Fires, habitat destruction and policy failure of government
Reader Jim Elliot who runs 'Koombooyana' at Calliope says a failure to manage land properly has caused the recent bushfires.
This is his Letter to the Editor.
A range of issues in relation to the bushfires must be brought to the attention of government authorities.
I have heard a number of Government spokesmen trying to make us believe these bushfires were just a natural consequence of the recent dry weather, when in reality, their lack of proper management had created a ticking time bomb, just waiting for the right conditions to explode. Many of us with a bit of grey in our hair can refute Departmental statements that "the fires are a result of extreme, unheard of, unprecedented weather conditions' - but, maybe, bureaucrats did not notice previous bad weather in their air conditioned offices. To blame the weather for the disasters is like a terrorist blaming the match that lit the fuse.
We listened to details of the cool burns the Department carried out this year. Tell that to the poor creatures in Deepwater, Eungella, Kroombit Tops, Eurimbula and the other National Parks and government land devastated.
The stated purpose for which the Government purchased or assumed control of former grazing lands was to protect the environment and provide a safe habitat for native birds and animals.
Due to the failure of government authorities to properly manage their land, I doubt if anyone could have come up with a more effective way to totally destroy huge tracts of lands and almost all the living creatures within them.
Consequently, the "environmental activists” who instigated government control of these areas should now be seen as environmental vandals or environmental arsonists.
How many tens of thousands of koalas, pygmy gliders, possums, echidnas, paddymelons, snakes, lizards, goannas, and other native animals, and hundreds of thousands of wrens, finches and willy wagtails were incinerated as result of the actions, or inactions, of government departments? When the rains come and the areas start to regrow, (which will be a slow process because the fires were so hot) the kangaroos, wallabies and whiptails will come back, along with crows, wild dogs and other scavengers, but where will the breeding stock come from for koala, glider and other endangered or semi-endangered species? It will take many decades for this to happen, if ever.
Every senior management person in every government department should be made to walk through the burnt out areas and listen to the eerie quietness as a result of the destruction. If there was such a charge, they should collectively be charged with environmental vandalism at the very least. If you are found guilty of causing the death of just one of the endangered species, the penalties are very severe, so why should not those whose actions caused the deaths of thousands face similar penalties. Harsh treatment? Maybe, but not nearly as harsh as the treatment they handed out to the creatures they were supposed to protect.
We were told cattle, horses and other domestic animals had to be removed because of the damage they caused, but it is now obvious the overwhelming damage was caused by people in authority making decisions about matters over which they had little knowledge or practical experience.
The Government issued prosecutions for private persons clearing fire breaks which were "too wide” by departmental estimations, when the age old bush adage was a fire break in timbered country had to be 1.5 times the height of the tallest tree to be effective. Some fire fighting personnel indicated this may not even be enough in areas of high fuel load. We also heard reports where authorities refused permission for private people adjoining Government lands to carry out construction of fire breaks at their own expense.
It is obvious that it would have provided a much better out come if the lands had been left under the control of graziers, foresters and others who have the interest of the land at heart and are practical in the management of this land. If the Government cannot, or will not, adequately and properly manage the land under their control, why should they be allowed to retain custody of it?
The principal problem is not "cloven hoofed animals”, but two legged animals that wear business suits and sit in air conditioned offices far removed from the disasters that they have caused to happen.
I applaud all those who are actively working to resolve this problem to prevent future re-occurrences - and I totally condemn those government officials who are trying to "sweep the issues under the carpet”. They have told us of their comprehensive management plans for the national parks and forest reserves, but the trouble is that they think if they have a "plan” that somehow the work is done. I hope that this does not get bogged down by endless enquiries - we need action, not talk.
The Federal Government yesterday announced a Parliamentary Inquiry into the role of vegetation management in Queensland's devastating bushfires.
Agforce general president Georgie Somerset said a Parliamentary Inquiry was, by virtue of its rigour and powers to talk to a range of agencies and stakeholders, the only forum that would reveal the role of vegetation management in the catastrophe.
"We believe a Parliamentary Inquiry will offer a sufficiently robust and objective investigation that will enable sensible changes to vegetation management laws and processes and hopefully prevent these sorts of tragedies in the future,” Mrs Somerset said.
"An investigation into the management of conservation areas and State-controlled land, in particular fuel management, must form part of the terms of reference of this Inquiry.”