State of the Environment Report title
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2004 Report



Bega Valley

Fire

Indicator description

Results for this indicator are also available for  

What the results tell us for Bega Valley

| Download map showing location of fires (431 kB pdf) |

Available data indicate that at least 14,300 hectares of land were burnt in Bega Valley Shire during the current reporting period (just over 3% of the shire), mostly from prescribed burns. Fires affected 15 fire sensitive vegetation communities in the shire; 20 hectares or more was burnt for eight of these communities.

The NSW Rural Fire Service considers there should be no prescribed fire in populations of 15 threatened plant and animal species that occur in the shire. High fire frequency is considered a threat to at least eight vulnerable or endangered animal species known to occur there, and inappropriate fire frequencies may put more threatened plant and animal species at risk. At least six of the 11 endangered ecological communities with occurrences in the shire are also at risk from fire or inappropriate fire regimes.

A bush fire risk management plan was prepared for the shire during the current reporting period to guide fire management strategies and measures there.

Occurrence of fires

Data provided by the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation and NSW Rural Fire Service indicate that at least 14,300 hectares of land in Bega Valley Shire were burnt during the 2000–01, 2001–02 and 2002–03 fire seasons, of which 3,700 hectares was wildfire and the remainder prescribed burns (see Table 1). The main known cause of these fires was burning off, with escaped hazard reduction burns, weather and arson other known causes.

Rural Fire Service data indicates that about 10,000 hectares of land were reported to have been subject to hazard reduction burns in 2003–04. These burns are likely to include only those attended to by local Fire Brigades or those undertaken by private landholders. It is not clear whether the Rural Fire Service data is additional to or covered by the Department of Environment and Conservation figures.

Table 1. Area of fires occurring within Bega Valley Shire and number of vegetation communities affected, July 2000 to June 2004
Fire severityArea (ha)No. of communities
Fire very low severity10,590 47
Fire—severity unknown3,710 24

Source: see About the data

Impacts of fires on native species and communities

| General impacts of fires |

The impact of fires on native plant and animal species and ecological communities varies with factors such as fire type, intensity and frequency, season of occurrence, and scale and patchiness of the burn.

Wildfires and hazard reduction burns in Bega Valley Shire affected 24 and 47 vegetation communities (respectively) over the reporting period (see Table 1). The bushfire characteristics of major vegetation types in the shire are outlined in the shire's Bush Fire Risk Management Plan (BVSBFMC 2001, Section 2.2.3).

Impacts on fire sensitive species and communities

| General impacts of fires |

Fifteen fire-sensitive communities that occur in Bega Valley Shire were affected by fire during the reporting period, eight of which had 20 hectares or more impacted (see Table 2). The affected fire sensitive communities included five rainforest communities. The NSW Rural Fire Service (2003) recommends there should be no prescribed fire in rainforest vegetation. Rainforest, which generally occurs in the shire as small linear strips within sheltered gullies or on sheltered slopes at the top of the escarpment, and wet heath communities within the shire are considered particularly vulnerable to inappropriate fire regimes (Miles 2000).

Table 2. Fire sensitive communities impacted by fire within Bega Valley Shire, July 2000 to June 2004
Community typeArea burnt (ha)Fire severity
Bega Dry Grass Forest130Very low and unknown
Coastal Warm Temperate Rainforest100Very low and unknown
Dry Rainforest0.4Very low
Dune Dry Shrub Forest0.1Very low
Hinterland Warm Temperate Rainforest20Very low and unknown
Hinterland Wet Fern Forest1,820Very low and unknown
Lowland Swamp0.02Very low
Mountain Wet Fern Forest40Very low
Myanba Dry Scrub Forest10Very low
Sub-Alpine Bog0.6Very low
Southern Escarpment Cool/Warm Temperate Rainforest30Very low
Southern Coastal Hinterland Dry Gully Rainforest - Backhousia myrtifolia50Very low and unknown
Southern Escarpment Shrub/Fern/Herb Moist Forest - E. cypellocarpa / E. fastigata / E. obliqua10Very low
Sub-Alpine Bog0.5Very low
Tableland and Escarpment Wet Layered Shrub Forest - E. fastigata / Olearia argophylla / Dicksonia antarctica30Very low

Source: see About the data

Potential impacts on threatened species and communities

| General impacts of fires | Fire management for threatened species and communities |

The NSW Rural Fire Service (2003) recommends that there be no prescribed fire in populations of 15 threatened species (nine plants, four birds, one amphibian, one invertebrate) recorded in Bega Valley Shire.

High frequency fire is considered to be a threatening process for eight endangered or vulnerable animal species that occur in the shire (see Table 3). Other threatened plant and animal species present there may also be at risk if subject to fires at an inappropriate frequency.

Table 3. Threatened animal species at risk from high frequency fire, Bega Valley Shire
OrderCommon name Scientific name
MammalsLong-footed PotorooPotorous longipes
Long-nosed PotorooPotorous tridactylus
Southern Brown BandicootIsoodon obesulus obesulus
Spotted-tailed QuollDasyurus maculatus
Squirrel GliderPetaurus norfolcensis
BirdsEastern BristlebirdDasyornis brachypterus
Eastern Ground ParrotPezoporus wallicus wallicus
Glossy Black CockatooCalyptorhynchus lathami

Source: NSW Scientific Committee (2004b).

At least six of the 11 ecological communities listed as endangered within NSW or nationally with occurrences in the shire (see Ecological communities (Table 3)) are considered at particular risk from inappropriate fire regimes.

Urbanisation and associated fire management regimes, particularly high frequency fire, can also adversely affect the endangered community 'River-flat eucalypt forest on coastal floodplains of the NSW North Coast, Sydney Basin and South East Corner bioregions'.

Potential impacts on other species and communities

Significant vegetation communities within Bega Valley Shire that are not listed as threatened include northern riparian scrub, dune dry shrub forest and vegetation occurring on many of the shire's roadsides (Miles 2000; Miles and Roche 2004). Important remnants of native vegetation may also occur in travelling stock reserves, cemeteries and crown reserves. No information was located on the extent to which such communities in the shire may be threatened or have been affected by fire.

While heathland species in the shire are generally well adapted to fire, Miles (2000) noted that too-frequent fires could result in local extinction of some species.

Fire management

Laws and policies

The Rural Fires Act 1997 is the main state government law relating to fire management in NSW, although the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 also contain clauses relating to fire and fire management. For more information on these laws, see government laws and policies.

The NSW Rural Fire Service has developed several policy documents and guidelines relating to fire management, including the Bush Fire Environmental Assessment Code (RFS 2003) and Planning for Bushfire Protection (RFS and Planning NSW 2001). The former lists threatened species, threatened populations and endangered ecological communities to be addressed when undertaking hazard reduction burns, and specifies conditions relating to the use of fire and mechanical forms of hazard reduction for each species, population or community. The planning document outlines planning considerations to be taken into account for developments in bushfire prone areas.

Bega Valley Shire Bush Fire Management Committee

The Bega Valley Shire Bush Fire Management Committee developed a Bush Fire Risk Management Plan during the current reporting period (BVSBFMC 2001). This document maps bushfire risk across the shire (Section 3.4) and outlines strategies that land managers will undertake to manage identified bushfire risks. The plan addresses protection of natural and cultural values and protection of life and property, and also provides information relating to threatened species, populations, communities and critical habitat. It refers to approved Recovery Plans and the specific fire management requirements for each species or community.

Council and other land management agencies are required to develop their own programs for implementing the strategies outlined in this bushfire risk management plan. Under the plan, Bega Valley Shire Council has sole responsibility to communicate the plan's objectives and strategies to private land managers and to ensure the strategy is implemented in the shire.

Bega Valley Shire Council

Bega Valley Shire Council is responsible for the care, control and management of public reserves which it owns or which are vested in it as trustees under the Crown Lands Act 1987. These and other public lands owned or vested in council are referred to as Community Lands.

Council is required to prepare a plan of management for the community land for which it has responsibility. In revising these plans, council will review its fire management requirements. Council is also responsible for issuing its own hazard reduction certificates as part of its reserve bushfire hazard reduction program. This system is being worked through with Rural Fire Service. Work is progressing in the area of council reserve fire management (BVSBFMC 2001). Council currently spends approximately $45,000 per annum in slashing Asset Protection Zones around the shire's major coastal settlements (Bermagui, Tathra, Merimbula, Tura Beach and Eden).

Other agencies

The South Coast Rural Lands Protection Board, whose administrative area takes in Bega Valley Shire, has a management plan for travelling stock routes. Actions within the South Coast Travelling Stock Reserve Management Plan relating to fire management include (Lennon 2003):

For a list of fire management plans prepared by the Department of Environment and Conservation, see Ecological communities.

About the data

See: Fire management in threatened ecological communities and threatened species for details of all components of the Bush Fire Environmental Assessment Code (RFS 2003).

Fire severity mapping, prescribed burn and wildfire polygon data were provided by DEC South Branch. This data shows only those fires which occurred on or passed over DEC-managed conservation reserves. No data were available from Forests NSW regarding control burns undertaken by this department, nor wildfire data for fires which occurred on their estate. The Rural Fire Service provided polygon data for Section 44 fires; these are generally fires which cross more than one land tenure and are usually major wildfires. Additional fire history data were provided by Eurobodalla Rural Fire Service which covered part of Bega Valley Shire. The Rural Fire Service Head Office provided summary tabular data for fires within the shire; is not clear whether they have been covered by the spatial data or are additional to it.

Fire severity categories used in this report were derived from the fire severity mapping undertaken by DEC for the January 2003 fires. Prescribed burns were attributed a very low fire severity and other wildfires were attributed with severity unknown. These severity classes were chosen as prescribed burns are generally undertaken so as to minimise the long-term impact on native vegetation, whereas wildfires may be of varying severities. Where areas were subjected to control burns, and then burnt again by a subsequent wildfire during the reporting period, these areas are shown as fire severity unknown.

Forest vegetation communities referred to in this report were derived from the Eden Comprehensive Regional Assessment (CRA) forest ecosystem mapping. This mapping was undertaken in 1998. All calculations are based on the extant forest ecosystem layers. The extant forest ecosystem layers reflect the extent of these vegetation communities at the time of mapping. No data were available regarding extant vegetation at 30 June 2004.

The fire sensitive communities listed in Table 2 were identified through extrapolation from information about fire sensitive vegetation contained in England et al. (2004), Walsh and McDougall (2004), AMOG Consulting and ECOgis (2005) and Miles (2000), and from DEC preliminary and final determinations for endangered ecological communities and threatening processes in NSW. All rainforest communities were considered fire sensitive and categorised as such. The area burnt for each fire sensitive community in the table was calculated from DEC South Branch spatial data on fires and from CRA forest ecosystem mapping spatial data (see above).

Bega Valley Council provided information about its fire management activities.

References

AMOG Consulting and ECOGis (2005) ACT Bushfire Summaries: Effects of Varying Fire Regimes on Hydrological Processes, Report No. 5, report prepared for ACT Department of Urban Services, Fire Management Unit, Lyneham.

Bega Valley Shire Bush Fire Management Committee (2001) Bush Fire Risk Management Plan, Bega Valley Shire Council, Bega.

BVSBFMC—see Bega Valley Shire Bush Fire Management Committee

England, J, Doherty, M, Keith, H and Raison, J (2004) Ecological Effects of Burning in ACT Vegetation Communities, client report for Fire Management Unit, Department of Urban Services, ACT Government. CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products, Canberra.

Lennon, R (2003) South Coast Rural Lands Protection Board TSR/SWP Management Plan Document—Five Year Management Plan for 2002 to 2007, South Coast Rural Lands Protection Board.

Miles, J (2000) State of the Vegetation Report for the Bega Valley Shire, report prepared for the Bega Valley Shire Council and the Far South Coast Catchment Management Committee, Bega.

Miles, J and Roche, G (2004) Guide to the management of roadside sites with significant native vegetation, Bega Valley Shire Council, Bega.

NSW NPWS—see NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service

NSW Rural Fire Service (2003) Bush Fire Environmental Assessment Code for Asset Protection and Strategic Fire Advantage Zones, NSW Rural Fire Service.

NSW Rural Fire Service and Planning NSW (2001) Planning for Bushfire Protection: a guide for Councils, planners, fire authorities, developers and home owners, Planning NSW, viewed 26 August 2005, http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/file_system/attachments/State/ Attachment_20050302_FC6A22B8.pdf.

NSW Scientific Committee (2004b) Ecological consequences of high frequency fires - key threatening process declaration, final determination, accessed 2 March 2006, http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/npws.nsf/Content/Ecological+ consequences+of+high+frequency+fires+key+threatening+process+declaration.

RFS—see NSW Rural Fire Service

Walsh, NG and McDougall, KL (2004) Progress in the recovery of the flora of treeless subalpine vegetation in Kosciuszko National Park after the 2003 fires, Cunninghamia 8(4): 439–452.