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Calls for wildlife protection in planned burns

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The North Central Review
The North Central Review
The North Central Review is an independently owned newspaper publishing company based in Kilmore that is responsible for publishing two community newspapers each week, covering communities within the Mitchell Shire

Community group Kinglake Friends of the Forest, KFF, is carrying out the state’s most intensive study on the impact of planned burns on hollow bearing trees.

KFF surveyed four patches of forest that were scheduled to be burned on March 23 in Kinglake, covering 60 hectares of the 500 hectares to be burned.

In that portion of the area planned to be burned, the group detected 343 hollow bearing trees, 133 trees with basal scars, and patches of threatened plant species. There were also 21 detections of Greater Gliders; 13 on one night alone.

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Greater Gliders are listed as endangered on the Federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, with conservation advice for these gliders specifically calling for the protection of hollow bearing trees by measures that include raking around trees.

Forest Fire Management Victoria manager Tom Goldstraw informed KFF members that they only protect by rake hoeing trees that are on the edge of the burn to protect burn operators from the risk of these trees falling and did not protect any hollow bearing trees within the burn footprint.

KFF president Sue McKinnon said even if Gliders survived the planned burn, they could not survive without hollows.

“It was devastating when we lost the Gliders in the adjoining area that was logged in 2019, and now we face this all again – except the burn is 15 times the size of the logged area,” she said.

“FFMV is capable of protecting hollow bearing trees yet refuses to do so … how can FFMV claim to be abiding by the code unless it at least rakes around every hollow bearing tree?”

The Code of Practice for Bushfire Management on Public Land requires monitoring, evaluation, and reporting to maintain or improve the resilience of natural ecosystems and their ability to deliver services such as biodiversity, water, carbon storage, and forest products.

Ms McKinnon said few people in Kinglake believed the government when they said that burning hundreds of hectares of forest well away from the community was making them safe.

“What are we doing burning 500 hectares here anyway? It’s over six kilometres from the nearest town,” she said.

“Studies show that fuel treatments need to be close to houses in order to effectively mitigate the risk of loss.

“It’s time to modernise forest fire mitigation in Victoria and we can start now with Kinglake, before burning sets the disturbance clock back again.”

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