This pilot project developed a program of property-level fire management planning along with a Planned Burning Manual for private landholders, and involved 10 properties in training and planning for undertaking burns. Case study fact sheets were also developed, and the successful pilot has resulted in additional funding being leveraged from the State Government to roll the project out to landholder groups elsewhere in Tasmania.
The project was delivered by consultants Macquarie Franklin, with technical input from Dr Jon Marsden-Smedley. Working with two farmer groups and a multi-agency technical committee including Tasmanian Fire Service, Forestry Tasmania, TFGA, Parks and DPIPWE, landholders have been supported through the process from planning and permit requirements to undertaking a burn.
THE BIG PICTURE
Suppression of wildfires and a reduction in the use of fire across all land tenures in Australia is leading to increases in fuel hazard levels. Consequently, wildfires can be higher in intensity and frequency and burn over a wide range of conditions, with devastating impacts on lives and assets. Climate change projections indicate this situation will get worse in the future. Recent catastrophic wildfires in Tasmania and elsewhere have placed a spotlight on fire management and increased pressure on public and private land managers to manage fuel hazards.
Adverse ecological impacts can result from large wildfires in fragmented landscapes, but also from a reduction in fire frequency in fire-dependent ecosystems.
WHY THIS ACTIVITY IS IMPORTANT
Although many landholders in Tasmania do undertake planned burning, some lack the skills and knowledge to plan and implement appropriate burning; others are deterred by liability concerns and ‘red tape’. The aim of the pilot project was to develop resources and procedures to facilitate appropriate planned burning being undertaken by private landholders, and to test the program with suitable landholders in the NRM North region. The project brought together farmers, public agencies and technical experts to identify barriers and develop and test resources to assist landholders.
Crucially the project approached planned burning from the point of view of both fuel reduction and ecological outcomes. The suppression of wildfires over many decades means that some natural areas are lacking the mosaic of mature and regenerating vegetation that makes for healthy ecosystems and landscapes. Supporting private landholders to make informed decisions and implement planned burning can therefore have benefits for both biodiversity and community and asset protection.
WHAT WE HAVE ACHIEVED
• Undertook a survey of private landholders to identify existing perceptions, skills and barriers in relation to the use of fire for ecological and fuel reduction outcomes
• Held two landholder workshops covering fire behaviour and lighting techniques, safety and administrative considerations for planned burning
• Developed property-level Fire Management Plans for 10 landholders from the Northern Midlands and Waterhouse areas and completed 4 planned burns on participating properties – although further burns were planned, seasonal conditions prevented some of them from being undertaken.
• Produced a Planned Burning Manual to guide landholders who wish to undertake planned burning, as well as ‘Case Study’ fact sheets on the planned burns undertaken. The Planned Burning Manual was launched at an event attended by over 80 people, and has been widely distributed through landholder and agency networks.
• The pilot project has leveraged additional resources from the State Government to complete a further 60 Fire Management Plans across Tasmania (project managed by Macquarie Franklin).
• Based on survey responses, at least half of landholders would be more likely to undertake planned burning if they had more support. Concern about liability from escaped planned burns was the main barrier to undertaking planned burning.
• While fuel reduction was the primary reason that most surveyed landholders implement burns, many people also see fire as an important land management tool to assist with weed management and/or ecological regeneration activities.
• Even landholders who have been using planned burning for generations were keen to learn more about fire behaviour and risk management, and appreciated the opportunity to discuss their activities with experts and agency staff.
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