Rangers protect endangered birds through fire

Published: 13 May 2016

Indigenous Rangers will be undertaking mosaic burns over the next two years to protect the habitat of endangered birds in the East Kimberley.

The Kija Rangers will work with the Kimberley Land Council (KLC) Fire Management Team to implement a series of fire breaks to protect known areas of habitat of the Gouldian Finch and Purple-crowned Fairy-wren. Both these birds are endangered species, as listed on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC).

Each year, the finch population is threatened with the onset of strong trade winds and high fire danger late in the dry season which has historically lead to severe wildfires annually affecting thousands of square kilometres of country. The finches rely on a variety of species of grass seeds at different times of the year and large wildfires often destroy this food source.

The work is supported by Rangelands NRM through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme, and will foster and develop relationships between KLC, rangers and neighbouring pastoral properties in the East Kimberley.

Rangelands NRM Project Manager (Kimberley) Kira Andrews said the works will be implemented across three adjoining pastoral lease in the Kimberley—Doon Doon, Glen Hill, Bow River— plus the Violet Valley Aboriginal Reserve.

“This project follows on from previous work to protect Gouldian Finch habitat, and also aims to extend the EcoFire burn pattern into the East Kimberley, effectively creating a north/south firebreak that limits uncontrolled wildfires before it reaches the EcoFire area,” she said.

Kija Ranger Dylan Curtin has already noticed the positive difference that early season burning is making to the country.

In March the Kija Rangers spent a week looking for Gouldian Finches.

“Unlike last year where they only spotted the finches a couple of times, this year we have seen finches every day we went out to find them,” he said.

Chopper burning and some ground burning has already commenced during March, with the bulk of burning expected to be completed before end of April due to dry wet season and early curing.

Additionally, the KLC ranger coordinator and fire manager attended the East Kimberley Cattle (EKC) Pastoral Company meeting and a fire planning meeting with elders in early April.

As part of the project, the KLC Fire Team will facilitate fire planning discussions each year with Traditional Owners, Kija Rangers and non-Indigenous-held neighbouring properties and relevant stakeholder agencies such as the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES).

“Together, participants will develop a fire management plan for the region, ensuring that 20,000 hectares will be burnt in a mosaic fire pattern, thereby creating a non-linear network of firebreaks and increasing the diversity of fire history in the area,” Ms Andrews said.

“This is being done with the aim of decreasing the risk of late, hot wildfire sweeping through the entirety of the four properties and over into adjoining land.”

Ms Andrews said this initial work will demonstrate to neighbouring properties the advantages to working together to build a landscape-scale approach to fire management.

“Rangelands NRM will support the KLC and the Kija Rangers to liaise with non-Indigenous held neighbouring properties to encourage a broader scale adoption of prescribed burning management practices,” she said.

Ms Andrews said the project will also encourage and foster the capacity of Kija Rangers to undertake fee for service prescribed fire work, providing an avenue for future employment and development of skills to protect cultural and biodiversity values.

Media release from RangelandsWA