26 September 2023

Firefighting mission saves prehistoric pines

Start the conversation

A specialist team of remote area firefighters have helped to save the prehistoric Wollemi Pines during this season’s bushfires.

Minister for the Environment, Matt Kean said the Wollemi Pines “survived the dinosaurs and now look like they’ll survive the bushfires” thanks to the work of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) firefighters and the NSW Rural Fire Service.

“Wollemi National Park is the only place in the world where these trees are found in the wild and, with less than 200 left, we knew we needed to do everything we could to save them,” Mr Kean said.

“The pines, which prior to 1994 were thought to be extinct and whose location is kept secret to prevent contamination, benefited from an unprecedented environmental protection mission,” he said.

“The operation included large air tankers laying fire retardant and specialist firefighters being winched into the remote site from helicopters to set up an irrigation system in the gorge to increase moisture content of the ground fuels.”

Mr Kean said that in advance of the fire, NPWS firefighters were again winched into the site and helicopters water bucketed the fire edge to reduce its impact on the groves of trees.

He said while some trees were charred, the species has survived.

“The 2019 wildfire is the first ever opportunity to see the fire response of mature Wollemi Pine in a natural setting, which will help us refine the way we manage fire in these sites long-term.”

He said illegal visitation remained a significant threat to the Wollemi Pines survival in the wild due to the risk of trampling regenerating plants and introducing diseases which could devastate the remaining populations and their recovery.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.