Minimising smoke nuisance in populated areas will again be the number one priority for this year’s regeneration burning program. Forestry Tasmania’s key concern is to ensure it does not cause any breach of the national air quality standard.
Changes in the planning and implementation of the regeneration program, including Forestry Tasmania’s participation in the Coordinated Smoke Management Strategy, have greatly improved the tools available to effectively minimise smoke nuisance.
Forestry Tasmania will this year continue to implement the improvements that were successfully introduced in the 2011 season, and which saw a reduction in the number of smoke complaints arising from Forestry Tasmania burning activity.
These improvements are:
• The commencement of the regeneration burn season as soon as conditions are suitable, rather than after 15 March, which was based on long term weather records and the reviews of escaped early regeneration burns experienced in the late 1980s. The aim is to extend the burning season, thereby increasing the number of potential days on which good smoke dispersal is likely to take place, and may allow a reduction in the number of burns attempted on each of those days.
• The voluntary declaration of ‘no burn days’ when smoke dispersion is likely to be poor.
• Morning media advisories (before 11:00am) before the commencement of any planned burns.
• Evening media advisories containing smoke management appraisals of the day’s planned burns.
• Notifications to alert residents when Forestry Tasmania believes its planned burns may have contributed to air pollution.
As in previous years, Forestry Tasmania will also continue to upload information about the locations of burns to the planned burns Tasmania website.
Under the Forestry Innovation Plan, Forestry Tasmania’s vision is to see waste wood, which is left on the forest floor after harvesting, to be burnt and turned into renewable energy.
An electricity generating plant using these biomass residues could reduce particulate emissions from the regeneration burning program by up to 70%.
But some degree of burning will always be essential to ensure harvested forests, especially wet eucalypt forests, will regrow.
As fire-adapted ecosystems, eucalypt forests need the mineral soil seed bed, abundant light and reduced competition from other plants that are provided by fire in order to establish. In this regard, regeneration burns have similarities to the natural cycle of wildfire and regeneration.
Low intensity burning for the management of fuel loads also generates smoke but is essential for the protection of both communities and forest assets against bushfire. Forestry Tasmania will continue to undertake low intensity burning whenever conditions permit.