The island state of Tasmania is globally renowned for its ancient native forest, significant biological diversity and spectacular wild places. Tasmania is home to one of the world’s last great temperate wilderness areas, to the world’s tallest hardwood trees (which can grow to over 100 meters in height), and to the largest tract of temperate rainforest in Australia. The exceptional ecological values of Tasmania’s natural landscapes have been internationally recognised by a multitude of individuals and organisations, including the IUCN and World Heritage Committee.
Karst systems are a significant feature of many of Tasmania’s high conservation value forests, which feature extensive cave networks, sink-holes and underground water courses. Several caves within these forests are important sites of Aboriginal heritage.
Much of Tasmania’s globally significant forests are mixed forests – hosting a unique balance of tall eucalypt trees growing side by side with rainforest species. They provide important habitat for a diversity of native wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. Conservationists have used remote sensor fauna cameras to document evidence of spot tailed quolls and healthy Tasmanian Devils in forests threatened by logging. These forests are also home to Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagles, a species with a population of only 60-80 breeding pairs left, as well as goshawks and masked owls.
Above: Wildlife footage taken by remote sensor cameras in Butlers Gorge – an area recently listed as World Heritage after years of community campaigns and actions.
Tasmania’s native forests are under threat from industrial scale logging, driven by a Malaysian timber company, Ta Ann. This company is turning areas of high conservation value forests into plywood and selling their products internationally under the misleading label “eco-ply.” They have in fact lied to their customers in Japan, claiming that their wood is sourced from plantation and regrowth, despite the fact that official documents have proven that Ta Ann are the key driver behind the ongoing logging of Tasmania’s high conservation value forests.
Tasmania’s native forests continue to be destroyed, despite the so-called “forest peace deal.” After three years of negotiations between some environment groups, industry and unions, a deal was signed in late 2012. This agreement, already lacking in adequate protection for native forests, was further mutilated by the Tasmanian Legislative Council, which eventually passed it through parliament as the Tasmanian Forest Agreement. Essentially the agreement has served to prop up a dying native forest industry, feeding millions of dollars of tax-payer funds into the logging industry to continue the destruction of native forests. Unfortunately the agreement has been promoted as a “solution” to the forest “conflict” and has been used as a way of green-washing the industry. As a result, companies such as Ta Ann continue to source wood from high conservation value forests and meanwhile are receiving a green tick of approval. It is more important than ever that we escalate the campaign to expose the truth behind Ta Ann and the destruction of Tasmania’s irreplaceable forests.
Tasmania has a long history of grassroots direct action for the forest, dating back decades. The campaign recently succeeded in having 170,000 hectares added to the World Heritage listing, after a 20 year fight to have the boundaries of the World Heritage Area extended. This win is a testament to the power of grassroots action. Areas like the Weld, Styx and the Upper Florentine are among the forests that received this international recognition. These areas have long been sites of non-violent direct action. The Weld Valley gained international attention when a life-sized pirate ship was constructed across a logging road, blockading the forests and keeping the chainsaws out for many years. The Upper Florentine Valley, now World Heritage listed, was the site of Tasmania’s longest running blockade, known as Camp Floz. The blockade defended the valley for 6 and a half years, using tactics such as tree-sits, dragons, lock-ons and tripods to stop logging machinery entering the valley. Of the 15 logging coupes originally planned by Forestry Tasmania to be logged with 3 years, only 2 and a half were completed, and only 2 km of road out of the proposed 10.5km was ever built, due to the success of the blockade. The rest of the 2000 hectare valley, an area that had been literally an island excluded from the previous World Heritage boundary, now remains as an in-tact ancient ecosystem, set to join it’s rightful place at the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The success of direct action tactics and grassroots community support in the Upper Florentine is an inspiration to continue our fight, to keep up the pressure and defend all of Australia’s precious native forests.
Camp Floz: These blockade structures were attached to tree-sits, stopping logging machinery accessing the Upper Florentine Valley.