Firing up for controlled burns

Julie Lightfoot
June 8, 2018

Aboriginal rangers from Cooktown to Cardwell are firing up for controlled burns.

Rangers and other traditional owners are taking fire management courses so they can work with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and rural fire fighters to stop wildfires and manage controlled burn programs.

Controlled burns will be happening in unallocated state forest on the edge of Cardwell and around Shiptons Flat south of Cooktown – for both hazard reduction and ecological benefits.

Rangers and traditional owners from Girringun Aboriginal Corporation in Cardwell, Mamu in Innisfail, Jabalbina in the Daintree and surrounding region and Abriculture in the Cairns area have been part of the program, which is happening with support from Terrain NRM through the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.

Terrain NRM’s Jacqui Richards said the burns were intentionally ‘cool’ rather than ‘hot’ to leave a mosaic of vegetation in the area. She said burns both reduced wildfire risks and improved conditions in areas such as mahogany glider habitat around Cardwell or coastal open forests north of the Daintree.

“Some areas are burnt, removing dead plant material and making way for new shoots to emerge, while other areas remain largely untouched, leaving shelter and food for wildlife,’’ she said.

“In mahogany glider habitat they stop the habitat thickening to the point that they can’t glide and their food sources are threatened. Saplings are scorched without affecting the canopy of mature trees.”

Girringun Ranger Chris Muriata said traditional owners in his area began taking the lead role in controlled burns last year after a similar training program, and now new rangers had the opportunity to step up. The group had led five controlled burns on the edge of Cardwell over the past month under the guidance of trainers.

Jabalbina Aboriginal Corporation’s Shipton Flats Ranger in Charge Shane Walker said rangers were hosting and taking on fire training for the first time in his region.

“Three of our rangers can now be on the frontline for burns with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service or the Queensland Rural Fire Service,’’ he said.

“With theory and then hand-on work outdoors we’ll all be more confident burning our country to keep it healthy.

“Hosting traditional owners from across the Wet Tropics was also a great way for us to see how connected we all are.”