The Environmental Protection Authority Fire Review Committee, which is reviewing the environmental impacts of fire on biodiversity and human health in the Rangelands Regions, and in particular the Kimberley Region, has released a Synopsis paper for public submissions.Release Date:
22 May 2006Details:
The Environmental Protection Authority Fire Review Committee, which is reviewing the environmental impacts of fire on biodiversity and human health in the Rangelands Regions, and in particular the Kimberley Region, has released a Synopsis paper for public submissions.
The Committee has held meetings and discussions in the Kimberley, Pilbara and Goldfields regions and taken submissions on an Issues paper released last year. The Synopsis summarises and expands upon the information received asking for further submissions based on a series of questions highlighted within the document.
Chairman of the EPA Review Committee, Dr Roy Green, said that fire is a natural environmental factor in many Western Australian ecosystems but altered fire regimes in the Kimberley, Pilbara and the Interior arid zone is a significant issue and is impacting on a range of environmental and other values.
"Most fires in the Kimberley and the Pilbara Regions are lit by people, accidentally, maliciously or deliberately for a range of purposes, with a smaller proportion caused by lightning although most of the wildfires in the Goldfields region are started this way," Dr Green said.
"There is evidence that the cessation of traditional Aboriginal burning over the last 50 years or so in the remote and poorly accessible interior has led to extensive areas of fuel build-up resulting in massive wildfires.
"This is of particular concern for the vast tracts of Unallocated Crown Land and nature conservation reserves in the region.
"There is a lack of definitive research documenting the extent of biodiversity values that are being lost.
"However, there is considerable evidence from members of the scientific and wider community that animal numbers are in severe decline in some regions, some fire sensitive plant communities are declining, complex ecosystems are becoming homogenised and landscapes impoverished.
"Issues such as soil and carbon loss, sedimentation in waterways and estuaries, feral animals and pests and overgrazing are compounding the problem.
"Also, the impacts of global warming in the Kimberley region are not clear but an ecosystem under severe stress is less able to withstand any future changes.
"Added to this is the threat to wildlife posed by the imminent impact of cane toads moving from the Northern Territory into the Kimberley region.
"Another issue is that almost half of the WA agricultural sources of greenhouse gas emissions come from savanna burning."
The Committee was advised that there were economic impacts of ineffective fire prevention and management as fighting fires takes up people's time and resources as well as destroying valuable pasture. Poor fire management is also a concern for the burgeoning tourist industry.
"While the reduction of fuel load through the use of prescribed fire is necessary to reduce the risk of large hot fires, a better understanding of its impacts on, and role in, vegetation management is important," Dr Green said.
"Further research into the role of fire in Australian ecosystems and the coordination and management of policies which seek to minimise the adverse impact of fire on biological diversity are supported."
The EPA's Kimberley and Inland Fire Review committee comprises Dr Roy Green, (Chairman) the former Deputy Chairman of the Environmental Protection Authority, Dr Andrea Hinwood, the current Deputy Chair of the Authority and Ms Joan Payne, Member of the Environmental Protection Authority.
Copies of the Synopsis are available at www.epa.wa.gov.au, by telephoning 6364 6510 or from public libraries at Newman, Port Hedland, Roebourne, Karratha, Derby, Broome, Halls Creek, Fitzroy Crossing, Kununurra, Kalgoorlie-Boulder and Coolgardie. Copies of the accompanying appendix are available on the website only.
The closing date for submissions is 11 August 2006.
Submissions should be addressed to:
EPA Service Unit
PO Box K822
PERTH WA 6842
or faxed to (08) 6364 6520 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Media contact: Dr Roy Green 0408 653 558
Within the Committee's Synopsis there are a number of questions that submitters are asked to respond to:
In your experience, have you observed any impacts of fire on flora and fauna in your area?
Do you have any actual evidence of a decline or increase in plant species, vegetation communities or birds and animals which could assist the EPA in this review?
Do you think smoke from bushfires is a health issue in your region?
If so, what measures do you think are needed to reduce exposure to bushfire smoke?
What is the best way for environmental protection to be incorporated into the fire management system?
Which agency or level of government do you think should be primarily responsible for the overall responsibility of fire management (from planning to prevention and suppression) in your region?
What do you think of the suggestions that an overarching body be established to coordinate fire management?
If a coordinating or overarching body was to be established, do you see it being done through legislation or through an advisory committee?
What do you think about the other suggestions, eg to have dedicated Fire Officers located in regions?
What other fire prevention, management and suppression arrangements do you favour?
Do you think Aboriginal customary burning should be recognised and permitted legally?
If so, should there be an advisory or supervisory body to monitor such burning?
Do you think planning for fire management is important?
If so, who should prepare such plans?
Should they be developed at a regional or local level, or a combination of both?
Who would coordinate and monitor implementation of the plans?
Should they be compulsory?
What should such plans include?
What additional information would be necessary to be able to undertake comprehensive fire management planning?
Should all land managers participate in fire management planning?
Do you think wildfires should be put out in the early stages if at all possible or left to burn, and why?
If an early response to extinguishing fires is adopted, what resources would be needed?
What fire regime do you support, with respect to frequency, intensity and size?
Do you think people who deliberately light fires should be prosecuted?
Are there other programmes for reducing the number of fires, eg training and education?
What fire prevention practices would be appropriate for your region?
What changes could be made to the effectiveness of aerial controlled burning?
Should aerial controlled burning be used in other Rangeland regions, apart from the Kimberley?
What fire regime do you consider is appropriate for the different regions which are being considered in this review?
Should there be more preventative burning in the early dry season?
If you agree, how should that be done?
Do you think on-ground Fire Teams similar to that organised through the Kimberley Regional Fire Management Project should be established?
If you agree, what role should they play and how should the teams be funded?
What do you think about the suggestion that the Emergency Services Levy be used to finance Fire Teams, if they were established?
Do you think there are adequate resources in your region for fire management?
If not, can you outline what resources you consider should be supplied?
How should these resources be allocated?
What do you think about the suggestion that CALM's equipment be used to suppress fire in the Kimberley region during the late dry season months?
Should mining companies and other industry provide more resources to help suppress fires?
What role do you think Aboriginal people should play in fire management?
Do special measures need to be put in place to protect cultural and heritage sites, such as rock art?
If so, what measures do you suggest would be most effective?
What areas of research are needed?
Which geographical regions do you consider require most research and why?
Should auditing and monitoring of the effectiveness of an agreed fire regime be carried out?
What indicators might provide useful measurements to determine if the correct fire regime is being achieved?
Do you think current communications for reporting and suppressing fires are adequate?
Should there be more consultation and information exchange with the community and between agencies and, if so, who should be consulted?
What form should communication about fire management take, is written material adequate or should there be more use of meetings, video, radio, TV and the Internet?
Do you think information sources such as Fire Fax and Fire Watch are useful?
Should there be more information similar to those?
If so, what information do you think should be prepared and distributed?Status: