Cool burning and rehab of Traditional Lands

CFA has been learning more about traditional burning practices and techniques used in traditional Aboriginal culture.

CFA and Trust for Nature combined forces to trial some of these techniques on a property in Gobur (near Yarck) in District 12, as part of a Grasslands Field Day on Thursday 14 May.

Over 30 people braved the cold and wet weather conditions to attend the day, representing a range of organisations including Brimbank, Mitchell and Hume Shire Councils, Trust for Nature, Landcare, and local CFA members from the Yarck Brigade and CFA’s Vegetation Management Team. 

 The day was all about learning, sharing and cool burning in the grassland environment.

CFA Vegetation Management Officer Phil Hawkey said the technique had lots of benefits.

“It could be used as a type of planned burning that is much less resource intensive and on a far more manageable scale for landowners,” Phil said. 

The group also learnt from Dr John Morgan, an expert on native grasslands in Victoria from Latrobe University who discussed the significant role that fire plays in grassland ecology. 

The dominant native grass that the group learnt about was Kangaroo Grass, a once prolific grass that had spread across the more fertile grounds of Australia. 

Take fire out of the equation and the grass will hang about for another 10 years or so and then it will struggle and then it may die.  But it will also die if the fire that is in the environment is too hot and too intense. 

With this newly learnt understanding of traditional burning techniques - in partnership with the Aboriginal community - CFA has the chance to play a significant part in what Aboriginal people call ‘caring for country’, using fire to rehabilitate the land and reduce fuel loads at the same time. 

CFA Biodiversity Advisor Justine Leahy said planned burns had been held in other parts of the state on Trust for Nature properties over the past year, but this burn was of particular interest.

“This was a chance to learn more about the intricacies of applying fire to a native grassland ecosystem. An ecosystem that has been pushed out of the landscape and which now occupies a fraction of the area it once did,” Justine said.

“And why is that, and how can fire help to bring it back and manage it for the future?

“The evidence is clear, that if you don’t burn for over a decade you risk losing the species of grass altogether, but if you burn too hot and with too much intensity you also risk wiping it out. 

“And if the fire moves too slowly and is too hot in the one spot for too long, it will also affect plant viability.”

The burn that was conducted at the Field Day was almost the burn that didn’t happen after a particularly wet morning and a high rate of humidity.

However the grassland did carry fire through the tops of the grass which opened up the spaces between the tussocks of Kangaroo Grass - a key objective of the burn. 

Trust for Nature will evaluate the effectiveness of the burn.

CFA Planned Burning Coordinator Roger Strickland said the distinct feeling was that the day made a good start on dispelling the folk lore that ‘all burning is bad’, that in fact it could do some good.

“And that it can be done safely! Some of those present thought that it actually inspired some serious interest in ‘an experimental approach’ - as Dr John Morgan put it,” Roger said.

CFA will be participating in more grassland burning field work to help rehabilitate traditional lands and teach local landowners the skills needed to carry out these small low intensity burns alone. 

Rehabilitation of traditional lands using fire is a key action in CFA’s Koori Inclusion Action Plan.


Author: CFA News