With the official arrival of summer yesterday and already at least one “horror” day a couple of months ago of 30 plus degrees with a howling northerly wind, my thoughts turned somewhat apprehensively towards the magnificent red gum forests that surround our towns of Barham and Koondrook. Bushfires are an inevitable part of life in Australia and yet how this threat is managed often leaves plenty to be desired (just ask the poor inhabitants of the Margaret River region of Western Australia who lost their homes last week courtesy of an out-of-control control burn).
In the last twelve months large areas of our local bush have been locked up under the banner of state forests and national parks. A move that put a smile on the faces of the enthusiastic environmental extremists of our nation while decimating our local economy that was previously reliant on the sustainable logging of the red gum forests. In past years when the inevitable lightning strike sparked a bushfire it was often our local timber workers in conjunction with the Rural Fire Service who answered the call to help with their equipment. Logging tracks were maintained, providing access and suitable equipment such as graders, excavators etc were on hand to help contain and extinguish the fires. Who will be on hand now, what equipment will be available and will the bush tracks be maintained to an accessible standard?
On the 19th February 2009 a group of fellow massage therapists and I drove into the charred remains of Marysville, Victoria. As part of a team for the Australian Practitioner Emergency Response Network (APERN) we were called in to massage exhausted CFA workers, army personnel and the forensic police. Seeing the still smouldering aftermath of Black Saturday first hand was a sobering experience to put it mildly. Since then much time and public money has been spent by state and federal governments on trying to work out who is to blame for the Black Saturday fires and how to prevent a reoccurrence of that situation. Personally I am a bit of a fan of the “Keep It Short and Simple” or KISS principle and while I’m not suggesting logging and or cattle grazing would have prevented those fires, I am pretty sure it would have reduced their intensity.
While urban greenies and environmental scientists are busy explaining to us country folk how detrimental selective logging and cattle grazing is to our eucalypt forests these same forests are being wiped out by bushfires, along with anything else in the path of the fires. Perhaps my view is overly simplistic, but I cannot understand why well managed seasonal cattle grazing to reduce the fuel load in the forests and selective logging isn’t a better option? The red gums in our district are springing up like a crop of un-thinned mutant carrots thanks to the flooding of the last two years. How long before we have our own Black Saturday event and will the greenies come and save us?