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The Curse of Conservation: Empirical Evidence Demonstrating That Changes in Land-Use Legislation Drove Catastrophic Bushfires in Southeast Australia

Laming, Alice; Fletcher, Michael-Shawn; Romano, Anthony; Mullett, Russell; Connor, Simon; Mariani, Michela; Maezumi, S. Yoshi; Gadd, Patricia S.

The Curse of Conservation: Empirical Evidence Demonstrating That Changes in Land-Use Legislation Drove Catastrophic Bushfires in Southeast Australia Thumbnail


Authors

Alice Laming

Michael-Shawn Fletcher

Anthony Romano

Russell Mullett

Simon Connor

S. Yoshi Maezumi

Patricia S. Gadd



Contributors

Alistair M. S. Smith
Editor

Christine Eriksen
Editor

Abstract

Protecting “wilderness” and removing human involvement in “nature” was a core pillar of the modern conservation movement through the 20th century. Conservation approaches and legislation informed by this narrative fail to recognise that Aboriginal people have long valued, used, and shaped most landscapes on Earth. Aboriginal people curated open and fire-safe Country for millennia with fire in what are now forested and fire-prone regions. Settler land holders recognised the importance of this and mimicked these practices. The Land Conservation Act of 1970 in Victoria, Australia, prohibited burning by settler land holders in an effort to protect natural landscapes. We present a 120-year record of vegetation and fire regime change from Gunaikurnai Country, southeast Australia. Our data demonstrate that catastrophic bushfires first impacted the local area immediately following the prohibition of settler burning in 1970, which allowed a rapid increase in flammable eucalypts that resulted in the onset of catastrophic bushfires. Our data corroborate local narratives on the root causes of the current bushfire crisis. Perpetuation of the wilderness myth in conservation may worsen this crisis, and it is time to listen to and learn from Indigenous and local people, and to empower these communities to drive research and management agendas.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 19, 2022
Online Publication Date Oct 26, 2022
Publication Date Dec 1, 2022
Deposit Date Jan 5, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jan 6, 2023
Journal Fire
Electronic ISSN 2571-6255
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Issue 6
Article Number 175
DOI https://doi.org/10.3390/fire5060175
Keywords South-east Australia, fire, indigenous land management, conservation, wilderness, fuel, cultural burning, British invasion, Anthropocene
Public URL https://nottingham-repository.worktribe.com/output/13449851
Publisher URL https://www.mdpi.com/2571-6255/5/6/175

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