Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Fire of Holiday Places

The recent fires on the Victorian coast burnt much wildlife. It demonstrates again that humans always think it won't happen to them, again.

The pictures tell the story of the fire coming into the yards of houses and the fire increasing in strength height and ferocity as the house is burnt. The trees stand stalwart, and are also burnt. But were they alone there without houses, which are after all just fire fuel, the fire would not have been as intense. Though they will probably now be cut down because it will be proclaimed, they are dead

The way the houses were set out seems to be in a line along the contour of the hill, and the houses that were not touched mostly away, out of that line, placed further back or just a bit more out of the way. The flames would have lapped each house, where these were built close together, or the wind sent the flames along the ground to the next house in line, where they would have increase in height and burnt many koalas.

Sadly it's never recorded that the worst fire hazard are houses. They are full of, and quite often built from combustible material. It can only be a subject of wonder what was lying round the houses that should have been cleaned up before summer but not being done so only added to the ease of travelling the line the fire took.

Only time will tell if the local government will make it a requirement to rebuild houses along that shoreline with steel frames and fire retardant cladding or if they will be happy not to do so again. If the latter, probably allowing another holiday resort fire to come through and burn almost every house as it did 32 years ago.

Wildlife in areas where house are built close together have very little reasonable chance of survival. A fire becomes particularly powerful where houses are close together.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Knowing Life Isn't Fair Doesn't Help...

There was a story today, of what was apparently an American Bulldog, who chased a wombat into a burrow and was trapped and people spent tens of thousands of dollars and a great deal of time to dig him/her out. I assume there was some truth in this?

The action sounds commendable, but it's very much looked at in a lopsided way. The wombat, who is indigenous to this country, and when in large numbers kept the forest floor excavated and aerated in such a way as to speed the decomposition of leaf and bark litter and reduced forest fires by so doing, was chased by a pampered pet. Not because it was in any way doing anything wrong, but was just there.

The dog went in where it had no place being. A child being chased by an adult should be able to get to their home and once through the front door be safe? Maybe not, if this story is anything to go by.

The dog gets rescued, dug out of the burrow, but in the process the wombats home is virtually destroyed. How can that be right? Why are we humans like this?

The yacht that has it's keel ripped off when it hits a whale has all the attention paid to the multi-million dollar yacht, replaceable, and the crew. No one considers the whale, whose only place of residence, the sea. Which is being used as a sports ground by a creature that has all the areas of the planet to play in? How badly was it hurt, and were the sharks already on the blood trail, even before the crew was rescued?

Our priorities are definitely skew whiff.

I made much the same mistake many years ago, and I feel shame about it still. Having gone to visit an old woman, we allowed our two Kelpies out of the car and they explored the woman's yard. We had no idea they had found, and were tormenting a snake till one of them was bitten and yelped. I called them off.

Before the dog fell over and we knew she was in trouble. The old woman asked me to kill the snake. I asked what reason there was for this, because the snake would go away on its own and it was the dogs who were the trouble makers. They attacked the snake defending itself against two adversaries, not the other way round. But she was adamant and I felt sorry for her irrational fear and to my shame killed the snake.

We raced the dog to the vet and the all up costs were over $1,000.oo to save her life. Yet she and her mate were the tormentors turned attackers and what they got they deserved. But I killed the snake? I must have been too young or still too stupid to do something like that. The dogs are not a snakes food item, because it wasn't a constrictor and they were at fault anyway.

Lessons to be learned here. But we see this sort of thing every day. The victim getting the blame for being hurt.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Bare Nosed Wombats Not Protected All Over Victoria........

It beggars belief, but the bare nosed wombats, before white settlement called the "common" wombats are no longer such or protected all over Victoria. Endless entreaties to do so and the reasons they should be protected are not endorsed or possibly understood by the Victoria Government or their environmental arm.

So many parishes where there is no protection for wombats

So letters to the DELWP have not produced any reason why the protection of the bare nosed wombats in some parishes is in force, but not in others? It appears a very hodge podge legislation, and no explanation forthcoming?

There is a paper: REVIEW: Is the loss of Australian digging mammals contributing to a deterioration in ecosystem function? Mammal Review ISSN 0305-1838 That clearly shows how important digging mammals and by their actions, probably reptiles and insects, are to the continued fertility level as it is, and increase if we allow enough of these little diggers to survive.

You don't need to be a university graduate to know that wombats of all kinds and digging animals have been part of the shaping of our landscape. The landscape most of us enjoy when we leave the suburbs and cities and attempt to salve our souls and rescue our sanity. But it seems to be forgotten that they have a role to play still.

Farming of every kind needs so much expensive input, that farmers are screaming about lower profits yields and production of every kind. The consumer is supposed to pay for these increases in costs that could be avoided. Hard pans are a result of shallow ploughing and the Yeoman deep ripping is no substitute for the wombat and other digging and earth disturbing animals that come at little if any real cost.

It's well known that many property owners kill wombats because they really can't see beyond the hole in the ground, to all the benefits it bestows to their little fiefdoms and our world.

From the paper above:

Digging mammals therefore create a range of disturbances in the form of nose pokes, scratchings, shallow to deep digs, long bulldozing tracts and complex subterranean burrows (Eldridge & Mensinga 2007). They manipulate the substrate and create a variety of disturbances that affect resource availability, contributing to land, soil and water quality (Martin 2003). In this review, we investigate how the loss of Australian
[end quote]

It's beyond the grasp of the Victorian government to see the value of bare nosed wombats, but one hopes at sometime in the future the penny will drop. Yeah, that's likely to happen.

During the time that Gavin Jennings had control of the environment and Climate Change portfolio, there was to be a review of the status of the Bare Nosed Wombat [aka the Common Wombat]. But it was never implemented. One wonders why this was? It was such an excellent opportunity to highlight the importance of these little diggers and others that helped to spread soil over leaf and bark litter in the forest and reduce the occasion and intensity of forest fires.

But there was an overstated consideration for farmers and landholders upset when a couple of wombats came onto their property. The damage that wombats were supposed to have caused was also overstated and laced with hyperbole.

So we are currently in this situation and one could assume that there will not be a review in the near future. No point in mentioning that the non lethal methods of excluding any animal is supposed to be the first considered. It's just too easy to reach for a firearm.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Ban Fuel Reduction Burns

Be Constructive Rather Than Destructive

Fuel reduction burn philosophy is flawed in so many ways that it's impossible to name them all.

This method of attempting fire control destroys the values that make Australia what it is and for what it's known. One of these is the natural landscape, beauty and the way it has been crafted by all the elements of the natural world. Fire being one of these.

Fire, as has been pointed out in just about every paper ever written about its danger, is a part of Australia just like the wildlife which we love, or most of us love and which is part of our heritage and identity. It's not rational to expect to live without fire in Australia, and it's irrational to believe that by lighting fires we are in some way protecting ourselves from them. It's just plain crazy to think that lighting fires in the forest, far from population centres will give us either, protection or safety, from fires in the areas where we live.

So we have to think about the area where we actually live and adjacent to it if we want to be destroyers or creators. The former is negativity at it's worse and that's fuel reduction burning. Torch everything that will burn. There is no guarantee if, or even when a fire might get close to a population centre or an individual dwelling. We would have to light the fire and burn everything each spring and hope after the fuel reduction or elimination fire, that growth through the rest of spring and summer will be limited. That during early summer, grass will not go brown and tinder dry, or the trees drop more leaves and bark and nothing that could be described as fire fuel will be blown in by the wind. That's not rational or clever.

To understand and respect fire is good. But people have an irrational fear of fire, because they are indoctrinated by society that the government will look after and keep them safe and that's never going to happen. This foolishness, and dependence on it that government loves. Keeps the population tractable and stops individuals from going out and doing their own thing, looking after themselves to some degree.

To put up a fire break of fire retardant plants and instead of using water to put out fire is rational and constructive. Then using the water to keep a verge green to prevent fire from entering certain areas is sensible. If the money used to put out fires and do fuel reduction burning should be spent, because government or other agencies which to encourage employment. Then it can be deployed on employment for people to keep the fire verges and buffers both green and clear of debris that might allow fires to take hold during the summer months. Though in actuality this should be left to each individual householder where they are capable and a percentage of the water used billed to the government or reimbursed by the government.

Green fire breaks all year round are the way to ensure fires never reach the population centres or individual properties of residents. There are tree species of various kinds that are well adapted to the protection of properties from fires and few have been utilised for this purpose. Tagasaste is one, but many tree species that can be made into fire retardant hedgerows exist.

Tagasaste has many benefits as well as the attribute of protecting against fire. Some of these are nitrogen fixing, hard coated seed that cracks open ready to take advantage of moisture even after their parents are destroyed by it. Fodder for stock if pruned or cut back. etc., etc.. Tagasaste is just one of the many trees that are natures buffer against fire.

Others can be formed to be a more effective fire retardant. Hedgerows of coppiced oaks to ensure they grow only to a medium height and remain sappy, filled with moisture to retard fire. They will probably be killed by what they a protecting property and people from should a very hot fire attack them, but they can be replanted. Experimentation would enhance the result.

More About Fire Retardant Hedgerows