(1) Great Artesian Basin issues Questioned by Chairman
(2) Kirsten Livermore organising a visit with Nick Bolkus
(3) A useful Quote on Property rights
(4) Jennifer Marohasy Bemused
(5) Mike Price comments on ministerial meeting
(6) Article on fire management
G`day again, (and welcome to those who have just joined the list),
                  We are chiselling away at a few things still in preparation
to begin lobbying all Australian politicians and many green groups about our
concerns where environmental legislation and regulation have eroded
landholders rights and in some cases, are not really going to achieve the
conservation expectations of the public anyway.
We are looking for any email addresses of green or other groups that may be
interested in "Landholders for the environment" views . If you have some,
please let us know. It will be a polite initial contact with people when we
begin, but let them know you have sent their address to us, if you are
Hopefully they will enjoy corresponding
   We have just received a flyer saying telstra bigpond is giving a deal of
unlimited internet access for $24.50 a month anywhere in Australia now if
that helps anyone.

Here is some recent email correspondence.

This is from John Seccombe (chairman of the state and federal Great Artesian
Basin committees)
 ion reply to sending him  and Jim Kellett our latest information on water in
the so called "recharge areas" which suggests there is no recharge in the
specified areas of the Desert Uplands and that legislation applied to that
area in the cooper creek water management plan is  completely irrelevant
DNR (Brisbane) is working on research on the supposed intake beds at the
Thanks for the information regarding the issues you raised in your e-mails.

I have sent the issue of recharge to John Hillier, Chair of the GABCC
Technical Advice Committee ( of which Jim Kellet is a member), for
discussion with his committee and advice to us.   I will further, on
receipt of that advice send a " please explain "" letter to the Minister (DNR
and M ) as to why the GAB has been caught up in Lake Eyre Basin legislation
and the
Qld Great Artesian Basin Advisory Committee was not advised.  

I will keep you posted if and when I get some responses.


John Seccombe                                Ph.        07-46587148
Kenya                                             Fax.       07-46587155
Longreach. 4730.                             E-mail.  kgc@tpg.com.au.

Kirsten Livermore (member for Capricornia - Qld) has replied to our request
for people in the Desert Uplands (Qld) to be able to show shadow federal
environment minister Nick Bolkus some of the controversial environmental
issues before the next election.
Kirsten has made a couple of visits herself previously.

Dear Leon ,
I've been speaking to Nick Bolkus and we're working out possible dates to
come out -
early July is the most likely to fit around Parliament and the birth of
Nick's baby at the end of July.

I'll let you know where i get up to - it'll be by the end of this week since
we are in parliament now and everyone is around to pin down on things.


Peter Wren (WA) has sent in a Quote on property rights

A quote from  The Mystery of Capital -  Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West
and Fails Everywhere Else by Hernando de Soto (Bantam Press):  

                 "Remember, it is not your own mind that gives you certain
exclusive rights over a specific asset, but other minds thinking about your
rights in the same way you do.  These minds vitally need each other to
protect and control their assets.  Moreover, people need to make their social
contracts even stronger than formal law to fend off intruders, especially the
government.  Anyone doubting the strength of social contracts has only to
challenge some of these extralegal rights.  The resistance will be most
impressive."  (page 160)
(*This seems to be quite rightly making the point that we will have to win
the battle in other peoples minds over what is legally our right to manage -
not just the legalities - thanks for this quote Peter)

Contributed by Peter and Manya Wren
Deepdene WA

NB  We are unsure of internet copyright laws and hope our sending this does
not contravene any of them!
(* We are not too sure either Peter. There was a conflict over recording
royalties on the net recently, which realised the policing difficulties, and
the result was a free music site  was banned and the recording studio set up
it`s own site to do the same thing for a price - however if some information
is on the net in one place for free, it`s difficult to see what the problem
would be if it`s on another site or emailed for free as well? )

This comment is from Jennifer Marohasy (Environment manager at Canegrowers)
and recently appointed member of the  Ministerial Advisory Committee for
Vegetation Management for Qld

As a contributor to the Enquiry into Public Good Conservation, I have been
receiving, and have enjoyed reading, the various instalments of
"Landholders for the Environment - New and Views".     However, I was
somewhat bemused by comments from Gus McGown, Agforce, in the most recent
issue (27/5/2001) in which he indicated his apparent disappointment at my
nomination to the Queensland Vegetation Management Committee.   His
complaint, as published (page 3), is that I am a "staffer" not a "cane

It strikes me as strange that someone would consider it important for farmer
representative bodies to employ capable professional staff but not use them
to maximum advantage.  I don't know what the situation is at Agforce, but at
CANEGROWERS we endeavour to understand the views of as many growers as
possible in developing policy, which is then developed to addresses the
needs of all growers.   There is no reason why a well-informed staffer
cannot represent the interests of farmers equally as well as an individual

I was encouraged to nominate for a position on the vegetation management
committee based on my technical expertise, negotiating skills, and track
record of effectively defending farmers' right to farm.   

Dr Jennifer Marohasy, Environment Manager, CANEGROWERS.
CANEGROWERS is a voluntary representative organisation with 95% membership
from Queensland 6,500 sugarcane farming families.

Mike Price (Aramac Landcare Chairman) Qld,  was at the Ministerial agreement
launch for the Lake Eyre Basin Agreement in Longreach last week and had a bit
of a chat with both Stephen Robertson (Qld DNR Minister) and Robert Hill
(Federal Environment Minister) . Mike got to say publicly at the meeting how
some Central Qld properties have tree seedlings germinating  at 2,000  to
5,000 per hectare during the last 12 months This is on open woodland country.
He made the point that if fire management is not successful in controlling
them during the next two seasons, (so the land remains a grassed open
woodland), then mechanical work is the next available option, and Landholders
don`t want their good land management options restricted.

After speaking with Stephen Robertson, Mike`s view is he should be a lot
better bloke to deal with than the previous Minister Rod Welford. Lets hope

Mike also took along a photo of his latest purchase - a 200 metre scrub
pulling chain. The links are 3 feet long and the steel is about 6 inches
thick. It means the regeneration work (tree pulling) will be done better.
(The heavier the chain, the more even and cleaner the pulling job.) It may
have made a few eyes pop open , but then again we have to educate  people
about the science of land management that people like Mike are doing in
improving the environment and maintaining it in a good productive condition,
maintaining a diverse ecosystem rather than a monoculture of trees - Leon

And Finally here is the section on fire from the Landholders web site - let
us know if there are corrections that can be made to it  - Cheers.

Fire has been used across the Australian landscape as a vegetation management
tool ever since the Aboriginal people first arrived. Whether it was used
initially  to defend against lightning initiated wild fires, or to freshen up
vegetation to entice native animals to an area, no one knows, but both
reasons were and still are valid. Thomas Mitchell wrote in 1848 in his
"Journal of an expedition into the interior of Australia" the following
description of the use of fire by Aborigines:   "Fire, grass and kangaroos,
and human inhabitants , seem  all dependent on each other for their existence
in Australia; for any one of those being wanting, the others could no longer
Fire is necessary to burn the grass, and form those open forests, in which we
find the large forest kangaroo; the native applies that fire to the grass at
certain seasons, in order that a young green crop may subsequently spring up,
and so attract and enable him to kill or take the kangaroo with nets. In
summer, the burning of the long grass also discloses vermin, birds nests,
etc. on which the females and children, who chiefly burn the grass, feed. But
for this simple process, the Australian woods had probably contained as thick
a jungle as those of New Zealand or America, instead of the open forests in
which the white men now find grass for their cattle, to the exclusion of the

 Uses of fire
 To continue the carbon cycle and prevent plant death
As explained on the page about grazing and animal impact, plants need to have
old leaf and stem removed at the end of the growing season each year to stay
in top health. This leaf and stem might be removed during the growing season
by grazing animals or it might be grazed off after the growing season has
finished and the plant has dried off. If this old plant material isn't
removed the plant can be so shaded by its own old leaves that it is weakened
or, in extreme circumstances, after several years of over-resting,  even
killed. This is similar to a muscle in our bodies that withers away if it is
not used. If old plant material isn't eaten, or trampled back into the
ground, fire can be used instead to freshen up the plant.
Burning, grazing or trampling also returns the carbon and other minerals from
the dead leaves to the soil, where it can be used again by other plants and
soil organisms.With managing very old plant material, graziers like to use
fire rather than grazing because stock can not survive by eating such low
quality old feed.

To maintain grasslands and control trees
The constant use of fire by Aborigines before European settlement is believed
to be the reason why the Australian landscape was not covered in thick forest
when Europeans arrived here. Fires need to be very frequent to prevent trees
and bushes from taking over and choking out pastures. Depending on the season
and time of year that a patch of scrub is burned it can take between 2 to 8
years of annual burning to reduce tree numbers by 80%.(Noble - the Delicate &
Noxious Scrub)  Some people speculate that more may have been needed than
fire to keep tree numbers down. They suggest that some medium sized native
mammals that are now rare or extinct (such as bettongs) may have grazed on  
leaves from trees and shrubs that were reshooting after fire. This would have
weakened the scrub and kept it in check with fewer fires needed. (see "The
Delicate and Noxious Scrub")        
On the left of this photo you can see dead wattle plants killed by a recent
fire. The ghost gums have not been affected because of their size and because
this area is only burnt very irregularly.On the right grass is still long and
rank and shrubs are still alive.

To maintain fire dependent species of plants        
Many plants in Australia not only cope well with fire but actually require
fire to reproduce. Banksias and Hakeas for example have woody seed pods that
release seed only after they are burnt. Some tree seeds will not germinate
unless they have been exposed to smoke. When planting these seeds today,
people have developed a technique of watering them with water that has smoke
particles mixed in it.
The photo on the left shows how a fire (a year previous)stimulates a mass
germination of wattle seedlings.

Dangers of fire use
Very large scale widespread fire kills animals
Fire is best used in small patches to minimise animal deaths.If land is
rested from the impact of human fires or domestic grazing stock then over a
couple of years large amounts of combustible material builds up and then a
lightning strike will cause a fire that can burn fiercely over large areas.
If large areas are burnt there is nowhere for animals to retreat to to avoid
the fire and after the fire there is no unburnt feed with-in easy reach for
grass and leaf eaters. Predators may thrive temporarily as medium-sized
animals have nowhere to take cover from their enemies. The displacement  of
Aborigines with their constant patch burning practises from the land and the
failure to replace them quickly  with European managed grazing and patch
burning may have been responsible for some extinctions.Tim Flannery reports
in his book "The Future Eaters" :   "The most critical work in this regard
has been done by Dr.Ken Johnson and his colleagues at the Arid Zone Research
Institute near Alice Springs, and Dave Gibson of Conservation and Land
Management, Western Australia. They have been able to demonstrate that the
extinction of middle-sized mammals occurred in areas where domestic stock
never reached and where foxes are virtually unknown. They have also shown
that  many extinctions happened as late as the 1960's and that they followed
the departure of Aboriginal people from their tribal lands.They suggest that
Aboriginal firestick farming was an important factor in maintaining suitable
conditions for the middle-sized mammal species. This was because Aborigines
continually burned small patches of habitat. This created a mosaic of old,
dense, unburnt vegitation which provided shelter, with newly burnt patches
which were rich in newly sprouting leaves and shoots."      

Constant fire simplifies ecosystems and reduces biodiversity
Occasional fire can create greater diversity but frequent fires alone tend to
simplify the ecosystem. A simplified ecosystem is one with less variety of
plants and animals. A simplified ecosystem is more vulnerable to change. For
example a pasture with only two species of grass in it may be completely
wiped out if a flood hits the property and both species dislike being
waterlogged. If the pasture had contained ten species of grass the chances
would be greater that some of them could survive flooding and could feed
stock and protect the soil until the other species recovered. The following
is a quote from Charles Darwin in his book "The Voyage of the Beagle" written
in1845: "The extreme uniformity of the vegetation is the most remarkable
feature in the landscape of the greater part of New South Wales....In the
whole country I scarcely saw a place with-out the marks of a fire; whether
these had been more or less recent - whether the stumps were more or less
black, was the greatest change which varied the uniformity, so wearisome to
the traveller's eye."   According to Alan Savory, in his book "Holistic
Management:  A New Framework for Decision Making",  test plots in both Zambia
and Zimbabwe that were burned annually for over forty years were eventually
dominated by one or two species of grass with self-drilling seeds adapted to
charred , cracked and bare ground.With European management fire has become a
less regularly used management tool, being replaced to a large degree by
grazing. Modern farming tends to simplify ecosystems through the use of
technology and introduced plants rather than through over-use of fire.

Fire reduces plant litter and exposes soil surface
One of the main problems with the use of fire is that it burns up litter on
the soil surface making it bare and therefore increasing the risk of erosion
and soil capping(see information on soil surface capping on "tree pulling"
page). Soil capping reduces water infiltration which means drier soils. This
leads to more frequent drought conditions and at the same time larger amounts
of water run off down creeks leading to more frequent floods. No wonder
Australia which has been so reliant on fire is known as a land of "droughts
and flooding rains".

Fire causes pollution and nutrient loss
When plants are burned not all of the nutrients contained in them are
returned to the soil. Some nutrients escape directly into the atmosphere as
smoke. Also because the litter cover has been reduced to ash there is nothing
to stop the ash being easily washed down creeks with the first rains or blown
away with wind.Quoting again from "The Future Eaters":  "It has been
estimated for example that for every hectare of grassland burned in the
Katherine region of the Northern Territory, four-and-one-half kilograms of
nitrogen is lost as nitrous oxide due to combustion . On Fraser Island it has
been calculated that between 30 percent and 51 percent of sulphur is lost
through volatilisation from sclerophyll forest as a result of fire."    Again
to quote from "Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making":   
"In 1994 scientists at Germany's Max Planck Institute found that disturbingly
high levels of methyl bromide were also being produced by fires in Siberian
forests, California chaparral, and South African savannas. The bromine in
methyl bromine is potentially 50 times more efficient than the chlorine in
chloroflurocarbons (CFCs) in destroying upper-level  atmospheric ozone."    

In summary, fire is a necessary tool in the Australian landscape as an option
for *Continuing the carbon cycle
*Freshening up plant growth
*Controlling tree thickening and regrowth
*Maintaining fire dependant species

but it has many drawbacks including
*Pollution and nutrient loss
*Exposing the soil surface
*Risking biodiversity loss from overuse

It may be wise to use an alternative whenever possible. For example good
management of stock grazing and trampling can reduce the amount of burning
needed to keep plants from being choked with old growth. It has been
speculated that very short duration but intense grazing and trampling could
kill tree seedlings and knock down shrubs and bushes which would reduce the
amount of fire needed to control tree increase (see Grazing and animal
Impact). Intensive management practices like this are new to the rangelands
of Australia and difficult to implement but many graziers around Australia
are beginning to consider and trial them.