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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

New research in South Coast forests shows logging increases fire risk

A new study based on research conducted in New South Wales South Coast forests has strengthened the growing evidence that logging increases fire risk and will sharpen calls to transition out of native forest logging in NSW.

The study, published in the journal of Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, assessed 119 sites in coastal forests between Ulladulla and Narooma on the NSW South Coast and found that “changes in vegetation associated with logging, and to a lesser extent wildfire, increase the risk of fire.”

The study found the impacts of logging on forest structure, including on the height and density of vegetation in forests, has an impact on the sub-canopy microclimate that influences forest flammability. More recently logged forests were found to be hotter and less humid leading to an increased fire danger rating.

Independent NSW MP Justin Field said, “This research demonstrates that logging increases fire risk and that risk has increased in recent decades with more intensive industrial logging.

“It adds to a growing body of evidence that logging increases the risk and severity of fires in our forests by opening up the canopy, drying out the forest floor and creating ladder fuels bringing fires up into the forest crown.”

The NSW Government was warned last year by their own Natural Resources Commission that the combination of logging with the impact of the 2019/20 fires presents a “serious and irreversible” risk to the environmental values of NSW forests. In the last month both the koala and greater glider have been declared endangered in NSW, in part due to the combined impacts of logging and wildfire. “Continuing logging will increase the risk of future fires, further harming endangered species like the koala and greater glider and threatening communities living in and around our forests.

“This new evidence strengthens the argument for NSW to follow Victoria and Western Australia and transition out of native forest logging,” Mr Field said. The NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner has certified a Bushfire-Prone Land Map for Eurobodalla. A bushfire-prone land map is the trigger for the consideration of bushfire protection measures for new development. If a proposed development is on bushfire-prone land, Council assesses it against rules set by the NSW RFS around what can be done on the land, including how and where you can build, to keep you and your home safe. Councils are required to map bushfire-prone land within their local government area to comply with legislation (the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979). The NSW RFS designates which land must be mapped and councils are required to assist with making the map. When the RFS is satisfied with the map, the NSW RFS Commissioner certifies the bushfire-prone land map.

The map is reviewed every five years to reflect changes in development and vegetation. Council says "if your property is mapped as bushfire-prone land, it is a reminder that you need a bushfire survival plan.

Being bushfire-prone does not prevent development on your land. Buildings built prior to the land being mapped as bushfire-prone will not require any retrospective modifications.

If you are planning a new development on bushfire-prone land, including building, renovating, or starting a new home-based business, Council will assess your proposal to ensure the development has adequate protection from bushfires. Depending on the level of risk, mitigation measures range from metal flyscreens and gutter guards, to modifying the style, construction material or siting of a building.

If you are already operating a home-based business that was previously exempt from requiring a Development Application, you can continue to operate. You should consider the NSW RFS Planning for Bushfire Guidelines. If you take a break from your business, you may need a Development Application to start a home business again in the future.

source Does the map have any bearing on my insurance? It sure does. Council says "Every Council in NSW is required to map bushfire-prone land and it is intended only as a trigger for development assessment, not other purposes.

Councils have no control over what insurance companies charge for their premiums, however we do know that insurance premiums are based on a range of factors, including worldwide trends and cost recovery for the many and varied natural disasters we’ve seen globally over the past decade". With the 2020 bushfires having a massive impact on urban areas and the nature of the fires being declared unprecedented there is little doubt that insurance companies are using the maps to determine premiums to offset their risk.

Image: Volunteers who inspected the logged forest just west of Mogo earlier in 2019 with the Resource Assessment Commission found the amount of slash left behind was unbelievable which may well have powered the fire through the village and onwards from there. It would be up to Forestry NSW to discount this widely held view.

NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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