close
close

Bushfire response branded ‘excessive’ after 1000 burns planned across Aussie state

There’s “nothing normal” about a confronting map showing hundreds of planned burns scheduled across an Australian state, conservationists have argued.

On Thursday, Victoria’s Department of Environment (DEECA) had scheduled 1000 burns for the next three years, including over 120 planned for the next 10 days.

The department-run Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMV) told Yahoo News planned burns “play a critical role” in reducing the size, intensity and impact of future bushfires. But critics say the scale of the planned burns is misguided and could be doing more harm than good.

The Victorian National Parks Association has labeled the current program as “excessive”. Investigator Jordan Crook told Yahoo News a more targeted approach is needed because broad-acre fires destroy habitat and kill wildlife.

“Fires in native grasslands in the southwest and on roadsides are incredibly important, but operations in forests and woodland areas are reducing biodiversity, and they could be increasing fire severity,” Crook said.

“The area they plan to burn is amazing and so it has a large impact on people’s health. “It’s becoming more contentious and we’re just not seeing enough foresight from Forest Fire Management Victoria.”

Related: Outrage as koalas found incinerated after government back-burn

Burns have been documented causing the collapse of ancient hollowed trees. Source: Lisa Roberts

Lisa Roberts from advocacy group Friends of Bats and Habitat Gippsland has witnessed ancient hollowed trees that provide critical habitat for species like endangered greater gliders collapse due to the intensity of the government’s burns.

“We see massive amounts of incredibly damaged forests. We return to the forests three to five years after the fires have been lit and you can’t walk through them, because this fire promoted vegetation is just a thicket,” she said.

“The forests where we do see the highest amount of diversity are those that haven’t been burned for a long time, but they’re the ones we’re seeing targeted.”

Excessive smoke caused by large burns can trigger respiratory complaints. Source: Lisa Roberts

The Black Summer bushfires sparked growing interest in Indigenous low intensity burns which are smaller and targeted. But on Tuesday, just six of the burns planned for the coming 10 days were being led by Traditional Owners.

During autumn there is an increased number of planned burns on private property and public land. FFMV maintains its approach is underpinned by scientific evidence and local knowledge.

During the process, FFMV removes trees and branches which it deems hazardous and turns them into firewood. However it claims to have ceased salvage logging and timber harvesting in what remains of Victoria’s native forests.

“Planned burning is conducted to avoid large scale campaign bushfires, which burn more intensely and for much longer periods causing far greater smoke impacts,” FFMV chief fires officer Chris Hardman said in a statement.

“Before all planned burns we prepare well in advance using fire behavior modeling and on-ground assessments to ensure conditions are suitable and safe.”

Love Australia’s weird and wonderful environment? Get our new newsletter showcasing the week’s best stories.