Collaborative delivery between Firesticks and Hotspots
Friday, 10th February 2017
Located at the headwaters of the Sara River catchment, the Mt Mitchell area is extreme bushfire risk with high biodiversity values and cultural significance. The Wattleridge Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) is south/southeast of Mt Mitchell within the Banbai Aboriginal Nation.
The first of the workshops focussed on fire ecology and property planning and the second provided hands-on experience observing and participating in a demonstration burn. The workshops attracted a mix of participants with 28 Mt Mitchell residents attending. Fire management plans were developed for 15 properties, covering an area of 2,455 hectares, of which 1,613 hectares were native vegetation.
Field trips during the workshops allowed landowners to learn about the many threatened species known from Mt Mitchell including the endemic black grevillea (Grevillea scortechinii ssp. sarmentosa) and warra broad-leaved sallee (Eucalyptus camphora ssp. relicta) as well as how to manage fire to ensure the survival of threatened fauna species such as the powerful owl (Ninox strenua), glossy black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami) and the New England tree frog (Litoria subglandulosa).
Lesley and Tremane Patterson (Banbai Rangers) with PhD candidate Michelle McKemey shared the Fire and Seasons Calendar developed for Wattleridge IPA and surrounding landscapes. The Fire Seasons Calendar draws on native plant flowering/fruiting times and fauna activity as indicators of when to introduce fire into the landscape, and has been prepared using Banbai language for indicator species and fire management tools (www.ala.org.au/blogs-news/banbai-nation-community-season-and-fire-calendars/).
The information shared by the Banbai Rangers highlighted the need to 'know your country' and ability to 'read the bush' before burning. Part of the research being undertaken by Michelle McKemey involved monitoring plant and animal response post fire. The black grevillea and the echidna were chosen by the Banbai Rangers as focus species for the monitoring.
During the second workshop, landholders gained hands-on experience attempting to light the burn, learnt about firefighting appliances and observed different lighting techniques. This gave volunteers and Banbai Rangers the chance to train in firefighting and hazard reduction burning. Most importantly, the day enabled volunteers and neighbours from the Mt Mitchell area to work together on the same burn and as a model for future joint exercises on private, national parks, state forest and Wattleridge IPA lands.
Landowners welcomed the chance to learn how to reduce fire risk while improving bushland health. The workshop created a space for landholders to meet their neighbours and a chance to talk with government agency representatives and brigade volunteers.
Follow-up opportunities for landholders include attending a cultural event at the Wattleridge IPA, attending a proposed demonstration burn with the Mt Mitchell brigade, and gaining further assistance with pre-incident property planning.