Miranda’s Blog: June 20 2013
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!