Judy Edwards

Judy Edwards

Former Minister for the Environment; Science

    Minister endorses CALM fire management review

    4/07/2005 12:00 AM

    Environment Minister Judy Edwards has endorsed a review of the Department of Conservation and Land Management’s fire management in the South-West.

    Dr Edwards sought the review by the Environmental Protection Authority as part of a staged process to look at CALM’s fire management responsibilities and objectives. Other parts of the process included an internal CALM review, a scientific and community forum, and a revised department fire management policy.

    “CALM has a range of obligations in respect to fire management on lands for which it is responsible,” the Minister said.

    “This particularly applies to community safety, conserving and protecting biodiversity values, protecting built assets and maintaining the health of natural ecosystems.

    “Fire management is perhaps the single most controversial aspect of the department’s operations because of a wide range of views held by a broad spectrum of the community on the role of fire in ecosystems, particularly prescribed burning.

    “The Government acknowledges that although CALM is not a ‘fire service’ as such, it is a major player in protecting communities throughout the South-West from the impacts of potentially destructive bushfires.

    “Part of the protection mechanisms is reducing the build up of fuel loads by prescribed burning throughout the forested areas.”

    Dr Edwards said in adopting the EPA’s advice, and reviewing submissions from stakeholders on the recommendations, there were four areas that would be further explored. These were:
    • current approaches to fire risk reduction and risk management in new and existing developments in South-West communities, particularly in the rural-urban areas;
    • fire management regimes, including prescribed burning, in the tingle and red flowering gum areas around Walpole;
    • the establishment of scientific reference areas in fire sensitive forest ecosystems; and
    • a more formal public involvement process as part of the development of CALM’s three-year indicative prescribed burning plans.
    The Minister said the EPA’s review had been welcomed in most submissions as a worthwhile and timely contribution towards an extremely critical issue.

    “The review is an important contribution to a continuous improvement and adaptive management approach by CALM in terms of the management of fire and biodiversity,” she said.

    Dr Edwards said the State Government had significantly increased funding for CALM’s fire management operations. This included an additional $23.4million over four years beginning in 2003-04 for improved fire management across the State and $2.75million a year to employ an extra 40 staff in the South-West, who would be involved in fire management as well as nature conservation and parks and visitor services.

    “This additional funding has enabled CALM to get back on track with its prescribed burning program,” she said.

    “The department carried out prescribed burns on 190,000ha in the South-West in 2003-04 and about 200,000ha in 2004-05.”

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