A large bushfire, which has burnt over one million hectares of land, is threatening the small town of Goongerah, where GECO is situated. The fire has also affected many other small towns and settlements in the area and people have been asked to leave if they are not defending their property. GECO is running on a skeleton crew who are preparing to defend the environment centre.
The fire, one of the largest ever seen in Victoria, has been used as an excuse by the logging industry to call for logging and burning in national parks. They claim that fires always start in national parks and due to lack of "management", the fires then spread to neighbouring state forest and private land. This spurious claim has been refuted, yet is gaining some currency in the media, who is looking for someone to blame for the massive fires that are running unchecked across eastern Australia. Fire is also being used in attempts to discredit the green movement, and GECO has been targeted in a PR campaign by local logging industry groups who claim that we are blockading fire fighting equipment. In fact, the opposite is true as many "greenies" have been out fighting the fires in the area.
What needs to be pointed out is that current logging practices are contributing to the fire risk as they are turning wet old growth forest into dry regenerating forest, which is more fire prone. Fire retardent rainforest, which in the past would have slowed fires down, have been impacted by logging. Use of fire in the regeneration process changes the nature of the forest. Repeated fuel reduction burns has little impact on fire prevention, and may in fact increase the spread of fire by drying out the forest and increasing the fuel load.
The impact of these fires on the logging resource has yet to be seen. Much of the North-East and Tambo Forest Management Areas (FMA's) have been burnt out and East Gippsland is next. However, we can be sure that the logging industry and their PR machine will be on the job, calling for salvage logging and logging in the reserve system before the flames have even died down.
A regeneration burn lit by the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) on the Errinundra Plateau jumped containment lines and was left to burn unattended. Activists in the area witnessed the fire burning across the road from a "thinnings" (AKA clearfelled) coupe where the fire was started. A large burning stump was left unattended. Had the weather conditions been worse, this could have been disasterous for the adjacent national park and state forest. You would think that after the worst fire season in history this year, the DSE would have had enough of fires. Yet they continue to delight in setting the area ablaze through autumn, a season still deceptively dry and with fire bans only recently lifted.