I spent much of last week in the Snowy Mountains with my family (the Powerbook came too, of course, so I kept up at least some blogging). It was the first time we’d been back since the devastating fires in January. Large areas are still closed off, and signs of fire are everywhere. Fire is a natural part of the lifecycle of a eucalypt forest, and signs of regeneration were already evident in many of the places we visited. But some of my favorite spots, such as the mountain ash forests around Round Mountain, are probably gone for good. This is the second fire in twenty years and it’s unlikely that new seed has been set. Even if they do come back, it will be decades before they regain anything like their former state.
As is inevitable with such a disaster, fingers have been pointed in all directions, notably at the National Parks and Wildlife Service for not burning off vigorously enough and at global warming for the extreme severity of the drought and hot weather conditions that led to the fire disaster. I’m keeping an open mind on the relationship between drought and global warming. Looking at the way the fire burnt through grassland as well as bush, I’m doubtful that any regime of controlled burning could have mitigated this fire much, unless it was so extreme as to fundamentally change the character of the Park.