FIRE & FLOOD DOWN-UNDER
It was February 2009 when most of southern Australia fried in extreme temperatures and an extended dry spell, while large regions of northern Australia were inundated.
The impact of the deadly Victorian bushfires of February 2009 is rather obvious and hard to miss. However, the concurrent flooding in northern Queensland will also have an ongoing impact.
Though the Queensland floods did not bring about any immediate loss of human life, their effect on communities was in some cases catastrophic. Just as the flood waters were receding, a second monsoonal trough dumped yet more rain onto an already waterlogged landscape.
Homes, businesses and livelihoods were impacted on such a scale that large areas of northern Queensland were declared "disaster zones".
Mud jokes aside, events like this have a tendency to push small businesses, already struggling through tough economic times, to the very brink of viability and beyond.
If the frequency of such events escalates as predicted, dirt bike tour operators from up north may find themselves having to hire out boats and jet skis instead. The problem is simply that it is already very difficult to attract tourism in a tough global economy. More frequent natural disasters will only make things increasingly harder in future for dirt bike tour operators.
I guess it just goes to prove that you can in fact have too much mud.
Global Warming Will Effect Dirt Biking & Other Off-Road Adventures
Change is in the wind, whatever your approach to off-road trail riding or 4WD bush bashing
As the impact from Global Warming becomes increasingly pronounced, with severe weather conditions increasing in frequency around the world, those who enjoy off-road experiences may have to deal with substantially higher hazard levels and access restrictions into the future.
Firstly, is it Global Warming or Climate Change? Climate Change is a term coined by the spin doctors of the previous Bush Administration in the United States. It was an attempt to divert popular attention, assign blame to natural climatic variations and thereby conceal the reality of the effect that humanity's activities are having on Earth's climate. Their campaign of endless repetition worked, at least to the degree that the term "Climate Change" gained traction and has since become common usage.
Drought, Bushfire and Flood are nothing new to long-time residents of Australia ... such events have been integral to the Australian landscape, wildlife and human inhabitants for millennia.
It was back in 1908 when the iconic poem "My Country" (often incorrectly remembered as "A Sunburnt Country") by Dorothea Mackellar was first published. The rather powerful and moving second verse does a very fair job of describing the Australian landscape and our undeniable attraction to it:
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!
What is presently changing, and all too quickly, is the severity of those extreme weather related events of drought, bushfire and flood. Recent history suggests that the "terror" factor mentioned in Dorothea Mackellar's poem is starting to spike with a disturbing and accelerating frequency.
Though it may be difficult (if not impossible) to imagine a fire storm advancing at 100Km per hour and generating enough radiant heat (1000°C to 1500°C) to flash-melt aluminium ... it's even harder to survive!
Current predictions suggest that what were "once in a lifetime" cycles, may in future shorten to periods of as little as five to ten years. Of greater concern, is the ongoing trend whereby each gloomy "worst case" scenario prediction is subsequently seen (with hindsight) to have been an under-estimate of how quickly things are actually getting worse.
Obviously this will mean that our approach to land management and how we go about living in the sunburnt continent will need to be revised ... quite possibly on a regular and ongoing basis. The recent catastrophic and tragic (February 2009) bushfires in Victoria have sent shockwaves through many Australian communities that will continue to reverberate for some time to come (quite likely measured in years).
Though Australia is one of the three primary areas in the world expected to suffer most from severely intense bushfires (along with California and France), other regions can also expect more frequent and protracted droughts with increased fire risk.
So ... What Can Australian Dirt Bike Riders Expect in the Future?
The short answer is change!
Expect access to trails to become more tightly controlled. Expect restrictions relating to how, when, and where you can ride to be gradually tightened as land (in particular forest) management practices change.
For riders (particularly in the southern states of Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania) things that will impact on dirt bike and trail riding are likely to include:
- Trail closures due to increased fuel reduction burning in and around state forests and trails. This is most likely to happen in the cooler and damper months while riders are still looking for some mud.
- Fire season access restrictions to (unburnt) high fuel load areas to prevent bushfires and potential loss of life. Expect earlier, more frequent and longer park and trail closures during Australia's hotter summer months.
- Access restrictions to burnt areas to reduce erosion.
Both bushfires and fuel reduction burning create considerable potential for serious soil erosion which will no doubt be mitigated through access restrictions (expect closures from 6 to 12 months minimum).
- Access restrictions to facilitate revegetation and land stabilisation. Where serious vegetation damage and/or erosion has occurred expect areas to be closed off to the public for at least several years.
- States not currently charging access fees to state parks and trails may take up this option to cover the increased cost of future park and/or land management requirements.
- More states may require organised dirt bike tour and trail ride operators to be "certified" and/or licensed (similar to the Victorian model) to gain access to, and operate within, state or federally controlled public lands.
Please note that these prognostications are (at this time) no more than a personal predictive view of likely future restrictions that may apply to dirt bike, trail bike and off-road recreational vehicles in general.
Though such changes would primarily affect dirt and trail bike riding in state parks and government controlled public lands, potential legislative land management changes may see similar restrictions spill over onto privately owned land as well.
The next decade is likely to see a many changes take place, of which most are likely to happen sooner rather than later.
It will be very interesting to hear what the DSE (Victorian Department of Sustainability & Environment) has to say once the 2008-2009 fire season finally comes to an end. One certainty is that there will be fewer places to ride in Victoria for the next year or so. Dirt Bike Australia will attempt to keep you posted with any significant outcomes.
- Dirt Bike Australia Editor