Snowy Plain and the High Fire Project

By Lisa Rowbotham – 20th January 2020

The photos in this post were taken from a privately owned block which ranges between 1550m – 1850m in altitude. It is the highest freehold block in Australia and is owned by Barry Aitchison, former Fire Control Officer of Snowy River / Monaro Team for 32 years who is a passionate advocate for the high country.

This block is a particularly good example as it is not only owned and managed by someone with a lifetime of both fire and grazing experience, but it contains several test plots which were initiated as part of the High Fire Project in 2006.

The High Fire Project arose as a result of the Gary Nairn enquiry into the 2003 bushfires and was established to facilitate a better understanding of fire in the sub alpine and montane environment.

The project looked at both grazing and burning by practitioners and was to study carbon flux emissions, water yield, biodiversity and soil management.

These plots were observed between 2003 and 2012 by Professor Mark Adams (Dean of Agriculture & Forestry faculty at Sydney University) and students and other professors to establish the comparison of the effect of burning and grazing our fragile high country area vs unmitigated vegetation growth.

The following photos have been numbered with explanations so that you can make your own judgement.

1. Test plot photo taken in December 2018. As the photo shows there is a clear line dividing the plots. On the left is an unmanaged plot (no burns and no grazing). On the right is a plot that received regular burns (no grazing) every 3 years with the most recent burn being April 2017.
2. Same test plot area after the Dunn’s Road fire came through in January 2020. Again, there is a clear line where the left plot (unmanaged) has burnt much hotter than the right.
3. Outside test plots but inside same private owned land. This area is regularly burned (every 2-3 years and is also grazed with no suspended layer). This pic also taken in December 2018 after most recent burn in April 2017.
4. Outside boundary fence of this privately owned block. This pic also taken January 2020 after the Dunn’s Road fire came through. This piece of land was overgrown and as such had very minimal grazing in this area. No burns done for estimated 30-40 years. As the photo shows, the fire has scorched this area including canopy.
5. Inside boundary fence of this privately owned block. This pic taken same day as above after the Dunn’s Road fire came through. As the picture shows, the burn was much cooler and has not burnt the canopies of the trees and given the flora and fauna a chance to survive!
6. Again, inside same private owned block. This pic was taken January 2020 after Dunn’s Rd fire and shows where the fire stopped. To the right of the road, this area last burnt 2 years ago and to left of the road (where it stopped) was only burnt 12 months ago.

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