Girringun Fires Up for Controlled Burns


26 AUGUST 2020

They’re female, they’re indigenous and they’re fired-up about caring for country.

An all-women crew of Girringun rangers is leading by example in the Wet Tropics, conducting controlled burns and encouraging teenage girls to step into less-traditional cultural roles.

Girringun Ranger, Cindy-Lou Togo and four other female indigenous rangers were the fire power behind a recent cool burn at Cardwell to reduce fuel loads and improve conditions for endangered mahogany gliders.

“These are mosaic burns that don’t touch the canopy and don’t burn everything,’’ Ms Togo said. “When you return you can see grass trees that are still green, and opportunities for new growth.”

Terrain NRM’s Jacqui Diggins said the cool burn, on seven hectares of unallocated state land, was the second this year in a series of controlled burns for ecological and hazard reduction reasons in an area from the Hull River near Tully to Crystal Creek north of Townsville. They are part of a larger project, funded by the Australian Government, to improve woodlands in mahogany glider country.

The project also supports Girringun Aboriginal Rangers to take a larger role in caring for country through land management and, with Fireland Consultancy’s Justine Douglas as mentor, it provides an opportunity for more female rangers to step into leadership roles.

Ms Togo has been a Girringun Ranger for 10 years, and has loved seeing the number of women increase in the group.

“I always liked being outdoors and I thought this would be something different, when I applied for the role,’’ she said. “Now I have a chainsaw licence, a drone licence, a Certificate III in Conservation and Land Management, a coxswain ticket and more. All these tickets I never imagined I’d have…

“We visit schools and correctional centres to show there’s a pathway. We’re learning from our elders on the land, learning from others and passing those learnings on to the younger generation.

“For this burn, Evelyn Ivey was the IC and she did a good job stepping up into that role.”

Mrs Diggins said cool burns had an important role to play in improving habitat for the endangered mahogany glider.

“When woodlands thicken, it affects their ability to glide and reduces available food sources,’’ she said. “Establishing appropriate fire regimes in mahogany glider habitat is key to reducing rainforest encroachment and sclerophyll thickening. Long term, this improves the condition of their habitat and allows each area to reach maximum occupancy of mahogany gliders.”

The ‘Tackling Woodland Threats’ project also includes tree-planting, weed control, research into the best ways to monitor mahogany gliders and work to protect broad-leafed tea tree ecological communities and ant plants. The project is supported by Terrain NRM through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program. The indigenous fire management program is co-funded through the Queensland Government’s Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy.

About Mahogany Gliders:

  • Mahogany gliders are listed as endangered.
  • They live in woodlands between the Hull River near Tully and Crystal Creek north of Townsville.
  • These gliders are elusive and are usually only seen at night.
  • Less than half the original mahogany glider habitat remains in North Queensland, and it is badly fragmented.
  • With only five known core sub-populations of mahogany gliders, protecting the remaining habitat and establishing wildlife corridors is essential for them to reproduce and have food sources.


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