Observer Tree and surrounding forest declared World Heritage!

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Miranda’s Blog: June 20 2013

_1110678To 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:

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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.

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 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.

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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!

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Celebrate the forests of the Upper Florentine Still Standing

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 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.

Activists facing court today

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.

Read the rest of this entry

Focus on logging of South Bruny Island National Park extension, home to the endangered swift parrot

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.

Focus on logging of South Bruny Island National Park extension, home to the endangered swift parrot

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

Last days of Observer Tree online art exhibition!

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.

Click HERE to view exhibition and purchase artwork.

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Hyrdo Tasmania meets dam objectors in Sarawak

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.

Further information:

www.savesarawakrivers.com

Media Release 22.05.13: Bob Brown opposes Malyasian dams

Asian Correspondent: Australian Greens join protests against dams in Sarawak.

The Borneo Post: Save Rivers Chief stirs controversy at IHA world congress

 

Mass protest against Sarawak dams surprises Hydropower World Congress in Malaysia

  Media Release:

300 indigenous people protest dams outside the International Hydropower Association’s Congress at the Borneo Convention Center

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KUCHING May 22nd: At 11am today, SAVE Rivers and 300 indigenous people from all around Sarawak protested outside the Borneo Convention Center Kuching where the International Hydropower Association’s biennial congress is being held.

Please TAKE ACTION NOW 

to show your support to Sarawak’s indigenous peoples: CLICK HERE.

They arrived at around 10.30am carrying banners saying ‘Respect Native Rights’, ‘Stop Baram Dam’, and ‘IHA Stop Collaborating With Corrupt Regime’. Dressed in blue shirts saying ‘No More Dams’, the 300 protestors raised their voices peacefully against the proposed dam projects for more than an hour at the entrance of the BCCK. Richard Taylor, Executive Director of the IHA, came out to hear Mark Bujang, SAVE Rivers’ Secretary give his statement to the press and had a brief conversation.

Protesters managed to get to the main entrance of the BCCK where delegates of the IHA Congress came out to watch were handed informational leaflets by SAVE Rivers volunteers.

‘Indigenous communities are voicing their opposition to the dams being built on our land. We were not given a voice inside the congress so we are using our voices here in the form of a protest’ said Mr Bujang.

The 300 protesters included members of dam affected community members from Bengoh, Murum and Bakun and also community members from the proposed dam sites at Baram and Limbang.

‘We all came to Kuching today to show IHA, Sarawak Energy and the Sarawak Government that despite what they say, we disagree with the dams. I live in a dam affected area so it is too late for us but I do not want see others suffer as we have.’ said Ngajang Midin from Long Ayah, a community affected by the Bakun Dam.

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 Johannes from Long San, Baram, said that people in Baram oppose the proposed Baram dam.

‘We know the government plans on building a dam in the Baram area. Our ancestral lands will be flooded, and we will lose our land and livelihoods. We have learned from Bakun and Murum dams. The government only think about to make money with the dams but they don’t care about us. We want development but not dams.”

The protesters dispersed peacefully at 11.40.

SAVE Rivers also announced their Alternative Conference taking place tomorrow, 23rd of May. The all-day event will take place at the Riverside Majestic Hotel and will include speakers from affected communities with special guest, Bob Brown, ex-Australian senator and renowned dams activist.

http://www.savesarawakrivers.com/

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All images courtesy of SAVE Rivers

Mainland Australian forest conservation groups appalled by Tasmanian Forest Law

Media Release: 7th May, 2013.

The implications for native forests around Australia of Tasmania’s controversial new forest law are alarming forest campaign groups around the nation.

They fear that the loggers, state governments and those environment groups party to the forest agreement will now attempt to use this as a model for the rest of the country with dreadful impacts on Australia’s forests.

The constraints on advocacy and peaceful protest are also of great concern, as an extraordinary precedent has been set under which the environment will be punished if groups dare to strongly advocate genuine forest protection and transition from native forest logging, especially to markets and consumers. Already the Prime Minister has demonstrated in her call to silence environmental critics that an era of victimisation and vilification has begun.

Forest campaigners around the nation have condemned the new Tasmanian forest law, including Environment East Gippsland, Gippsland Environment Group, South East Region Conservation Alliance (SERCA), Rainforest Information Centre, Forestmedia, Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum, Chipstop, and NativesRule.org.

Steve Meacher, a Victorian campaigner of many years working to save the endangered Leadbeater’s Possum stated, “Clearly there remain significant problems with the Tasmanian agreement and mainland environment groups will not consider themselves bound by it nor by any future agreement which takes a similar approach. The deal is imposing conditions that are not within the powers of the parties.”

Environment East Gippsland’s Jill Redwood stated, “Tasmania is ushering in an era of entrenched industrial logging in native forests and attempting to gag environmental forest campaigns, both of which are unacceptable”, she said. “The Tasmanian agreement has been flagged as a blueprintfor the rest of Australia’s forests and we will vehemently resist this.”

South East Region Conservation Alliance spokesperson Harriett Swift stated, “Holding the forests hostage to a bunch of obnoxious provisions, including ‘durability’ requirements to silence voices telling environmental truths to buyers and to halt forest protests, is an attack on civil liberties. Already the PM has called for dissenters to be silenced, and a campaign of denigrating such groups and the individuals who represent them is underway.”

“If the new law was genuinely aimed at balancing conservation outcomes and a sustainable industry, public scrutiny and comment about what it contains would be no threat to it.” Harriett Swift said.

“We expected nothing less than an adequate reserve system and an accountable industry. This agreement delivers neither,” Harriett Swift said.

Major problems with Tasmania’s forest agreement include:

· World Heritage nominated forests are still being logged and this will continue until mid-June, after which associated ongoing operations such as log removals will still continue in relation to those areas.

· The Wilderness Society, Australian Conservation Foundation and Environment Tasmania are actively promoting Tasmanian forest products, including wood sourced from destroying World Heritage value forests;

· No new reserves were created by the legislation. Only 90,000 hectares (of World Heritage forests) are to be protected in the next 18 months (and some logged meanwhile);

· All other promised protection will most likely never eventuate, but the loggers get their millions in funding, and ‘green’ groups assistance to sell the products immediately;

· Reserves that might be created can be opened for logging;

· If the Liberals win at national and state elections, then they will scuttle the conservation arrangements which arenot due to start until October 2014 at the earliest;

· The agreement included a requirement that Forestry Tasmania be awarded Forest Stewardship Council certification – which is highlyunlikely given their destructive methods of logging;

· Excisions? of valuable forests planned to be logged even though they are inside the areas slated for future protection;

· Native forest logging is entrenched and greenwashed, a major departure from national conservation groups’ policy for a rapid transition of logging away from native forests into existing plantations.

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Media Relase: Long haul before Tasmanian forest protection delivered, if ever

The bill passed in Tasmania’s House of Assembly yesterday is primarily yet another industry lifeline and has betrayed the environment. Grass-roots environment organisations have been left stunned that a bill that lacks conservation assurances and props up a collapsing and unviable destructive native forestry industry has passed with support of some Greens parliamentarians. Still Wild Still Threatened and Huon Valley Environment Centre have renewed their commitment to forest protection advocacy in all forms.

Huon Valley Environment Centre’s spokesperson Jenny Weber stated, “Today we are far from assurances of protection for Tasmania’s wild forests. The passing of this legislation, that is very pro-industry with merely a conservation veneer, does not deliver any upfront forest reserves. Logging will continue inside the proposed reserves, as there are areas of forest that were excised from the proposed reserves to meet the logging schedule.

“This legislation fails the wild forests, and we will be there to provide scrutiny of a forestry industry that has not made any commitment to changing environmentally destructive practices,” Jenny Weber said.

Still Wild Still Threatened spokesperson Miranda Gibson stated, “In response to the Forest Bill passed by the House of Assembly yesterday, the Huon Valley Environment Centre and Still Wild Still Threatened have vowed to continue to campaign for Tasmania’s forests. The legislation entrenches and props up the unviable native forest industry and ongoing logging of high conservation value forests, while making the attainment of new reserves virtually impossible. Conservation outcomes have been undeniably sidelined. Those groups and members of the Tasmanian State Greens who have supported this bill have aligned themselves with the collapsing forestry industry at the expense of our forests,” Miranda Gibson said.

“We are alarmed by the threat to curtail freedom of speech and the rights of protest out of yesterday’s legislation, which attempts to blackmail the community into silence by holding forests at ransom. These are undemocratic tactics to silence the voice of the community and benefit the forestry industry. The new clause provides the opportunity for either House of Government to determine what constitutes a failure of durability, including substantial active protests or substantial market disruption, and once that determination is made, reserves do not proceed,” Huon Valley Environment Centre’s Jenny Weber said.

“When one wades through all the spin being propagated by parliamentarians and signatories to the TFA, forestry in Tasmania is at the point where it continues to drain public resources and destroy irreplaceable ecosystems. It has tarnished Tasmania’s brand by not recognising the value of unique native forests and by maintaining unsustainable resource management practices coupled with a wasteful and irresponsible on-the-ground approach. If that wasn’t enough, they have created a green-wash industry for Hamid Sepawi’s Ta Ann and those connected with Sarawak timber mafias and human rights violators. What is clear out of this process is that Ta Ann has received ongoing parliamentary support in Tasmania and now a green-wash tick from some environment groups. We will continue to oppose the ongoing operations of this company in Tasmania and Sarawak.,” Jenny Weber said

“As The Wilderness Society, Environment Tasmania and the Australian Conservation Foundation are now committed to forsaking the role of forest advocacy and have become the green-mouthpiece for a forestry industry, who yesterday claimed they got everything they wanted out of the of the TFA process and consistently refuses to make necessary changes to their out-dated, destructive and reprehensible practices, our organisations will redouble our efforts to campaign for the protection of intact natural ecosystems,” Jenny Weber said.

“The native forest industry is not economically viable when left to stand on it’s own two feet. Yet, the House of Assembly has just passed a bill that will continue to prop up this out-dated and unviable industry with tax payer funds whilst disregarding community concerns and scientific recommendations for forest protection.” Still Wild Still Threatened’s Miranda Gibson said.

“It is delusional to believe that this bill will deliver adequate forest protection. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of verified high conservation value forests are being held to ransom, with protection subject not only to durability measures at the whim of both houses of Tasmania’s parliament, but also dependent on FSC certification. Under this bill high conservation value forests will continue to fall and human rights violations tacitly accepted. As long as they do, we will continue stand up for those ecosystems, forests, communities and cultures that are threatened,” Miranda Gibson concluded.

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