Large uncontrolled fires are a threat to the landscape, ecology and productivity of Cape York. Aside from lightning strikes that arrive prior to the onset of the wet season, people start most fires in Cape York, deliberately or by accident. Over the years, people have worked hard trying to solve the problem of hot late season uncontrolled wildfires that burn most of Cape York each year, mostly on the western side.
Fire as a tool for management can have multiple benefits to ecosystems. Safely using cooler burns in appropriate vegetation at the right time can give a boost to soils, plants, animals and landscapes and remove unwanted weeds. One way to do this is to combine Traditional ecological knowledge and Western science, coordinated across the landscape, to improve the health of country. This involved managing fire differently according to vegetation types and conditions and by anticipating fire behaviour. Fire management requires constant attention and the involvement of people. As our seasons change, being responsive to fire management requires knowledge and skill.
Fire is a valued process for the reinvigoration of sick country. Appropriate fire management is ecologically important for many native species, to protect soil, plants and animals by controlling weeds and promoting new growth of native species. Indigenous people have strong cultural and spiritual connections through the use of fire, its function in the landscape and through traditional stories.
Fire is a continuous problem across Cape York, and many projects, landholders and organisations have worked to improve the problem. While knowledge is improving, we do not know whether fire management is improving. Some key changes influencing fire include changes in technology for burning and monitoring, increased spread of weeds, cyclone impacts and easier access to country.
What are the key issues?
Inappropriate fire regimes have often been identified on threatened species advices and recovery plans. The Cape York community has identified fire as a high priority, both because of its threat to biodiversity and as a tool for managing the landscape and weeds. Coordination of burning is a main hurdle to good fire management.
Aspirational Program Goals
- Maintenance of ecosystem services, including ecological and cultural values now and in the future.
- Enhanced capacity of Indigenous communities and land managers to conserve and protect natural resources.
- Protection and conservation of biodiversity through strategic landscape conservation and restoration via improved fire management.