THE BACK STORY
The south-west of Australia is recognised as one of the most biodiverse systems on the planet. It has a variety of 6000 native plant species and over 100 endemic fauna species. This region is classified as one of the world's 36 Biodiversity Hotspots.
A Biodiversity Hotspot is an area which has lost more than 86% of its original habitat and considered to be under significant threat of extinction because of human activity.
In 2020, 37 environmental, flora and fauna and industry organisations, as well as 24 Western Australian professors delivered a Statement to the government to request a review of its current prescribed burning management policy. They also suggested that more research be conducted into effective ways to ensure our unique biodiversity is protected and preserved for future generations.
FaBWA is concerned that what remains of our conservation estate is under serious threat because:
Old trees that provide habitat for birds, marsupials and reptiles are disappearing.
Food sources for fauna are being reduced and entire ecosystems are being altered because of frequent 'prescribed' burns.
Peat systems that have taken thousands of years to form are disappearing in a single 'prescribed' burn.
Fragile granite outcrop communities and coastal heath are being decimated by planned fire.
Heavy machinery in our fragile ecosystems are destructive. Old trees are being pushed over to create fire breaks around intended burn areas. This practice is also spreading dieback.
Weeds are colonising once pristine bushland after 'prescribed' burns.
Feral animals like foxes, cats and pigs dominate after fire and are having a detrimental effect on native animals and their habitat.
THE GOVERNMENT'S ROLE
WA covers 253 million hectares, of which 29 million hectares are national parks, marine parks and other reserves managed by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.
DBCA is responsible for protecting and conserving the State's natural environment.
This department is also responsible for implementing prescribed burns.
DBCA's burning program is based on the presumption that they will significantly reduce the threat and severity of summer bushfires, minimising the risk to life, infrastructure and biodiversity by reducing the build-up of flammable vegetation and ground fuels.
The current annual 'prescribed' burn target for the south-west region is 200,000 hectares with 45% of the region managed at a fuel age of less than 6 years since the last burn.
In the 2020-2021 season the 'prescribed' fire program included 171,236 hectares of the south-west .
FaBWA monitors many of DBCA's burns in the SW and considers the current regime is having an irreversible and detrimental effect on the health of our precious ecosystems.
You can read more in the Wilderness Society WA Native Vegetation Report.
 Rich and Rare: Conservation of Threatened Species. Auditor General Audit 2017
 DBCA Annual report 2020-2021
FaBWA's 8 KEY MESSAGES
1. Frequent, large scale, planned burning is a threat to human life and property and can increase the amount of available flammable material.
2. Some animals and plants (honey possums and ringtail possums, oak-leaved banksia) need long unburnt habitats to survive.
3. Different ecosystems have differing responses to fire and total fire exclusion is the best approach for fire sensitive ecosystems (tingle forest, peats, granite outcrops and coastal heath). Other systems need locally specific regimes (wet heath, grasslands and red-flowering gum).
4. Smoke from planned burns is harmful to people’s health.
5. Frequent, large scale planned burning is killing and harming wildlife and causing irreversible damage to flora and ecosystems. Threatened native fauna and flora species are being pushed closer to extinction.
6. Planned burning exacerbates climate change by generating large volumes of carbon emissions, depleting a vital carbon sink and reducing ecosystem resilience.
7. Frequent, large scale planned burning has a negative impact on industries such as tourism, beekeeping and food and wine production.
8. FaBWA is calling for the investigation of alternative strategies to reduce potential risk and impacts from wildfire, including but not limited to:
An independent review of current policies and practices relating to wildfire mitigation.
Additional government funding for early detection and at-source suppression.
Working with, and drawing on, traditional knowledge of First Nations peoples.
WHAT WE WANT
Fire and Biodiversity Western Australia (FaBWA) is urgently calling for an independent review of fire management practices in the southwest of WA. We are concerned that current prescribed burning practices are not only unsustainable - they are threatening our unique flora and fauna.
WHAT WE ARE DOING
FaBWA is campaigning to end ecologically unsustainable prescribed burning regimes in the conservation estate and other public lands.
We are also raising public awareness of the impacts of ecologically unsustainable burning on the biodiversity of southwest Western Australia.
Our original goal was a commitment from government and its agencies by 2022 to implement ecologically sustainable fire management practices, and be accountable, transparent and responsive to our concerns about the impacts of prescribed burning.
There have been some developments and we feel, a 'change in the air'. The Minister for the Environment, Reece Whitby came to the south coast in 2022 to speak with us and make a site visit.
It is now 2023 and we are still campaigning.
FaBWA is a community-based working group with a state-wide network.
We are affiliated with the following environmental and community groups:
Denmark Environment Centre Inc.
WAFA - Western Australian Forest Alliance