With the peak of the dry season now upon us, the risk of extensive wildfires across the Cape is at its greatest. The source of some of these fires can be accidental, for example from escaped campfires. This is a timely reminder to have enough clear ground around to prevent them from escaping in windy conditions.
Regrettably, many wildfires are lit by arsonists seem unaware of the consequences of their actions. Such fires injure the natural ecosystems for which Cape York is so famous for, killing plants and animals, and affecting their long term health. Many Indigenous cultural resources, including bush medicines, are also affected. In short, these wildfires make country sick, more so if they occur year after year. They also remove vital pasture that graziers are relying upon to see them through until the wet season.
Savannah fire carbon farming is an important part of the Cape York economy. Land managers are paid to actively manage fire to minimise or eliminate wildfires to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Needless to say, illegally lit fires really affect the viability of such these projects, which are important not only in reducing greenhouse gases, but also for the Cape York economy and community.
Wildfires also create vast areas of bare ground prone to both wind and rain erosion. When rains fall, sediment runs off into creeks and rivers, and eventually into the sea where it affects the health of coral reefs and other marine communities. Cape York Natural Resource Management and some of its partners are actively involved in monitoring the extent of such runoff in selected Cape York catchments.
Land managers are ramping up their surveillance for arson this year, particularly with the use of surveillance cameras. While some are warning of the presence of such cameras with signage, others are deploying them covertly. Neighbours are also improving their communications networks to help detect and identify suspicious fire activity. It is hoped that these actions will combine to reduce these wild fires that are really impacting the health of Cape York country and the community.
You can report any suspicious fire activities to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.