A friend of mine told me that he recently cut out all of his native plants to reduce fire risks. He owns a country property in an area with high biodiversity value. His house and property were threatened by the bad bush-fires we had in Victoria recently. The same sentiments are expressed in this Canberra Times article – keep natives out of your backyard! I don’t agree with these views for three reasons: (1) We have a responsibility to protect native plant and animal communities particularly in rural areas; (ii) There are many fire-resistant native species and information about such species (for particular parts of Australia) is widely available; (iii) The layout and design of gardens is important as well as the plants you choose.
Planting natives in your garden is a water and fertilizer-friendly way of conserving local biodiversity and provides an ongoing source of natural beauty, colours and textures. Native gardens can be adapted even to a formal traditional style if that is your cup of tea. But of course if you do have a native garden you need to be aware of fire risks by appropriately choosing fire-resistant species native to your area and by designing the garden and maintaining the exterior of your property appropriately.
It alarms me that people will use any excuse to avoid accepting their conservation responsibilities. There is a type of environmental “realist” ethic that is widespread that says let’s be practical and accept that total devastation of the local environment is an inevitable consequence of living decently. It isn’t and this view reflects intellectual laziness, diminished aesthetic values and, of course, contempt for our native flora and fauna.