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To burn or not to burn - the big question

Landholders at Wiangaree meetingAn enthusiastic group of landowners met recently at Wiangaree Hall near Kyogle to support a plan to undertake prescribed control fire management on their properties in the lower Lynchs and Collins Creek area that surround the Helmet Range.

The meeting was organised by North Coast Local Land Services - with funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme and the NSW Government’s Catchment Action NSW – in partnership with the NSW Nature Conservation Council - Firesticks project.  Supporting the event were representatives from Rural Fire Service, Office of Environment & Heritage, local Landcare and consultant fire ecologists and practitioners.

Ron Randall, the CEO of the Gugin Gudduba Local Aboriginal Land Council, who are one of the landowners on the Helmet Range said, ‘It was very heartening to be involved in the event and to share our cultural heritage knowledge and connection to the land on the Helmet.

“We are currently doing on-ground work and cultural fire planning on our land with support under a partnership project with North Coast Local Land Services, Enterprise and Training Company and the Firesticks project.”  Lelani Schut, a young member of the Land Council, spoke of her connection to the land, her commitment to managing the land, and the cultural importance of the Helmet to Indigenous community of the area.

Landowners were very supportive of more fire management and control burning on their properties to both help control wildfires and to improve the health of the native forest on the Helmet Range.

John Watkins, a long-term resident of Collins Creek said he and his neighbours are keen to get behind a regional fire plan to manage fire in a strategic, safe and effective manner on properties surrounding the Helmet.  “I’d be happy to support the various government organisations and work together to undertake more frequent prescribed burning over the next few years.

“I’ve seen the forest degrade with lack of fire during my lifetime, we need fire back in the landscape to help control weeds, turn around forest dieback and support local wildlife that depend on fire.”

John Nagle, Senior Land Services Officer with North Coast Local Land Services who facilitated the day, was delighted to see the number of landowners who participated and how keen they were to share their knowledge of the different areas on the Helmet, the past fire history and express their support for a long-term fire management program.

“It was very rewarding to see such enthusiasm in the hall, hear first-hand from landowners and see initial planning unfolding on property and landscape base maps.

“The presentations from the fire ecologist and practitioners that outlined evidence that fire supports positive environment outcomes further underpinned landowner observations and experience,” John said.

Richard Brittingham from Firesticks said ‘It was fantastic to see a range of landholders coming together with a shared understanding of the need for good planning and collaboration to improve opportunities for appropriate fire management across the broader landscape.

“In considering and exploring fire management beyond individual property boundaries, landholders are able to better understand and appreciate the positive and negative impacts of fire on a range of values including habitat for threatened species and areas of cultural significance.”

John concluded, “This shared understanding and cooperative approach can assist communities to come together, reduce fear of litigation, learn from one another and be proactive in planning towards and implementing prescribed burns.”

For more information on the NCC Firesticks Project, Hotspots Program and Bushfire Program visit their website.

With additional planning and resourcing the Helmet Range Working Group, along with the local landowners, hope to commence prescribed burning in the cooler months next year if conditions are favourable to burn and begin to achieve a mosaic of fire managed zones on the Helmet over the next few years.

Media contact:

John Nagle, Senior Land Services Officer Phone 6623 3921

Photo captions:

Landholders were enthusiastic in discussing the options for controlled fire management