Timber harvesting role in bushfires report welcomed

Friday 30 Jul 2021

A new paper reviewing the science behind claims that forest management and timber harvesting worsened the 2019/20 bushfires has been welcomed by the professional association representing some 1,000 scientific and professional forest land managers in Australia.

The 2019/20 fire season will be etched in Australia’s memory, given the extent and severity of the fires and the huge effort of forest management personnel and agencies to limit the impacts to life and property. Unfortunately, in the months immediately after the fire, opportunistic claims were made that the fires were ‘made worse’ by forest management and timber harvesting.

Institute of Foresters of Australia and Australian Forest Growers (IFA/AFG) President Bob Gordon said the paper ‘No evidence that timber harvesting increased the scale or severity of the 2019/20 bushfires in south-eastern Australia’ published in the Australian Forestry journal found that there was very little evidence to support these claims, and called for a more mature discussion of how we manage fire and our forests, and the complex interacting problems forest managers will face in the future.

“A single factor, like timber harvesting, cannot by itself give rise to fires of the devastating scale we saw in 2019/20, and suggesting this misleads the public by oversimplifying the complex task of forest and fire management. Right now, our forests need real and scientific solutions, not simplistic ones,” Mr Gordon said.

“To protect human life and biodiversity – today, and into the future – forest and fire management must be viewed and managed at a landscape scale, over long timeframes, using expert knowledge of forests and their processes. In order to achieve this, and overcome Australia’s wicked bushfire problem, we need all forest stakeholders to work together to manage our forests in a planned, strategic and considered manner, guided by comprehensive evidence”.

“The IFA/AFG supports and promotes the use of rigorous science as a basis for forest management decisions and is calling for Australia’s forests to be managed through active and adaptive land management across all land tenures, using long-term thinking and a range of management techniques informed by the latest science. These approaches need to be taken to ensure future fires are not repeats of the devastating 2019-20 fire season.

“Through these strategies, we can conserve forests for a broader range of values, and proactively manage current pressures and increasing threats to our environment from climate change and the interrelated impacts of bushfires and invasive species.

“This paper has been authored by six eminent scientists. I congratulate the authors, led by Prof Rodney Keenan, and look forward to seeing their work reflected in future strategic fire-management decisions.”

Link to paper

Source: IFA/AFG

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