An aboriginal ranger starts an early dry season controlled burn on the Arnhem Land of Australia's Northern Territory. This fire was set during the early part of the dry season so it would burn cooler, emit less carbon, then a similar fire during the late dry season would produce. The fire is also set to remove fuel from areas close to traditional aboriginal rock art sites. The Nature Conservancy is working with and supporting both Australian government and non-government organizations in assisting the indigenous people of the Northern Territory to preserve and manage their native homelands.
Fire Down Under An aboriginal ranger starts an early dry season controlled burn on the Arnhem Land of Australia's Northern Territory. This fire was set during the early part of the dry season so it would burn cooler, emit less carbon, then a similar fire during the late dry season would produce. The fire is also set to remove fuel from areas close to traditional aboriginal rock art sites. The Nature Conservancy is working with and supporting both Australian government and non-government organizations in assisting the indigenous people of the Northern Territory to preserve and manage their native homelands. © Ted Wood

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Cape York fire forum explores carbon farming through burning

While unprecedented fires ravage southern Australia, leaders in fire management came together recently in Cooktown to further their work in managing fire across northern Australia for grazing, biodiversity, greenhouse gas emission reduction and cultural outcomes.

The Cape York Fire Forum, held in Cooktown on 3-4 December, focused on the opportunities and challenges of carbon farming through burning – a process whereAustralian Carbon Credit units are produced by preventing or reducing greenhouse emissions through planned early dry season burning practices.

Cape York NRM Biodiversity and Fire Program Manager Kerri Woodcock, who coordinated the 2019 event, said it was an opportunity for people involved in fire management on the Cape, and beyond, to come together. 

“Around 70 people came along, some from as far away as Canberra, and Injinoo on the Tip of Cape York. We had pastoralists, Indigenous Ranger groups, State Government agencies, along with carbon farming service providers, not for profits, and other organisations working in this space – altogether a great mix”, she said

Presentations focused on fire management projects on the Cape, how to plan and monitor fire projects using the latest technology and the co-benefits of planned burning practices such as cultural, primary production, fire protection and biodiversity outcomes. 

“Carbon reduction is one benefit of reducing late season wildfires but there are others,” Kerri explained.

“By carrying out planned burns early in the season, you can select the vegetation type, fuel loads and weather for cooler and patchier burns. This protects plants, animals and ground cover, which prevents erosion and supports primary production. Traditional Owners have practiced this kind of burning for millennia, so continuing this practice is culturally significant, especially when there is the chance to pass on knowledge to others.

“As Australia burns through some of the hottest, and driest conditions on record, we have a responsibility to find ways to reduce the amount of carbon in our atmosphere. In northern Australia, carbon farming through burning is a smart way to do this and Cape York has the opportunity to be at the forefront of this innovative and emerging industry.”

The Fire Forum was delivered as part of a pilot project of the Land Restoration Fund and was supported by the Queensland Government, Cape York NRM and The Nature Conservancy. 

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organisation dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we focus on getting things done efficiently and with the greatest positive impact for conservation. We’re a trusted organisation working in 70 countries around the world on innovative solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. To learn more about The Nature Conservancy in Australia, follow us on Facebook.