As I commenced my career many moons ago a chief ranger once said ‘old grand trees are akin to nature’s boarding house’. I’ve often reflected on the power of this observation; beautifully matured majestic trees do stand as sentinels, witnessing change brought by the human hand, and they provide a foundation upon which ecological communities are nurtured.
As an ecological niche in the web of life, mature trees are home for a myriad of birds, insects, arboreal mammals from sugar gliders to koalas. To lose your room within an ecological home is to lose your place in nature.
With a hint of winter looming on the horizon our collective thoughts turn to keeping our homes, our habitat, warm. Perhaps as we reach for that box of matches to light the fire, reflect on whose home we may be inadvertently burning.
Trees and branches form a vital part of our ecosystem providing critical habitat, returning nutrients to the soil and encouraging revegetation. Fallen timber forms mini-micro habitats; ecological footprint for insects, bugs and beetles who in turn provide a rich source of food for nesting birds in old tree hollows.
As temperatures start to plummet, rangers find trees felled within nature reserves in the elusive search for firewood. Not only does it affect the visual amenity of our parks, it can have a detrimental impact on our local wildlife, native critters that rely on trees for habitat, food and shelter. Some people may be simply unaware of the negative environmental impact collecting firewood can have. The penalty for cutting native trees or removing timber from our nature reserves can be up to $7,500 – a rather expensive load of firewood. There are legitimate means of purchasing firewood with licensed vendors operating across the Bush Capital.
Winter is also a great time to gather around a campfire. Working with our good friends at Koomarri, certified bags of pre-cut firewood are available from Namadgi and Tidbinbilla Visitor Information Centres for camp ground use. Not only a great way to help out the local environment but also a wonderful local community group.
A viable alternative to burning timber is the ACT Governments wood heater replacement program. The program aims to reduce winter air pollution from wood smoke, offering a financial incentive to replace old wood heaters with new mains supplied natural gas heater. For more information on this program visit www.actsmart.act.gov.au
As we prepare for a beautiful Bush Capital winter lets all think twice before throwing another log on the fire.
- Brett McNamara is Regional Manager with ACT Parks & Conservation Service.