Girringun Rangers Take Lead Role in Fire Management

Monica Haynes
June 19, 2017

Terrain NRM supported Girringun Aboriginal Rangers to successfully complete two controlled hazard reduction and ecological burns in the Cardwell region.

Girringun rangers have been involved in a number of previous burns, but this was their first time acting as lead organisation. The burns were an important result of the Australian Government's National Landcare Programme investment, with a key aim to improve the habitat for endangered Mahogany Gliders. Funding from the Queensland Government Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) supported Girringun to undertake the burn.

Jacqui Richards is Terrain NRM’s Community Partnership Officer for the Herbert region. Ms Richards said there had been no fire management activities undertaken on the sites for close to 10 years, and there were large amounts of fuel on the ground.

“Tropical Cyclone Yasi has also gone through the area in that time, which increases the risk of destructive hot burns due to excess fuel. DNRM were primarily concerned with hazard reduction but also recognise the cultural and environmental values, as well as habitat values this land provides for the mahogany glider and cassowary.”

Girringun’s Incident Controller Chris Muriata said it was a great opportunity to build on previous experience and continue taking lead roles in fire management going forward.

“We’re here on Girramay country which is my traditional land, and we’re really happy that we’ve taken a leading role for these burns. We accomplished what we set out to do; a nice cool burn in the time frame we wanted. Hopefully it’s the start of many more,” said Mr Muriata.

Terrain supported Girringun through the development of a burn plan safe method statement. The statement must be put up to the local fire warden for permit consideration. Queensland Parks & Wildlife and Queensland Fire & Emergency Services also reviewed the plan.

“Prior to lighting any burn we go through a thorough planning process. A successful burn needs a good understanding of the site and the issues before you even think about igniting. We visit the burn blocks several times to assess them, monitor the vegetation and different regional ecosystems, and develop the plan accordingly. For example, a melaleuca swamp at one of a burn site was deliberately burned around because of the fire sensitive species in there,” said Ms Richards.

The cool burn left mosaic pockets of vegetation, which means some areas have burned, and others remain largely untouched. Saplings that cause habitat thickening, particularly acacias and emergent rainforest trees, were scorched to the ideal three-metre height level whilst the canopy remained completely untouched.

This is a key action for improving the endangered Mahogany Glider’s habitat. Woody thickening reduces the animal’s ability to glide, and threatens necessary structural components like hollows and the food sources required by the glider, making the habitat unviable.

Girringun rangers will conduct post-burn vegetation monitoring later this year.