Fuel reduction to control future bushfires must include mechanical removal as well as controlled burns, says Australian Forest Products Assn., calls for 'sensible debate' following federal government's pledge of AU$15M in fire mitigation funding

DEAKIN WEST, Australia , December 9, 2013 (press release) – The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has noted the report released today by the Climate Council on the Australian bushfire threat and welcomes a sensible debate about the role of effective fuel reduction to help control future bushfires.

Chief Executive Officer Mr Ross Hampton said, ‘The Climate Council points to a scenario where fuel reduction may have to be massively increased to manage greater frequency and severity of bushfires. AFPA agrees and argues that removing some of that fuel load by mechanical means instead of just burning must be part of the solution’.

Forestry and forest product industries are major stakeholders in terms of providing resources for bushfire suppression and prevention as well as bearing the direct risks to commercial timber and other forest values.

AFPA congratulated the Abbott Government for its pre-election policy of committing $15 million to a Bushfire Mitigation Programme. To deliver the best return for those scarce taxpayer dollars, this programme must include some mechanical removal as well as the usual controlled burns.

‘In bushfire prone areas where people live the fuel load can be reduced by removing small trees from where there are too many, removing woody debris on the ground and taking out a lot of the bushy undergrowth. This can be followed by a controlled burn that is far less likely to get out of control because there is less fuel.

‘These approaches to fuel management are being adopted in other fire prone areas such as in the western United States, where forest land management agencies such as the US Forest Service are undertaking combined tree thinning controlled burns to reduce fuel levels.

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