To date, over 10 million hectares have been affected by the 2019-20 summer bushfires that have been raging across our nation. Early reports suggest the severe and devastating impacts to our wildlife, wilderness areas, agricultural industry and communities will be felt for many years to come and that recovery will require a massive collaborative effort from a multitude of stakeholders.
People & Communities
BUSHFIRE PREPAREDNESS FOR SMALL LANDHOLDERS – DEPI VIC (Links to video)
PROTECT YOUR PET IN A DISASTER – checklist and free disaster pack (Agriculture Victoria)
RETURNING HOME AFTER A BUSHFIRE, HEALTH TIPS – Department of Health
KEEPING RAINWATER TANKS SAFE IN BUSHFIRE AFFECTED AREAS – Department of Health
MANAGING BUSHFIRE WASTE – EPA South Australia (for State-specific information, contact your local EPA)
RESTORING FENCING – CHOOSE WILDLIFE FRIENDLY FENCING
Livestock & Pasture
TIPS & TOOLS FOR FIRE RECOVERY – Meat & Livestock Australia
HORSES & LIVESTOCK IN EMERGENCIES – Agriculture Victoria
PLANNING FOR EMERGENCIES – A guide for animal holding establishments, Department of Primary Industries NSW
PREPARE YOUR HORSE FOR BUSHFIRE – NSW Rural Fire Service
ADVICE FOR HAYSTACK FIRES – Victorian Farmers Federation
CONTAINMENT FEEDING OF STOCK – Sheep Connect South Australia
FEEDING & WATERING LIVESTOCK AFTER A FIRE – DPIPWE (TAS)
ASSESSING BUSHFIRE BURNS IN LIVESTOCK – NSW Department of Primary Industries
ASSESSING CATTLE AFTER A BUSHFIRE – Agriculture Victoria
ASSESSING SHEEP AFTER A BUSHFIRE – Agriculture Victoria
Habitat, Biodiversity & Threatened Species
REVEGETATION GUIDE FOR FIRE-AFFECTED LANDSCAPES
Weed & Feral Animal Control
Soils, Erosion & Water
Estimates in excess of the loss of a billion animals have been reported widely in the media, and it is anticipated that many species may have become locally extinct, or pushed closer to extinction by these events. While the scale of the loss of species and habitat may not be fully known, and it is still to early to assess many areas, recovery programs will call on the support of NRM bodies, alongside multiple stakeholders.
Hundreds of thousands of hectares of productive forests and agricultural land has also been burnt, there are over 46,000 lost livestock, and many wine grape and horticulture crops in cool climates have been destroyed or tainted. More than 4,600 beehives have been destroyed with a further 23,000 suffering significant losses. The capacity of the agriculture sector to respond and recover from the bushfires has been compromised by ongoing drought conditions across Australia.
28 January – Science and Threatened Species Roundtable: Led by The Hon. Minister Sussan Ley,leading environmental and ecological scientists canvassed strategies on wildlife and habitat recovery in response to the summer’s bushfire crisis.
17 January – Bushfire Roundtable on Agriculture: Deputy Prime Minister the Hon Michael McCormack, Agriculture Minister Senator the Hon. Bridget McKenzie and Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management the Hon David Littleproud, met with agricultural industry leaders to discuss the impact of the bushfires and response and recovery. Industry representatives highlighted the upcoming key risks and shared ideas on assistance for the successful recovery of their industries in the fire-affected regions.
15 January – Bushfire Recovery Roundtables: Led by The Hon. Minister Sussan Ley, the first of two roundtables was held on January 15 for conservation groups and NGOs. On January 20, a second roundtable was held that bought together experts in land management, indigenous cultural burning, bush regeneration, marine ecosystems and farming from across Australia came together to discuss ecosystem restoration. NRM Regions were present at both sessions.
14 January – Emergency funding announced: Federal Government announces $100 million in emergency bushfire funding for farm, fish and forestry businesses in fire-affected regions, including the $75,000 grants, off-farm income exemptions and $15 million to fund 60 additional rural financial counsellors and support workers.
13 January – Bushfire recovery package for wildlife and their habitat: The Australian Government made an initial commitment of $50 million for emergency wildlife and habitat recovery. This is a down-payment to support immediate work to protect wildlife, and work with scientists, ecologists, communities and land managers to plan the longer-term protection and restoration effort. $25 million will be provided for an emergency intervention fund to help with the immediate survival of affected animals, plants and ecological communities and to control pests and weeds. A further $25 million will be made available to support wildlife rescue, our zoos, NRM groups, Greening Australia and Conservation Volunteers Australia with on-ground activities.
6 January – National Bushfire Recovery Agency announced The National Bushfire Recovery Agency has been announced to lead and coordinate a national response to rebuilding communities affected by bushfires across large parts of Australia. The agency will oversee a National Bushfire Recovery Fund which will support all recovery efforts across Australia over the next two years. An initial $2 billion has been allocated to this fund. National Bushfire Recovery Website.
BUSHFIRE NEWS – Scroll through the slider below for updates
Over 211,690 hectares with a perimeter of 496 km has burned on the island, taking with it stock, bushland and many of the islands wildlife.
- The ongoing survival of glossy black-cockatoo on Kangaroo Island is under threat. The extent of fire damage to black cockatoo habitat has been severe, with burned areas known to contain 59% of all known glossy black-cockatoo feeding habitat that was used by about 75% of the population, 74% of all known nests and 93 artificial nest boxes. Funding for new artificial nesting boxes and for planting more feeding trees will be crucial with the approach of the species’ breeding season.
- Southern brown bandicoots and dunnarts have been detected on small unburnt patches on KI. Unfortunately feral cats are also now hunting in these areas. Land for Wildlife workers are using all cat control techniques available, but the only way to protect these patches is through emergency feral cat exclusion fencing.
Western Ground Parrot
Severe fires in WA’s Cape Arid NP have reduced habitat for the critically endangered Western Ground Parrot to only 15,000 hectares. This bird’s preferred habitat has suffered three severe fires since 2015. The wild population of this species was sitting at a perilously low 150 individuals prior to the latest fire of December 20, which was caused by lightning, sparking blazes that swept through Cape Arid National Park and nearby Nuytsland Nature Reserve. It razed close to 40,000ha.
Feral Animal Control
Part of the recovery process will need to involve feral animals and invasive weeds. According to the Invasive Species Council, “Hard-hooved feral animals such as horses, deer and pigs will feast on the green shoots of native plants and seedlings, severely undermining the ability of the Australian bush to recover naturally. These large, heavy animals will take scarce feed from kangaroos, wallabies, bandicoots and wombats.”
Hard-hooved feral animals such as horses, deer and pigs will feast on the green shoots of native plants and seedlings, severely undermining the ability of the Australian bush to recover naturally. These large, heavy animals will take scarce feed from kangaroos, wallabies, bandicoots and wombats.
Rehydrating landscapes to prevent fire
The leaders of a project to rehydrate the landscape of a north Queensland cattle property say the results are proof that profits can flow from keeping more scarce rainfall on-farm. Since 2015, a project to rehydrate Worona Station with assistance from NRM group NQ Dry Tropics and the consultancy arm of the Mulloon Institute has rehabilitated the country. Profitability has increased, with the comparatively small 6,677-hectare northern operation now providing full-time stable employment for the owner and his son. For more information, head to https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2020-01-07/landscape-rehydration-better-than-dams-in-improving-production/11834394
ALA Environment Recovery Project
Over 46,000,000 acres has burnt so far in the 2019-2020 Australian bushfire season in eastern Australia, including South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Understanding how the environment recovers from this unprecedented fire season is an important scientific goal.
Atlas of Living Australia have launched a citizen scientist projects and are asking for observations from recently burnt areas. Providing it’s safe to do so, take a walk in areas of burnt bushland, and upload observations to the Environment Recovery Project. For more information, visit: https://inaturalist.ala.org.au/projects/environment-recovery-project-australian-bushfires-2019-2020
Research shows that when fire scorches a landscape, feral predators such as cats and foxes can pose a greater risk to animals’ survival than the fire itself.
Conservation scientists across the country are testing whether simple, cheap structures could help those small native animals stay safe in the aftermath of fire.
Bushfire Science Taskforce
The Environment, Energy and Science (EES) division in NSW has put together a Bushfire Science Taskforce to coordinate the data products, tools, information and expertise to support and assist in the rapid response assessment and long-term recovery to these fires. The current focus is to rapidly produce tools that will ensure information and data are shared as quickly as possible with decision makers, to support a rapid response to the fires. A list of datasets is available here and you can also access the updated webpage here.
In this article, West Gippsland CMA CEO Martin Fuller discusses the heightened importance of non-impacted bushfire landscapes in fire affected regions.
“We’ve been lucky in the West Gippsland region not to have experienced fire yet this season. Meaning our river systems, remnant vegetation and bush have never been so important,” says Fuller.
With airdrops of food for wildlife in eastern Victoria and southeastern NSW, the focus for the West Gippsland region remains on joining pockets of high-quality bush habitat through revegetation and fencing.
“This provides corridors for wildlife to move away from danger and through the landscape safely. These corridors provide food and much-needed habitat to well-known species like kangaroos and koalas but also lesser-known reptiles insects and other mammals.”