Two years ago, I climbed into the upper canopy of Observer Tree and vowed to stay until the forest was protected. On that day, I had no idea what would lay ahead of me in what would become a 14 month long tree sit. To sit here and reflect on the past two years – I realise how much has changed for me in that time. The connection that I developed with that tree and the forest around it, the lessons I learnt, the challenges and inspiration. And so much has changed for the forest. This time two years ago, chainsaws were tearing apart the forest around me, as logging continued for the 3rd day in coupe TN044B. I sat there and listened to the sound of those saws and the trees falling and wondered if my presence there could ever save that forest. Two days latter, loggers came to the base of my tree and called out to say they were leaving. They packed up the machines, drove them away and never came back. That forest that would have been a clearfell by the end of that summer, is now still standing. I will never forget the day when the World Heritage committee announced their decision – the forest that I had come to know as much as I know myself, the tree that had become my closest companion – was now World Heritage listed. It’s safe from the chainsaws that once threatened it’s survival. But the fight is not over. We need to stay vigilant to ensure that the forest is protected, as the Australian Prime Minister talks of trying to over turn the World Heritage listing. We also need to keep on fighting for the native forests that are still being logged right now.
In Tasmania, high conservation value forests are still falling. The World Heritage decision is significant, but we always knew that this would not be enough to provide the conservation outcomes that are desperately needed to protect our ecosystems and our endangered species.
Right now I am in another area of forest in Far East Gippsland, Victoria. I’m here with conservationists from around the country, to take action for our forests. This is the start of a national campaign to end the industrial scale of logging of native forests in Australia. Check out what we’re up to: http://www.fearlesssummeraus.net
Yesterday I made this short video to mark two years since climbing into the Observer Tree. I would love it if you would share this far and wide, and help to spread the word that the fight for our forests is continuing….
Students and conservationists are today participating in a peaceful protest in Tasmania’s north east. 35 people have conducted a “walk-in” to a logging coupe in the Fisher Tier forests, halting the ongoing destruction of native forests in an area identified as high conservation value by the Independent Verification Group (IVG).
Still Wild Still Threatened spokeswoman Miranda Gibson stated, “The forests of Fisher Tier, including N111G where today’s peaceful protest is being conducted, have been identified by the IVG as being extremely important for ecological connectivity in North-eastern Tasmania. This forest, like many others, was sacrificed to satisfy the unsustainable, loss-generating native forest industry.”
“Today’s protest highlights Australia-wide concern for Tasmania’s forests and the absence of social license for the Tasmanian forest industry that continues the destruction of native forests. Students from around the country are joining today with Tasmanian grassroots forest campaigners, to express their outrage at the hypocrisy of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement and the entrenchment of industrial scale native forest destruction,” said Ms Gibson.
“This logging of proposed reserves reflects the business-as-usual logging schedule of Forestry Tasmania that is destroying tracts of Tasmania’s high conservation value forests,” Miranda Gibson said.
“The Tasmanian Forest Agreement has failed our forests. No new reserves have yet been created and meanwhile special legislated exemptions allow 42 separate logging coupes to continue inside landscapes identified for future protection” Ms Gibson said.
“These proposed reserves face ongoing logging, and their high conservation values are being destroyed by the native forest industry, which has been granted legislative permission and endorsement by some Environment groups to destroy ancient ecosystems.” Miranda Gibson said.
“Hundreds of university students from around the nation have been in Launceston for the last five days at Students of Sustainability conference. In it’s twenty-second year, SOS is an environmental conference for students. Tasmanian forest campaigners held workshops and discussions at the conference. Over 30 students have joined with Tasmanian forest campaigners to take part in today’s action and are committed to continuing action to stand up for our native forests” Miranda Gibson said.
“Australian Student Environment Network is standing in solidarity with Huon Valley Environment Centre and Still Wild Still Threatened in an ongoing campaign to defend Tasmania’s native forests,” said Ms Gibson.
The decision today by the World Heritage Committee to approve the extension to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area is testament to the power of the community, after decades of action to defend these forests.
The Observer Tree and the forest surrounding it as well as the site of Camp Florentine blockade are now World Heritage listed.
“On December 14th 2011 I climbed to the top of a tree in a threatened forest and said I would stay until the forest was protected. That forest is now World Heritage. It is thanks to the support from people right around the world that the forest is still standing and is now protected” said Miranda Gibson, spokesperson for Still Wild Still Threatened.
“For 14 months I watched over the forest every day with the hope that we, as a community, could defend those trees for future generations. Today, for that forest, we have achieved that” said Ms Gibson.
“Today I think of the wedge tailed eagle that I watched fly above my tree, whose habitat was once under threat and is now protected and of the Tasmanian devils who lived in the forest 60 meters below my platform who can now raise their young in peace” said Ms Gibson.
“Today we celebrate the protection of some of Tasmania’s most significant forests including the Tyenna, Weld and Upper Florentine. For six years the Upper Florentine Valley has been defended by Tasmania’s longest running forest blockade. This forest is still standing because the community took action and halted logging to protect the values of this ecosystem, that are now officially World Heritage. This Sunday the community will return to site of Camp Florentine to celebrate our success in ensuring these forests will be standing for future generations” said Ms Gibson.
“Thousands of people across the globe have been part of this global movement to protect Tasmania’s ancient forests as World Heritage. Right around the world people today are celebrating the power of community action and what we have achieved for Tasmania’s forests said Ms Gibson.
To mark the start of the World Heritage Committee meeting at the beginning of this week, I went out to the Upper Florentine Valley, site of Camp Floz. The Upper Florentine was my home before I went up the Observer Tree in the nearby Tyenna Valley. And it will always have a special place in my heart. This was my first time going back since getting out of the tree.
After not having been there in a year and a half, I wondered if it would feel overwhelming and emotional to go back. The camp’s packed down now, while we await an outcome from the World Heritage Committee. The only time I’ve seen the road empty of camp over the past 6 years has been when police and forestry Tasmania busted through and dismantled the camp in order to proceed with logging…. an experience that was heartbreaking for all of us who tried to defend those forests. But this time, I stood there on that logging road with a new feeling…. anticipating that sometime over the next week this forest might be declared World Heritage.
Home….That feeling of knowing a place like the back of your hand. That feeling of belonging. The immediate sense of relief and comfort on arrival. That feeling of connection with a place, a tie that you know will never be broken. Returning to the Floz felt like finally going home. I walked through the forest, full of so many memories for me, every tree, every fallen log, every moss patch or sassafras grove… so beautifully familiar. It was raining, which was perfect, because I think the forest always looks it’s best in the rain! And on my walk I discovered a vast array of fungi growing amist the moss and on the sides of tree trunks. Here’s a few of the photos I took:
I went to visit some of my favourite places and my favourite trees. I went and sat with the stumps of the old tree sits – BackSit and Lungs of the Land. Once mighty giants that towered above the understorey, and whose limbs housed tree sits in which I spent many nights. During a police bust of the camp about 4 years ago those trees were met with chainsaws… A moment I will never forget.
I go back to visit those stumps and although there will always be sadness in my heart that those beautiful trees I knew so well are gone… it stirs something else in my heart too. The spirit of resistance, the strength and power of our community. For those stumps remind me that we will never give in. No matter how much they try to defeat us, no matter how many times they busted our camp and tried to log that valley, we just kept fighting. It was beautiful to see moss and fungi growing from those stumps… the cycle of life continuing.
The majority of the Upper Florentine Valley remains standing to this day because of the tireless efforts of our community to stand on the front lines at Camp Florentine and stop the machines from getting access to that valley. Out of the 15 logging coupes that were due to be logged in the Upper Florentine over 6 years ago – they only managed to fell 2 and a half. Out of the 10.5 km of road they wanted to build, they only pushed in 2km. That is something for us to be proud of.
Similarly in the nearby Tyenna Valley, an area of forest was destined to be clearfelled, when logging began on Monday December 12th 2011. On the Wednesday I climbed into a tree in the middle of the coupe and said I wouldn’t get down until the forest was protected. By the end of the week the logging ceased. the machines never returned, as I continued my tree top vigil for over 14 months. This one action became a catalyst, gathering international support and increasing momentum for the campaign.
Camp Florentine and Observer Tree are two examples out of decades worth of grassroots activism in this island state, of people fighting for protection for our precious forests. Now we all wait with nail-biting anticipation for the announcement of the World Heritage Committee…. our fingers tightly crossed for a positive outcome and a offical listing of these forests in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
As I stood there in a forest that my whole life centered around for many years…. a place that has for the past 6 years kept me with an anxiety in my heart: that at any moment it could be lost to the chainsaws. I stood there and imagined what it would be like to return and know it will never be logged….
There will be plenty more forest we need to fight for even if these areas are secured. Hundreds of thousands of verified high conservation value forest will still remain open for logging. Let’s hope we’ll soon be celebrating our new World Heritage protected forests and from the inspiration of this success we can launch our campaign forward to ensure that all of Tasmania’s precious forests get the protection they deserve.
For those in Tasmania, please join us on June 30th at the site of Camp Florentine to celebrate the strength of our community in ensuring these forests are still standing. From 12 noon, meet at the camp (20 kms West of Maydena, along Gordon River Road, on the way to Lake Pedder). Bring a picnic lunch, walking shoes and wet-weather gear. See you there!
Community gathering to celebrate the Upper Florentine’s potential World Heritage listing and success of the Camp Florentine.
Upper Florentine Valley, Camp Florentine –Gordon River rd, 20 mins past Maydena
Sunday 30th June, from 12pm
Bring: picnic food and drinks, walking shoes, wet weather gear
You are invited to celebrate the peaceful defence of the Upper Florentine valley and success of the Camp Florentine forest blockade. We’re calling on all members of the community who care about the Upper Florentine, who have taken part in the campaign to protect it and supported or spent time at the blockade. Come and celebrate the fact that most of the valley is still standing because of our community efforts and will hopefully be listed as World Heritage.
Between June 17 and June 27, the World Heritage Committee will meet in Cambodia and discuss the Australian Government’s nomination for an additional 120,000ha of forest to be added to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The nomination includes some of the most significant areas of old growth forest in southern Tasmania, places like the Upper Florentine, Styx, North Weld Valley and Middle Huon. While we know there is a still a long way to go to keep fighting for an end to the destruction of native forests in Tasmania, we’d like to take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate this important step towards protection of some spectacular forests.
For over 6 years the forests of the Upper Florentine were defended by the community through grass roots direct action. Camp Florentine became the longest running continuous forest blockade in Tasmania’s history, which prevented logging of up to 1000ha of old growth forest and stopped construction of 10 km of proposed roads. Without the community campaigns and the blockade this valley would have already been filled with clearfells. Now it is nominated for World Heritage. That’s something to celebrate we reckon!
So many people from all walks of life have contributed to this campaign and now it’s time for all of us to get together and to acknowledge the parts we’ve all played in keeping this forest standing. Bring some picnic food, wet weather gear, walking shoes, big smiles and maybe even some celebratory bubbly. We’ll have a picnic, hear speeches, catch up with each other and go for a few short walks through the magnificent forest that still stands.
Today activists face court over an action taken at Ta Ann’s timber mill in protest of the destruction of forests in Tasmania and Sarawak. Please watch and share this short video and support those who have taken a stand against Ta Ann.
The new Tasmanian Forest Agreement legislation allows logging of 42 forest coupes inside future reserves. The entire agreed reserve area has been put into Permanent Timber Production Zones, and will not be immediately gazetted as reserves.
Three of these logging coupes are on Bruny Island where an important extension of the South Bruny Island National Park was promised. A total of 39 threatened species are found on Bruny Island, many of these are in the National Park extension area.
This is vital habitat for the highly endangered Swift Parrot, which breeds and forages in these forests. Only 1000 pairs are estimated to survive in the wild. Logging of their critical habitat will commence this June – inside the proposed new reserve.
Ta Ann is to receive two-thirds of the wood from this controversial logging.
View our short film of Bruny Island showing the forests inside the South Bruny Island National Park extension that are on the logging schedule.
Take action to defend this vital forest habitat that is already endorsed to become National Park. Tell the customer companies in Japan that wood flooring from Ta Ann that is logged from threatened species habitat and agreed future National Park is an unacceptable source of wood supply
This week is your last chance to purchase art from our online exhibition, which finishes on Friday, May 31st. All proceeds from art sales go towards the campaign to protect Tasmania’s ancient forests.
Former Senator Bob Brown and the Huon Valley Environment Centre’s Jenny Weber have returned from Sarawak in Malaysia to campaign for indigenous people who want Australian hydroelectric companies to leave Sarawak.
Sarawak’s riverside dwellers are angry that Hydro Tasmania and the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation have won huge contracts to help the construction or business extension of the dams at their expense. Thousands of people have beem displaced already. 20,000 more will be flooded out of their ancestral lands if the giant Baram River dam proposed for central Sarawak goes ahead as planned next year.
In a meeting in the Sarawak capital Kuching on Friday, Hydro Tasmania’s chair David Crean and CEO Roy Adair met a delegation of 13 indigenous people including Baram elders. The delegation told how they were ignored and cheated by Sarawak authorities. They presented HT with a letter asking it to leave Sarawak.
Dr Crean said that contention that HT would leave was not true. He gave a good hearing to the delegation as claims that dams are being built with no proper consultations and no social or environmental studies were aired. “How would you like your house to be flooded?” one Baram leader asked.
Brown, who will be at the Sydney Writers Festival today, said that the the Sarawak Chief Minister’s cousin, Hamed Sepawi, heads up both Hydro Sarawak and Ta Ann, the controversial logging company now operating in the Tasmanian forests. Chief Minister Taib is under investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission but has refused to appear before it.
Brown said that the Snowy Mountains Engineering Commission, which has some 200 personnel working in Sarawak, owed the Australian public a full account of its role in the construction of the mega-dams bringing so much misery to indigenous locals. ‘Most Australians have no idea of the impact the dams, using Australian expertise, are having on the ancient cultures and wellbeing of the people living along Sarawak’s rivers,” Brown said.