Collaboration leads to ‘cool burning’ success
Traditional Owners, firefighters, vegetation management officers and other stakeholders have come together to preserve culturally important traditions, habitat and threatened species in West Wimmera.
A partnership between Barengi Gadjin Land Council, Trust for Nature, CFA, Forest Fire Management Victoria, Greening Australia, Wimmera Catchment Management Authority, and Bank Australia, has resulted in a successful ‘cool burn’, which was led by the Wotjobaluk Nation at Minimay in July 2020.
Before the burns, Traditional Owners conducted a number of cultural heritage surveys on the 598-ha Bank Australia Conservation Reserve at Minimay, protected under a conservation covenant. The reserve is home to culturally significant trees and many threatened species, including 13 threatened animal species, and 11 threatened plant species. These surveys, which found a variety of important cultural features including multiple scar trees, and a women’s only area, were then used to inform the first of planned traditional burns in the area.
While fire agencies conduct planned burns it is to reduce risks across the landscape, Aboriginal fire practice or cool burning uses low fire intensity with minimal flame heights that heals county (right fire for county), removes harbour for introduced species and improves diversity of native flora and fauna.
“Although the areas treated so far are small there are early signs the burn has had a dramatic and positive impact on the land,” said Trust for Nature South West Area Manager Adam Blake. “The reduction of exotic biomass encourages the perennial natives to seed and recruit, improving and increasing habitat for threatened ground foraging bird species, such as the Diamond Firetail.”
Adam said the results of formal monitoring will inform future burns, which will likely be small, more frequent and conducted during winter when possible. As well as the ecological and cultural benefits, this reintroduction of fire to the landscape will also reduce the risk and consequence of damaging unplanned bushfires.
The Trust is committed to working with Traditional Owners to conserve, restore and protect natural environments, wildlife and cultural heritage values. Adam said this project on the Bank Australia Conservation Reserve is a great example of working together to learn from one another.
“Engagement with Traditional Owners is critical in private land conservation because of the skills and knowledge they bring” Adam said. “It’s great that through the use of fire we can support Traditional Owners to get back on country and be involved in land management so it goes full circle and continues. Private land also supports culturally important areas and grassy woodlands that are less prevalent in the public estate so this presents a starting point for a similar activities in privately protected areas going forward, improving cultural and ecological values. ”
For more information about projects in the Wimmera region contact our Area Manager Adam Blake on (03) 8631 5888 or firstname.lastname@example.org