Following the implementation of the Western Arnhem Land Fire Project, Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation in Conjunction with the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA) has been investigating the opportunity for a similar initiative on Cape York.
Initial fire mapping undertaken in conjunction with the Cape York Peninsula Development Corporation has identified that the most prospective area for such a project is in Western Cape York from Kowanyama up to Mapoon. This area is predominantly Aboriginal freehold land and has the greatest number of late dry season fires and therefore the opportunity to implement an earlier burning regime. An earlier burning regime is expected to also bring biodiversity benefits as it would result in a mosaic of burnt and unburnt areas.
Balkanu Caring for Country Unit and Traditional Knowledge Recording Project have been working on the adoption and retention of fire management methods based on Traditional Knowledge culture in Cape York. These methods facilitate land renewal through an approach that is sensitive to the subtleties within the interaction between land, flora, fauna and weather. The outcome is reduced fuel loads and greenhouse gas emissions, reduced risk of wildfire, and better maintenance of the biota.
Given the increasing global concern over environmental issues, effective traditional fire management practices can help commercial business with Greenhouse offsets.
Some of Australia’s native vegetation cannot tolerate large fires. Current land and fire management methods do not effectively prevent seasonal wildfires that threaten such species and the habitat they create for local fauna. Research done by the Traditional Knowledge Recording Project in Kuku Thaypan country suggests that Indigenous methods contribute to the maintenance of the biota and other ecosystem services.
These better land and fire management practices can be marketed to corporations interested in either general conservation or offsetting their bio-diversity damaging activities whereby these corporations pay for the management activities to be carried out as a service. Rio Tinto is one potential corporation interested in this option as they seek to restore the land and biodiversity damaged by strip mining in Weipa.
Fire Abatement – how does it work
Back burning is carried out all over Australia to break up the vegetation so that if a wild fire breaks out, it would stop at areas where back burning has been carried out, limiting the spread and impact of the fire. Indigenous methods of early season controlled burns are more effective as they burn smaller areas with cooler fires but still achieve the aim of avoiding large wild fires and facilitating land regeneration. By avoiding large fires, the total amount of greenhouse emissions is reduced.
Following the implementation of WALFA (West Arnhem Land Fire Abatement) Project, Balkanu is working jointly with NAILSMA (Northern Australian Indigeneous Land and Sea Management Alliance) and Charles Darwin University to map out prospective areas for a Fire Abatement program in western Cape York. It has been identified that the area from Kowanyama up to Mapoon has the greatest number of late dry season fires and therefore the opportunity to implement an earlier burning regime. Such a regime is expected to will bring biodiversity benefits as it would result in a mosaic of burnt and unburnt areas.