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Burning lessons for conservation
A partnership between CFA and Trust for Nature is providing brigades with opportunities to hone their controlled burn skills while conserving endangered flora and fauna.
Now in their second year, the autumn burns have focused on a quarter of the 10,000 hectares of the Patho Plains owned by Trust for Nature. This land extends from south of Echuca to south of Swan Hill and down to Wedderburn. The rich soil is naturally productive for grazing and cropping so there’s little native grassland left.
CFA’s Biodiversity Advisor Justine Leahy helped initiate the partnership.
“Each burn will be part of a five-year rotation cycle based on ecological requirements,” said Justine. “Without caring for the quality of the grassland through grazing and burning, threatened flora and fauna that relies on it will decline and be lost.”
Threatened flora includes the Red Swainson-pea and the Slender Darling-pea, while fauna includes the Plains-wanderer which nests on the ground, and the Hooded Scaly-foot.
“It was estimated that Plains-wanderer numbers had declined by 94 per cent since the 2011 floods,” continued Justine, “but we hope it will return within two to three years when the habitat structure of the burnt grasslands will be ideal. They should breed up fairly quickly after that.”
In 2014, brigades from as far afield as Ferntree Gully, Seville, Bayswater and Hillcrest gained hands-on experience in grassland fire alongside local members. The 2015 burns close to Kinypanial conducted by four brigades covered 150 hectares in one day.
The plan for autumn 2016 is two to three days of burning, aiming for 350 to 500 hectares.
While volunteers close to the burn area will be first in line for the burning opportunity, other interested brigades statewide should approach their group officer and discuss participation.
“We will continue to encourage brigades from other areas to participate,” said Justine. “This is an ideal opportunity for brigades training and mentoring new members and we urge them to consider applying.”
Thanks to Owen Gooding for photos