation.

Furthermore, much evidence has been ignored that points to climate as being the main determinant in vegetation change over millions of years, with major changes occurring since the onset of aridity in the Miocene ( 24 to 5 million years ago) but continuing through the last ice age, which coincided with the occupation of Australia by Aboriginal people.

The adaptation of many plant species to aridity, drought, low nutrient soils and fire does not imply a requirement for them to be frequently burnt. South-eastern Australia's native vegetation is now highly fragmented, after 200 years of clearing, stock grazing and weed invasion. Management of what remains of this vegetation should be based on a scientific understanding of the functioning of ecosystems and the population dynamics of a range of plant and animal species."

By all means have prescibed burning even in old growth areas, as likely happened during Aboriginal tenure, but without the chainsaws, without the D9 bulldozers and without killing the canopy. There is no comparison of Aboriginal fire-stick practice and the last 50 years of the woodchip driven high intensity logging industry deliberately targeting the high volume forest giants and canopy for chips conversion to dry sclerophyll. As we explained it's spilt milk. The water cycle is damaged and probably irreparably.

The same article in The Australian effectively slimes The Wilderness Society, a non government green group, by the cute misrepresentation of the true technical definition of a wilderness (as per the 1987 NSW legislation): It's big - usually more than 20,000 hectares in size - unfragemented, and remote. To the general public the word could mean a local council park, national park or roadside verge at the bush town interface but that would be wrong. Wilderness areas are usually hundreds of kilometres from cities and towns or the risky bush-town interface. In those remote wilderness areas there is a case for limiting prescribed burning to only that required for essential protection of life and property.Which is usually minimal. It's quite distinct from other land tenures and the question of prescribed burning in buffer zones.

Similarly an opinion piece by a WA based 'expert' in The Australian today almost certainly misquotes TWS over a submission they made of 'massive increase in prescribed burning impact on ecology' to say the figures indicate no massive increase in "southern Australia". Only TWS is a national organisation, not just "southern Australia" and almost certainly are referring to unscientific let 'er rip burning in the Northern Territory: Such approaches probably increase wildfire risk not lessen it through promotion of fire-weeds and escaped hazard reduction burns. Never miss a chance to promote a misconception when you are a bigoted anti greenie.

All these points and statistical proof were made in 1994 by this writer after 700 bushfires ravaged NSW. And by the NSW NPWS. And they were accepted in the long drawn out process of reforming land use management accordingly in two official inquiries. NSW is now recognised as leading the pack in Australia as far as bushfire regulation goes.

When the truth comes out in the Royal Commission to be held in Victoria chances are most of the fires will have started and have burned on public roads, or private land and previously logged state forest. Very few will have started on national parks managed land and none or almost none will have occurred in properly identified wilderness areas.

But still these special wilderness areas are the last targets of the big corporate logging industry and the greens are the only obstacle between them and privatisation of that publicly owned natural heritage. In effect Packham and The Australian newspaper are feeding a smear campaign, seeking to leverage the shock and horror of the public at the very bad death toll of 300 in this latest tragedy. As we said the logging industry are practiced in the business of dealing in death.

This is the language of the extremist logging industry accusing their green opponents of 'eco-terrorist vandalism of logging machinery', and using 'metal tree spikes to injure chainsaw operators'. These two are common projections of a quite violent logging industry caught repeatedly beating up and fire bombing their environmental critics and their cars here in Australia.

These are the real eco-terrorists and jihadis - for logging and woodchip profits, and cover up of a 50 year legacy of vandalism leading to wildfire, and now even megafire.


Postscript # 1

This was on New Matilda 10 Feb on a comment string here:


"David Packham may be right that fuel levels contributed to ferocity of the fires on Saturday, but he is wrong in claiming it was the main factor. I know Kinglake West well. Kinglake West is (or was) a mix of small farms and open bushland, most of which had recently been burned off. We will have to wait for the Royal Commission to report but I can tell you now that fuel load was not an issue with the destruction of Kinglake West. What killed people was the speed of the firestorm. We?ve had terrible fires before, but nothing like this. Fires in the past were deadly because people were ill-prepared or there was no infrastructure to fight them. This time people were prepared but were overwhelmed by the speed and size of this fire. This really was something new.

I have to say that David?s article (published in The Australian) attacking the fire service and blaming the fire on `academics? is sickening, but what truly shocked me were the comments posted to his article. They are ghastly. There is no acknowledgment that climate change was a factor and an almost frantic, desperate desire to blame the Greenies. "

Posted by editor at 8:10 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 13 February 2009 10:38 AM EADT
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
Bushfire reportage: Unconfirmed 300 plus dead, questions of systemic govt land use failure
Topic: aust govt

Reading between the lines - the closed 'crime scene', the royal commission announcement, the eye witness testimony of houses exploding from immense radiant heat, and no effective warnings, leading pollies warning 'the nation to prepare itself for worse news' - we can estimate deaths at 300 plus up from 173. Crikey ezine suggested as much in an unconfirmed rumour yesterday.

The democratic process of adversarial debate has begun and it will be ferocious. For example from logging loyalists like Wilson Tuckey. This industry has targeted moist Old Growth closed canopy forest for 50 years, a forest type which traps high humidity and mitigates bushfire intensity. There is barely 10% of forest landscapes of this type now, including national park reserves in recent years out of previous logging areas.

A patchwork of dry sclerophyl replaces the wet forest and this has happened over landscapes and regions. It's a tinder box creating a firestorm of brutal radiant heat and hailstorm of embers in a predatory vanguard. This dry forest is quite obvious to anyone in a re-growth forest logged a few years earlier with bare earth etc compared to a now rare moist old growth canopy like this in the constantly damp misty forests of Monga on the NSW South Coast:

The great tragedy is this patchworking of landscape and change of forest is a downward spiraling process of drying. More fragmentation means more disruption of water cycle and bigger tinder box. Regrowth is often referred to as hairs on the back of the dog. And they burn.

For a decade now conservationists involved in Koala protection have reported a slow die back in the forest regions of the NSW South Coast. This may well be encroaching drought, changed water cycles from land use disuptions like logging, and yes creeping climate change with reduced rainfall patterns.

As a logging representative stated in the big press only a month ago based in Tasmania: 'It's good to log these forests because their natural stages of progression is to convert in to rainforest.' Wet forest progressing to rainforest is exactly what you want in a bushfire prone country. But logging policies have sent us on a pathway to bare earth and fierce burning every 5 or 10 years.

Here is a gallery of logging we put together for the controversial Wandella/Peak Alone area near Cobargo, NSW South Coast, in March 2006 after logging in 2005, .


Same story of fragmentation and drying out of the natural high humidity healthy forests here at Monga and here at Deua.

There is very little moist high humidity Old Growth forest left in 21C Australia as shown below here in East Gippsland at a place called Brown Mountain as per this gallery taken March 2005 and shown below (recently targeted for logging late 2008, not shown):


We submit we are are experiencing a bushfire impact that relates to this much lower humidity highly fragmented landscape combined with drought relating to lower rainfall from creeping climate change. The loggers hate this advice because it puts them in the picture big time when it comes to wildfire, ever since highly mechanised high volume woodchipping began in the 1960ies.

And none of this addresses local planning and buffer zones on the town bush interface, arson, or indeed smouldering post logging burns which are routine in the logging industry and well known to flare up - sometimes weeks or even months after the loggers have moved on. according to one eye witness we know.

Posted by editor at 7:13 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 10 February 2009 9:03 AM EADT
Monday, 9 February 2009
Of bushfire horror, weather and woodchips
Mood:  sad
Topic: aust govt

The ACT fire January 2003 was a giant weather changing locomotive according to reportage of the time: ' Nothing could stop it'. And nothing could stop the political and legal fallout afterward either. Just like after the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires when we were a kid in Warrnambool, or after the 1994 conflagrations in NSW as per the front page stories above.

PM Rudd is down at the affected communities north of Melbourne yesterday with social welfare payments and military mobilisations of heavy machinery. His party political colleague Premier John Brumby is struck silent by grief and shock in front of the microphone and camera.

Back in NSW in the summer of 1993 and January 1994 there was hell to pay for the 700 odd bushfires and handful of deaths. [The Victorian Govt have just announced a royal commission and the terms of reference will be forthcoming.] What followed was a parliamentary inquiry in parallel with a coronial inquiry. Similarly the ACT after 2003 was a legal and political sh*t fight.

We represented The Wilderness Society in 1994 after the previous state campaigner in Sydney Rod Knight was driven off the political arena by attacks of the logging industry across all big media platforms. Rod's main thesis was illegal ignition causing the trouble. But this was howled down 14 years ago. Rod has been vindicated.

In truth he had decided to move on before those shocking early 1994 fires but an innocent submission on closing unnecessary fire trails in New England wilderness far from towns and farms to maintain wilderness values was a pretext for statewide attack by redneck industry and Natioanal Party closely allied to private logging interests. This was hugely ironic as will be demonstrated with a much bigger role in causing wildfire for which they are in denial.

It was timely for a litigation lawyer like us to be handed the reins. We got a 'letter of the week' in The Land newspaper (which now seems to be lost in the dreaded filing system) which appeared in most every regional newspaper in the state exhorting co-operation not division while the fire threat was still underway. This is what people wanted to hear. We listed little towns from north to south where local greenies were pulling their weight as part and parcel of the local bushfire brigade. One bloke from North East Forest Alliance had the local firetruck parked in his driveway as he took the call.

That's what happens in reality in rural and regional areas - left, right, brown, green, people pull together in an emergency because they only have each other. And that's why The Land newspaper, no friend of The Wilderness Society, printed our letter as letter of the week.

We explained why wilderness was a scape goat for threats on the town bush interface and the official statistics proved this. That the real threat factors are:

1. extreme weather - to which we can add global warming drying out the country - including hot days, low humidity and windy conditions;

2. ignition problems with arsonists

3. planning issues of separation and preparation of property near forested country.

This communication strategy was successful. By the time the Inquiries came around where this writer was called to both our attendance was a non event at both. No media flurry, no toxic political attacks from industry. There was no credibility in the attacks.

Even so be assured there will be hell to pay over the deaths of 66 [now 130 plus] people and 700 plus homes in rural and regional Victoria this last horror weekend with the threat to life and property ongoing. Comparison with Ash Wednesday 1983 with several deaths there are being made. Only this is very much worse. Back then we remember as an 18 year old having the chance to fly over areas of the Western Districts of Victoria to determine the location of the ignition. Our father, a local lawyer, was retained to sue the local energy authority or perhaps it was sparks from a farming machine on rocks. Hard to recall.

No wonder Premier Brumby broke down over burns victims in Alfred Hospital yesterday afternoon. Our guess his career is effectively over. As much as NSW is lampooned in the national press, our Bushfire Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons - whose own National Parks and Wildlife employee father was killed in bushfire - is an acknowledged safe pair of hands. As was the logistically successful Phil Koperberg, later elected an MP, before him. 'There is no land management agency in NSW that prevents bushfire precautions in NSW' is the testimony of Fitzsimmons only a fortnight ago on the big media. That's the legacy of 1994 speaking.

We still have our big dangerous bushfires in NSW but we also have sky crane helicopters, a military finesse to the organisation of professional and volunteer bushfire brigades, police increasingly aware of arson as a focus, local government planning rules, political resourcing and community level of expertise. No bogus political debate distractions in NSW these days over fire trails in wilderness areas. If they are genuinely needed they are there.

However the logging industry in "production forests" do have some serious questions to answer over landscape changes converting bushfire country into wildfire country.

There is life after bushfire as these pictures indicate from a walk later 1994 in the Colo Heights/Tinda Ck/Mellong area (Six Brothers map) of Wollemi world heritage area with the writer doing the Milo Dunphy thing: This area has suffered another bushfire as we write so we don't recommend an outing like this for quite a while:

Here is our briefing note from the editor's ecology action web pages:

Bushfire science

These diagrams below first presented in 1995 reveal the process of landscape conversion of native forest from moist old growth fire resistant type, derived from their closed canopy, to dry sclerophyl bushfire prone regrowth type.

As long as a moisture rich closed canopy is in place a high density of ground cover remains of moderate risk and tends to break down quite quickly as well.

The most severe process of logging disruption of the closed forest canopy has been going on since the advent of high intensity 'integrated logging' for timber but also high proportion of woodchips especially since the mid 1970ies. This was around the time of the advent of bulldozers, other big machines and modern chainsaws.

Thus even if a small proportion of a forest of say 2 or 3% suffers high intensity logging per year, after 40 years of patchworking, close to 100% of the moist micro climate will have been destroyed along with the broken canopy. It will take maybe a century to re establish the moist old growth closed canopy microclimate across broad areas of forest IF devastating fires don't constantly set the clock back to zero again in a cruel ecological game of snakes and ladders.

That's how grim the situation has become in large areas of forested south east Australia as a result of rampaging logging and greed. Even much contemporary national park has been patchwork logged already prior to reservation in the last 40 years and still to regain closed canopy moisture. Depending on the fire patterns in the future they may never regain that closed canopy and moisture level.

There are many other factors contributing to bushfire such as ignition sources like arson or naturally occuring dry lightning. Climate impact of low rainfall also impacts fire intensity and risk. Ground fuel levels are also very significant.

But what is apparent in the current anxious reflections and research into how best to deal with the impending catastrophic fires of the futre is that the modern logging industry have been getting away with environmental murder that promotes mega bushfires. It all follows from breaching the natural water cycle under a closed canopy:

The diagrams above are based on the following scientific papers:

Cornish PM (1982) The variation of dissolved ion concentration with discharge in some NSW streams, Forest Hydrologist, Forestry Commission of NSW, The First National Symposium on Forest Hydrology, eds. EM O'Loughlin & L J Bren, May 1982,

Rieger W A, Olive L J and Burgess J S (1982) Behaviour of sediment concentrations and solute concentrations in small forested catchments, University of NSW, Department of Geography, FAculty of Military Studies, The First National Symposium on Forest Hydrology, eds. E M O'Loughlin & L J Bren, May 1982

Stokes R A and Loh I C (1982) 'Sustaining Sensitive Wildlife Within Temperate Forest Landscapes: Regional Systems of Retained Habitat as a Planning Framework', pages 85-106 in Ecology and Sustainability of Southern Temperate Ecosystems, eds. Norton T W & Dovers S R, CSIRO 1994.

Wronski E (1993) Tantawangalo research catchments, Change in water yield after logging, Report to the Forestry Commission of NSW, 1st July 1993

Declaration: The editor/author was called as witness to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry, and briefly to the Coronial Inquiry after the summer 1993-4 bushfires, as a representative of the Wilderness Society in NSW.


More background

The public are noticing the intensity of forest fires seem to be greater and to have more devastating effects. Certainly there are many factors involved:

1.climate eg drought, very low humidity, hot winds etc.

2. ground fuel load is significant but notice

(a) closed canopy wet 'old growth' or rainforest is far more fire resistant than a dry sclerophyl eucalypt forest regardless of leaf litter, and dry sclerophyl is being spread like a curse by the woodchipping sector. The wet fire resistant nature of old closed canopy is not our invention: An excellent scientifically referenced booklet called 'Old Growth Forests and their High Conservation Values' was published in Feb 1995 by Taylor, Woof, Thomson with relevant diagrams. We submit this process has contributed disastrously to fire intensity over the last 35 years and could literally take centuries to reverse, short of concreting the lot. No one wants that.

(b) that the high ground vegetation grazing pressure by ground dwelling native herbivores has been greatly reduced as a result of feral predators killing these critters off.

3. arson: A recent Institute of Criminology report late 2004 found up to 9 out of 10 fires are started by arsonists and in NSW the government have taken action to address this. This was the concern of green groups from at least 1993 but largely ignored by authorities until now.

4. escaped logging fires. These are less arson, as negligent land practices. Evidence of these are listed further below.

In the area of fire management the politics of the Carr NSW government are on track compared with so many other land use policy areas ...if one ignores the underlying landscape transforming impact of woodchipping Carr has so far failled to ban: We submit that closed canopy forests have been systematically wiped out in Australia especially in the last 40 years, which has destroyed the natural water cycle and humidity in forest understorey and more generally.

In the environment movement we still hear, not so much in NSW, but from colleagues in Victoria and elsewhere cheap shots at greenies not pulling their weight in rural fire brigades etc. When we last investigated this point in 1994 during during the Black Friday bushfire crisis we learned that 20 or 30 places across regional NSW had greenies in their local brigade ... that rural people invariably pull together whatever their politics.

One fellow in the north east angrily commented he was the driver of the local fire truck and it was in his driveway. The letter I wrote rebutting such nasty cheap political shots was printed in virtually every local newspaper in NSW including letter of the week in The Land newspaper. People were in no mood for cheap smears during such a serious bushfire event. We have no reason to doubt that reality in 2005 and beyond.

Source documents can be found in the following links:

13 Dec 2006 ...Howard?s divisive politics: bushfire green baiting today, dog whistle white supremacism yesterday

April/May 2003...El Grande, Tasmania: fire vandalism by govt logger/regulator exposed by expert botanist

4/2/03... loggers cause fire in Tasmania says Wilderness Society

2/2/03...How the Regional Forest logging 'Agreeements' omitted bushfire effect on volumes

22/1/03... intensity: role of logging old, closed canopy forest over past 50 years

13/5/02...Clearfell logging is making the wet forests of the Otways drier and more fire prone

1/1/02...Koperberg dismisses burn-off, Sydney Morning Herald

1/1/2002... Fire reduction burn offs useless: Daily Telegraph

Jan/Feb 2000...Serious forest fires in the Otways are started by careless logging practices

patchy, rare fire occurrence in wet forests of Otways, Vic

1997....scientific refutation of the 'burn lots and burn often' simplistic approach allegedly used by pre European Aboriginal society

Return to ecology action index page here

Posted by editor at 2:58 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 9 February 2009 7:29 PM EADT

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