Government needs to scrap 5% burn target

La Trobe ecologists have called on the Victorian government to scrap its current approach to mitigating bushfire risk in favour of a far more beneficial alternative.

In a submission to the Inspector General for Emergency Management (IGEM) review of performance targets for bushfire fuel management on public land, the team concluded the current approach to planned burning was not the most effective way of reducing risk.

Head of Life Sciences, Professor Mike Clarke, said the government needed to discontinue the current approach of subjecting 5 per cent of public land to planned burning. Instead, his team has suggested a new approach to fuel reduction based on reducing risk to human life, property and ecological values.

"We believe this approach is more likely to meet the state's primary objectives for bushfire management on public land," Professor Clarke said.

"When the next really big fire happens, people won't be asking the government 'did you meet the 5 per cent target?' They will ask 'Did you do the burning in key areas that really reduced risk to life and property?'

"As ecologists we are also concerned that achieving the 5 per cent target will result in a greatly increased frequency and extent of fire in some regions that will be detrimental to the survival of some iconic wildlife."

Professor Clarke welcomes moves by policy makers away from a broad statewide hectare target. Instead, he has suggested a risk-based approach that determines where to burn on the basis of where the greatest reduction of risk to life and property can be achieved, while minimizing the degree to which ecological values are compromised.

"Our research, published in leading international journals, shows that vital habitat features like large old tree with hollows take at least 40 years to even begin to develop in the Mallee," Professor Clarke said.

"Broad scale burning to achieve a 5 per cent statewide target will reduce the availability of these key habitat features and place the survival of some species at risk."

To find out more, read the full submission to the IGEM review of performance targets for bushfire fuel management on public land.

The authors of the submission were Professor Mike Clarke, Dr Steve Leonard, Professor Andrew Bennett, Dr Angie Haslem, Dr Simon Watson, Ms Jemima Connell, Dr Sarah Avitabile and Dr Merilyn Grey.

Media Contact:

Tim Mitchell, Director Media and Communications, 0437 457 780

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