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The Forum > Article Comments > Wilderness in Western Australia > Comments

Wilderness in Western Australia : Comments

By Bernie Masters, published 10/3/2010

The need to find the correct balance between economic and environmental imperatives is urgent.

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An interesting article. Wilderness is indeed a great concept, but I agree with you that the harsh reality of introduced threats (pest animals and plants) and unnatural fire regimes makes it problematic in practice.

I believe that in Australia it works best in wet places like south west Tasmania where fire is not such a factor, and where most of the common threats introduced to the mainland have yet to take hold, although this may change with the arrival of the fox and the decline of the Tassie Devil.

To the general community Wilderness = National Parks when as you point out there are differences in management (or lack of) approach.
Yet, it seems that the environmental groups campaigning for more NPs see this as a way of expanding the area of wilderness, and this may explain why most are not that supportive of the sort of state-of-the- art tourism developments that would be required to match their rhetoric about the economic benefits of new parks
Posted by MWPOYNTER, Thursday, 11 March 2010 7:02:32 AM
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The question of fire is important. It may well be true that the the terrestrial ecosystems of WA are the way they are because of the fire practices of indigenous people but nowadays to consider involving indigenous people in fire management is a very big ask indeed, especially in the south. But its a bigger issue than that. The Department of Conservation and Environment (DEC) have carriage of fire management in some significant tracts of land. To my knowledge they do not seek the input of indigenous people. As a fire fighter in a bush fire brigade I have seen the DEC "methods" at close quarters. In fact the very first wildfire I went to was the eye opener. We (not DEC?) are trained to protect human life, property and the environment. Here, at that first fire was DEC destroying the environment by allowing a raging inferno to burn without any need. The fuel on the ground had long gone as was the animal life and mature Jarrah trees were burning from the inside. That area is now re-growing after many years but the big trees and the habitats are gone. I got to learn of examples where bush fire brigades had blacked out areas of fire only to find DEC (then CALM) re-igniting.

One of the tenets of bush fire management is to reduce fuel load. This can be done carefully, in a mosiac pattern. Of course wildlife is affected and this cannot be avoided, but the blundering irresponsibility of DEC is not the way.

In remote areas, we have have pockets of success with the restoration of pastoral (aka degraded land) leases. But they are not immune from fire. But to rely on DEC to "manage" these areas might be a mistake from and environmental perspective, notwithstanding the very few indigenous people who might have a practical understanding of effective fire management.
Posted by renew, Monday, 15 March 2010 9:26:42 AM
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