The improvement of fire regimes and tackling arsonists in Cape York were burning topics at the 2022 North Australia Savanna Fire Forum earlier this week.
The forum took place online on February 15 and 16 where it was revealed that over 260,000 hectares on Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary had been impacted by arson during the late dry season (September-December) since 2014.
Piccaninny Plains is a wildlife sanctuary managed by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) based in far north Queensland.
Assistant sanctuary manager, Sally Gray, who attended the recent forum, said regional collaboration is key to reducing the impacts of unplanned fires that threaten the region's unique ecosystems, critical habitats and local wildlife.
Ms Gray proposed industry development into a regional plan could reduce the risk of unplanned fires, including chopper sharing for faster response times, increased reporting to the police and Rural Fire Service, and work closely with local media to raise awareness of arson attacks as they occur.
"In the Cape, unplanned fire is a very complicated business," she said.
"We have huge amounts of biomass material unlike many other regions and we have a tight window to control burns before they reach critical habitat and threatened species.
"Species impacted by these burns can include the Red Goshawk, Australia's rarest bird of prey, which is fledging during the late dry season.
"When we get to the fire season at the end of the year, fire danger is extreme, and I hope that by working together, we can better manage and reduce the extent of destructive burns due to arson."
Ms Gray urged the community to vocalise the cause of unplanned fires during the late dry season and hold arsonists accountable for their behaviour.
"We need to stop normalising these unplanned fires in the region because the truth is, it's not normal and by turning a blind eye we're giving arsonists a free pass to continue carrying out illegal activity," she said.
AWC executes a non-government prescribed burning program across the sanctuary from mid-may to the early dry season to reduce wildfire risks.
At time of publication, the Queensland Police Service had been contacted for comment regarding arson investigations in Cape York.
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