Once many of these fires got out of control, the agencies switched to ‘back’ burning ahead of the fire front, exacerbating the problem. This in turn emboldened local landowners to burn their properties (as was the case with the 30,000 hectares burnt at Ebor, NSW).
In NSW, since the fires, the Kalang River catchment in the shire of Bellingen has become one of the last strongholds for koala and other endangered ‘apex’ species (species which help maintain ecological integrity). There were plans to log the catchment, which were resisted by local residents. Despite this, there is always pressure to burn the catchment to protect the town.
But if we kill apex species, we convert ecosystems (not to mention undermine the quality of the municipal water supply). A good example is the destruction of bison in North America.
The tallgrass prairie, its primary habitat—which once covered millions of acres—is now reduced to a few fragments. Returning the bison, it has been shown, significantly aids regeneration.
In the case of the Kalang, we need to protect these forests from fire, not burn them, and we should do that by:
- not back burning
- allowing natural ecosystems to recover
- using water, not fire
- employing targeted human intervention (manual, not mechanical, responses).