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Burned Area Emergency Response Reports

Black Saturday

The Burned Area Emergency Response Reports were developed shortly after the Black Saturday Bushfires. 60 scientists and specialists flew to Australia to help government agencies analyse and document the best government response to fire affected forests, to mitigate the impacts of fire controls and to help re-establish shattered ecological communities.

The reports were all but ignored by government. The reports cost Victorian tax payers millions of dollars and paved a safe path to prevent water quality contamination, species extinction and fragmentation of the landscape. The reports acknowledged that whilst a small area could be safely salvage logged, the overall management of the forests should be for the areas to be linked, species to be supported and for water supplies to be protected. But the area's are being logged at a rate barely fathomable compared to the past. In the past 18 months, more logging has taken place between Kinglake to Marysville than anywhere else in Victoria. Th BAER team recommended that the government 'must reduce logging volumes to reflect the reduction in habitat and timber resource'. Mr Brumby, Mt Jennings and Mr Helper have increased it.

Salvage logging has now logged more than ten times the amount stipulated in these reports. Water catchments are being smashed by logging, state forests that could provide green refuges for endangered animals like our faunal emblem; the leadbeaters possum are experiencing the heaviest logging assault since WII post Black Saturday.  The Central Highlands regions are being clearfelled faster than they can be monitored or surveyed.

These reports appear to have been withheld from the Royal Commission despite their relevance to the ongoing fuel reduction burning issues. The BAER Faunal Assessment Recommendation states:

5. Review of fuels management and fire ecology plans should be conducted and available data should be analyzed by appropriate resource personnel to determine if fire return intervals are too small. Steps should be taken to ensure that fire return intervals mimic historic fire regimes in individual EVCs as closely as possible while still providing for public safety. An increased frequency of fire within many of the EVCs in the fire area can lead to type conversion to an earlier seral ecological stage. This could have significant negative consequences for a host of wildlife species, rare flora communities, timber resources, and public safety.

A blanket approach to fuel reduction burns across a landscape as diverse as the habitats across the Central Highlands region will not take into account the complicated fire regimes that occur there. In short, each unique habitat type has a unique fire regime that has evolved over time. Analysis of available data, careful review of published literature, and collaboration between resource professionals should be used to guide fuel reduction burns and fire management planning. A review of any planned fuel reduction burns for 2009 within the fire affected area should be undertaken.

This did not appear in the final reports, conveniently edited by government Departments, today, many species face extinction due to the cover-up of the most important ecological reports to come out of the Black Saturday event.

The DSE claim they have created their own version - as you can see, it is weak on policy, filled with ambit claims and places little or no accountability for government to fulfill tasks. 

We have no reservations in thanking the government for their enormous effort in helping communities get back on track, we do, however, want the truth to be known that until Mr Brumby and Mr Baillieu value the ecosystems that provide us with life in this state, their leadership of this state is questionable. Covering up reports in order to allow broadscale logging of endangered species and priority water catchments does not make a leader, nor does it elevate Australia in anyway from our neighbouring 'forestry- corrupt' countries we proclaim we are so superior to.

Sarah Rees

BAER - Soils Specialists Report

This Report from the US- Australia BAER team analyses the soil quality after Black Saturday. 

BAER Kilmore South Final Report

This is the FINAL cumulative report for the Kilmore South. 

This summary of a government report prepared after February 7, Black Saturday Fires, reveals that the state government pro-actively ignored the advice provided by the BAER team for the survival of fire affected endangered species in favour of logging.  The fires of Black Saturday changed the lives of everyone and everything that lived in the Central Highlands of Victoria except the logging industry. VicForest have posted a creative profit this financial year, endangered species however will court extinction with little hope for return.

This review of the Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) report reveals that the response by Government may have committed at least 3 key species to an extinction trajectory and risked Melbourne’s current and future drinking water. 

Background:

There were 60 scientists in the BAER team - they arrived in Victoria for a series of Rapid Assessments over 35 days in the hardest hit area’s of Black Saturday’s forests.  Each team was made up of a variety of specialists such as soil scientists, hydrologists, geologists, biologists, geographic information system specialists, archeologist, botanist, silviculturist, research engineer, and civil engineer. The BAER teams are very experienced specialists that are highly effective in conducting rapid assessments and analyses.

 Some of their initial environmental findings included; 

420,000 square kilometres of forest and farms burned.

2,600 kilometres of fire breaks were dozed

820 kilometres of rivers, streams were burned and  affected by the fires

According to a presentation by Ewen Waller;  ‘extensive use of the BAER team approach would take place’

The BAER report was developed in conjunction with the State of Victoria Department of Sustainability and Environment, Vic Forests, Parks Victoria, Vic Roads, Department of Primary Industry, Country Fire Authority (CFA), State Emergency Services (SES), Melbourne Water, Goulburn-Murray CMA, Goulburn-Broken CMA, Heritage Victoria, New South Wales State Forest, and the United States Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team.  

The report urged conservation action on species at risk, warned against salvage logging in catchment areas and threatened species habitat and stated that no more than 236 hectares of fire affected forest should be salvage logged (Page 64)- the Victorian government ordered 10 times the amount to be cut across habitat imperative to the survival of the same species BAER listed as threatened.

BAER logging overlay

 In addition to concerns regarding the gross loss of habitat quality for many species due to fire, the temporal and spatial arrangement of the remaining habitat needed to be considered in future recovery, so salvage, green timber harvesting and fire pre-suppression activities must be enacted with great caution, warned the report.

Central Highlands TRP Amendment 2010 Fire Severity Mapping 2009 - low res

One of the major issues of concern due to the fire is the loss of habitat connectivity which will have negative affects on many species of fauna. An action to link green and low intensity burned forests was reccomended by the BAER team, but to no avail - these area's are and have been logged since Black Saturday.

This BAER report stated that no more than 236 hectares of forest should be logged. To date, 2000 hectres of salvage logging in burned forests took place from Kinglake to Marysville. Additionally, Green logging never stopped despite public claims by  VicForests that they had. Key habitat for the Leadbeaters Possum, Powerful and Sooty Owl, Barred Galaxias and other listed threatened species has now been logged. 

The new Timber release Plan has been released with even more logging in sites containing threatened species. During the  public consultation process, groups and individuals submitting on the TRP’s amendments called for important environmental audits to be provided to the public in order to make adequate assessments on the status of the health of our ecosystems and whether logging could take place sustainably. These cries were ignored by the government and logging was approved. No record of the BAER reports exists for the public despite the cost to tax payers and legitimate role the reports play in landscape management and planning for logging sustainability.

The population sustainability of the IUCN red listed, critically endangered Barred Galaxias and Leadbeaters Possum is now in question in terms of it capacity to naturally survive.  Whilst nestboxes have been used as a short term solution for challenged possum populations, the long term viability of these boxes is expensive and unstable. The nestboxes are not resistant to fire, are often infested by the European honeybee and fall off the tree’s on average of every 6 months (Lindenmayer 2009) 

Removing the Maquarie Perch and Barred Galaxias fish to ‘save’ in refrigeration units before they can be re-introduced is not sustainable. To log the rivers and then hope to re-introduce the fish is costly and unsustainable.

The 2008 State of the Forests Report, published AFTER Black Saturday listed data deficiency for nearly two thirds of the report and further decline to 23 forest dependant species with 43 new species being added to the threatened list - this DID NOT consider the effects of the fires. We will not have any idea about the affects of Black saturday on threatened species now until 2013. Other than the BAER work.

There are major costs to Victorian tax payers for the DSE to artificially support and monitor species suffering because of logging decisions.  The monitoring, whilst important to learn population and distribution is merely reaffirming, in report after report, that these species require multi aged, intact, area’s of Ash forest. The same resource VicForests sell for woodchip, the same forest badly disturbed by Black Saturday.

The salvage logging was hurried through before an assessment for it’s safety could be prepared. Subsidies for the logging can be traced back to the treasurer (at the time VicForests’ boss) - John Lenders, who approved the salvage operation before BAER even had a chance to complete their very expensive report. There were 165 log trucks and men brought into the forests from as far as Eden, in addition to the permanent crews, to cut as much as possible, as soon as possible - 24/7. No regard for species survival. And we, as fire communities, we assured it was all about 'local employment'.

The BAER report recommended 'that resource volumes reflect the reduction in resource for commercial purpose AND Habitat' - to date a further 116 coupes have been awarded to VicForests, with 65 featuring in the Central Forest Management Area - the forests of Marysville, Toolangi and Kinglake.

In 2009/2010, 2/3rds of all of Victoria’s total sawlog and pulp log yield was cut in Central forest management area. This means, in addition to the damage by the fires, more than 2000 hectares of forest has been cut back to zero in age class and with coupes as large as 120 ha each, made untenable for the survival of hollow dependant species. 

BAER logging overlay

 The cover-up of these essential reports should prompt a parliamentary inquiry into the management of VicForests and the DSE. Which ministers ordered these reports to be dismissed, why and at what cost to our native species.

The key question is; How can a major ecological report on the worst fires in living memory, that has committed the entire population of Leadbeaters Possum (Vic's faunal emblem) into near extinction, be simply 'sat on' or ignored? 60 highly paid scientists, 12 government agencies and a report that cost millions has been ignored to allow for the broad scale logging of forests that provide several million people with drinking water, habitat for our most endangered forested species and stand as the richest forested carbon banks on earth. We asked for this work, we were told it didn't exist so we could not include it in our timber submissions, now we are told it's irrelevant becuse it was written by Americans and now we keep funding VicForests to cut our precious forests into a debt we foot.

What will it take to change your vote this year? 

Next time a politician says that logging in foreign countries is far worse than logging here because it's ilegal and they are killing endangered species - take a long, hard look at the legality of our logging.

We currently have 12 breaches under official regulatory investigation with many more on the way. 

At the writing of this summary, our offices are recording 12 log trucks per hour - 1 truck of 30 tonnes every 5 minutes being transported to Japan - Nippon. 

Sarah Rees

Fauna South Assessment Report

Logging Old Growth - LBP habitat

This report was generated by 60 scientists flown in from the USA to help Victoria manage the worst ecological disaster in living memory. MyEnvironment Inc. were leaked a number of the contributing reports to the main BAER reports. This one discusses the range of threats to the the threatened fauna post fires. This report highlights that logging allocations must be reviewed due to massive decreases in habitat resource (recc. 5) It has been ignored. TRP link below.

TRP - DSE/VicForests

Leading scientists have said that this will commit the Sooty Owl, Barred Galaxias and Leadbeaters Possum to extinction as early as 2030.

Logging in low-intensity burned forest Toolangi

Logging Threatened Species Habitat

These reports were never provided to the public despite their enormous costs. MyEnvironment Inc. requested this information be integrated into future forest management as part of the Timber ammendment 2010, our request was ignored as we were informed these reports did NOT exist. 

Flora South Assessment report -BAER

Weed - Royston/Torbrek

This report was generated by 60 scientists flown in from the USA to help Victoria manage the worst ecological disaster in living memory. MyEnvironment Inc. were leaked a number of the contributing reports to the main BAER reports. This one discusses the range of impacts on rainforests, especially by dozer lines and firebreaks, the increased threat of Myrtle Wilt due to damage from dozers.

The report recommends 'wash downs' of any machinery operating in the forests were disturbance has taken place to prevent Cinnamon Fungus and myrtle wild from spreading - We have not seen a logging operation undertake this action! Nor any evidence that this is taking place.

Spot spraying was recommended by BAER in ecologically sensitive area's. This looks like it has been ignored as DSE are using a broad spraying units causing spray drift in closed water catchments like the O'Shanassy. This action is killing surviving ferns and the epicormic shooting of fire damaged old-growth tree's. 

TRP - DSE/VicForests

Kilmore East Geology Report

Geology of Kilmore East

This report was generated by 60 scientists flown in from the USA to help Victoria manage the worst ecological disaster in living memory. MyEnvironment Inc. were leaked a number of the contributing reports to the main BAER reports. This one discusses the range of threats to the ecology of the landscape from soil disturbance and landslip based on burn severity. These reports were never provided to the public despite their enormous costs paid by the Victorian tax payer. MyEnvironment Inc. requested this information be integrated into future forest management, our request was ignored as we were informed these reports did NOT exist. 

EVC - South Flora - Final

Burning firebreaks in rainforest site of national significance

This report loosely discusses Hectares of Vegetation damaged by fires. There is a lack of data in this report.