Barry Aitchison was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the general division as recognition for his service to the community of the Monaro.
Barry is well known and a highly respected former Fire Control Officer, Operations Officer and Firefighter who represented the Snowy River, Bombala and Cooma Monaro Fire Districts for well over 30 years.
Those who know Barry will be very pleased that this OAM has been awarded to most deserving bushman with a passion for the locals, the bush and its’ future.
Barry continues to work towards seeing improved land management practices and his dedication to the preservation of the high country is inspirational. He owns a large patch of high country that is being used for a research project known as the High Fire Project.
The High Fire Project
The High Fire Project comprised of a number of controlled experimental blocks established to gauge the effect of grazing and prescribed burning on alpine ecology, carbon emissions and water run-off.
The project is tasked with providing the various controlling bureaucracies, scientific proof that prescribed burning, combined with alpine grazing, is the ideal way to not only manage the health of the land but also reduce the ever increasing fuel loads; something that is common knowledge to local fire fighters and many landholders.
With devastating intensity, the 2003 fires wiped out whole populations of mountain ash and scorched 2.5 million hectares of mountain country, exacerbated by the change in management practices since the establishment of the National Park. The original Aboriginal custodians of the Snowies cleared and managed the undergrowth with fire for more than 40,000 years but now, controlled burning is seen by some groups as a threat rather than a useful land management tool.
In the event of a lightning strike (the most common way that fires start in nature) our need to protect precious life and infrastructure means that instead of letting the fires do what they have done for countless millennia, we must put them out, which paradoxically increases the fuel loads that make bushfires more destructively intense.
RFS Operations Officer Barry Aitchison said, the areas of private land around Snowy Plain and the Gungarlin River have been managed with grazing and burning since European settlement and as a result, the Gungarlin was the only river unaffected by the 2003 fires, due largely to these land practices.