We need a review of Prescribed Burning practices in Western Australia

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A 'scorched earth' assault in Western Australia! Year after year. And by our state government. It is often gut-wrenching for those of us who see the aftermath!

Prescribed burning in our forests and bush land is carried out by the WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (and local authorities) as their high-budget method to limit wildfire impact. Yearly, over an exceptionally large area of the state's natural environment. What is left afterwards is often horrendous!

In the South West alone, DBCA fire management policy schedules every year the burning of 2000 square kilometres of our unique forest and woodlands (along with wetlands and other habitats). We are concerned prescribed burning is having irreversible and detrimental effects on threatened species and the health and future survival of our most beloved natural areas as we know them.

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Heart-breaking observations by Western Australian environmental groups and individuals, and detailed research by many scientists from a range of fields, has led to the conclusion that this practice and its ecological impacts needs to be urgently reviewed.

Recent prescribed burns in many areas have been large and intensely hot. A common method of lighting by aerial bombing large areas leaves few escape routes for animals big or small, little preservation of tree canopy to support plant or animal recovery, and scorched earth.

Our beautiful South West is of particular concern. We all know this region for its many wondrous natural treasures: extensive forests, woodlands, coastal heaths, wetlands, peat swamps and those on granite outcrops and mountain ranges. It is a world-renowned draw-card for environmental recreation and tourism.

And, beyond its ecological richness, it is vital to First Nations connection to land, and to industries like honey production and nearby viticulture (vulnerable to smoke taint).

This corner of the continent contains many plants and animals seen nowhere else. It is listed as one of the world’s 35 Global Biodiversity Hotspots because of its large numbers of unique species and the serious threats to biodiversity. Within this hotspot, we have areas of outstanding natural variation, such as the Stirling Range and the Fitzgerald River National Parks, with a staggering variety of local species found in only small pockets here and nowhere else.

The health of most of these systems is already under intense pressure from the warming of the climate, the impact of human activities, disease, and introduced invaders. Poorly designed prescribed burning programs exacerbate the stress they are under

And one of the problematic drivers of prescribed burning in our magnificent south west forest - stands of Jarrah, Marri, Karri, Tuart and Tingle - is an annual departmental target to burn on average 200,000 hectares (2000 square kilometres) per year. This area target is of specific concern as large areas of our much-loved National Parks and Reserves are bearing the brunt of efforts to meet this current policy (they can be done at lowest cost and lower risk to people and property, even if not necessarily reducing fire risk). This devastation happens year after year.

So, the long term health of native vegetation, bird life habitats, wildlife and the earth it all relies on, as well as the nature estate we will leave for our children, is threatened by broad-scale prescribed burns that are commonly poorly justified to meet government targets rather than better outcomes for biodiversity or bush fire risk reduction.

We urgently need better fire management policy to conserve what we have left of our unique environment. These should incorporate the best science, honest evaluation of the impacts and effectiveness of past and current programs, and strategic planning that values and prioritises our natural environment alongside effectively mitigating bush fire risk to people and property.

Scientists and environment groups around WA are sending statements requesting a review of fire management policy. We need you to support them!

Sign our petition to call for our Premier and his Government and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions to undertake an urgent review of the application of prescribed burning as part of their fire management policy.

Please note that while any donations made, which all go to change.org, will result in them sending out the petition to more people, this is not really necessarily because we can successfully circulate the petition link ourselves (send it on to your network).