Indigenous Fire Management: North Kimberley Fire Abatement Project

June 20, 2017

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Australia

Indigenous Fire Management: North Kimberley Fire Abatement Project

About the Implementing organization

Name: Kimberley Land Council

Country: Australia

Year of establishment: 2978

Type of organization: Legally recognized non-profit status / Community enterprise or business / Indigenous group or organization

Description

The North Kimberley Fire Abatement Project is a partnership between the Kimberley Land Council and Wunambal Gaambera, Balanggarra, Wilinggin and Dambimangari Native Title corporations that represent the Traditional Owners responsible for looking after and managing the country in the far North West Kimberley.

Native Title holders have undertaken the project to provide a sustainable means of looking after the natural and cultural values of their country while achieving real progress towards the objectives of economic independence and improving livelihoods.

The project involves Indigenous rangers conducting strategic burns on the country in the early dry season, in order to avoid and control big late season wildfires. By reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Native Title holders have been able to generate carbon credits from their native title lands.

The fire project enables Indigenous rangers and cultural elders to spend more time on country, take care of important cultural sites, share traditional knowledge across generations and complement the work undertaken on Indigenous Protected Areas. This project has already successfully abated over 400,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Indigenous fire management presents a win-win opportunity for Traditional Owners, government and businesses as it reduces carbon emissions, delivers positive healthy country outcomes and supports the development of sustainable business opportunities in remote Indigenous communities.

Nature Element

Drylands / Wildlife

Type of Action

Protection / Sustainable use / Access and benefit sharing / Invasive species

Sustainable Development Element

Jobs and livelihoods / Disaster risk reduction / Climate action

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)

    

Environmental Impacts

We look to the knowledge of traditional burning to understand how to manage fire in the ‘right-way’. The smaller and less intense fires of traditional practices maintain more diverse habitats than wildfires that burn large areas. The loss of traditional fire regimes from the landscape and consequent shift to frequent, extensive fires has caused a range of negative impacts on biodiversity.

The Kimberley is a biodiversity hotspot, and home to vulnerable and endangered species, such as the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren, Gouldian Finch, Bilbies and the Northern Quoll. Research demonstrates that the combination of late season fire with increases in feral animals (cattle or cats) devastates the landscape and is the main driver of biodiversity declines. However, by controlling one of these two factors, it is possible to stop this decline. Increasing self-generated income to strengthen and grow the right way firework of Traditional Owners is critical to the continued health Kimberley landscape.

Sustainable Development Impacts

Although fire management is seasonal it provides months of employment, skills transfer and meaningful engagement for socially disadvantaged Indigenous people with the workforce. These are tangible outcomes not only for the people involved in on-country operations, but for the Indigenous communities nearby who benefit from the healthy country and bush tucker resources, improvement to pastoral lease pastures, and reduced risk to community infrastructure.

Fire-dependent ecosystems such as tropical dry forests and savannas cover around one-sixth of the global land surface. The prevalence of wildfire is predicted to increase as a result of climate change. NASA predicts that global fire activity could increase by between 5 and 35% by 2100 and that most of these increases will take place in these fire-dependent landscapes. By combining traditional knowledge with western science traditional fire management is reducing disaster risk and providing a solution to climate change.

Scalability

Indigenous fire management of Australian landscape demonstrates it is possible to reduce wildfire by as much as 50% and largely eliminate destructive wildfire. In Australia, there are now 25 registered Indigenous-led Savanna Fire Management projects worth $90 million. Another 40 Savanna Fire Management projects have been developed by cattle stations in Northern Australia.

By 2020 Indigenous Fire Management projects in Northern Australia could reduce over 3.2 million tonnes CO2-e per annum, provide 1,100 jobs for local communities and deliver significant social, economic and environmental outcomes.

Replicability

In 2013 Australian Aid invested $2.25m into the International Savanna Fire Management Initiative (ISFMI). The project explored the feasibility of exporting Australia’s groundbreaking technology to Asia, Africa and America. The ISFMI found widespread interest, as this technology could deliver the types of outcomes experienced in Australia, such as reduction of destructive wildfire, mitigation and adaptation, regeneration of Indigenous knowledge, economic and social benefits to poor and remote communities around the world.

Better fire management, through the application of Indigenous traditional fire management techniques, could lead to reductions in global wildfire emissions by as much as a half. Global greenhouse emissions could as result be reduced by as much as 750 million tonnes a year, with significant further emissions mitigation through carbon sequestration over the long term.

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