Category Archives: Guest Blog

Guest Blog: Alan Lesheim

Writing this blog has not come easy to me; as a career photographer for over 40 years now I’m more used to recording things through the viewfinder of a camera than writing words. The immediate thought of simply providing a slide show of forest photographs that I have taken in the forests near the ObserverTree over the past seven years did seem the logical thing to do, but there are speciality photographers who do this sort of thing better than I, and the alternative of writing another piece on the uniqueness of Tassie’s old forests has also been done by far better wordsmiths than I’ll ever be.

However, as a photographer whose training involved the the art of observation, and whose interests and work involve the visual historic record to a large degree, I thought perhaps a piece about and including some photographs of Miranda and her dedication to the cause she promotes with such tenacity might be of interest.

On realising that Tasmania was slowly losing the integrity of its old growth forests and their attendant ecosystems to commercial exploitation after I moved here in the mid 1990’s, I started taking “before” photographs of these places as much as anything simply to contribute to the visual record of what existed before being logged and replanted with eucalyptus trees. In fact, doing the sort of thing that has pretty much defined photography and photographers since the very beginnings of the art in the late 1830’s.

In doing so my path crossed with the early protest blockade in the Upper Florentine in mid-2007, where seeking interesting people as subjects for an entry in the National Photographic Portrait Prize had as a consequence introduced me to the then almost untouched forests of the Upper Florentine. Looking back through my photographs taken during my almost weekly visits to the area since then, I came across the first one in which a shy and quiet Miranda appeared, dressed in a white wind cheater hoodie and seated by the fire on an unseasonably cold and wet January day at the early protest camp in 2008. At the time there was nothing to blip my radar as to the focused campaigner lying within, though as winter approached I noticed that she appeared more often in my photographs, such as this one taken inside the hut that had by then been finished on the spot that the first photo was taken.


Later that year she certainly drew my attention by routinely having over-nighted in her treesit “Frontie” whenever I arrived in the early morning to walk in and photograph the forests marked for logging. An earlier view of “Frontie:

More often than not she’d still be up there when I left in the evening. This certainly struck me as  a rare dedication, as winter in the Upper Florentine is not exactly tropical resort weather, and spending night after night and most of the days 40 metres up a tree on a wooden platform with no heating would certainly be no picnic, as apart from the constant cold, damp atmosphere there was sometimes snow and often wind and constant, driving rain. However from time to time she still appeared in my photos.

In that time she has also co-authored a book Flora and Fauna Guide to the Upper Florentine Valley with Lily Leahy, which is now simply a must-have for anyone who walks off-track in the area. Here the two are at the book launch in February 2010.

My photography by preference tends mostly to deal with history, people and the environment in general rather than political or confrontational issues, and so the greater part of what I have photographed around the protest area tends to show the simple day-to-day happenings rather than the extremely rare confrontations, which perhaps is as it should be as this is the situation for most of the time. I was asked to photograph the “Triabunna 13”, however, the group whose protest brought about the famous photos of the conga-line of loaded log trucks queued up outside the Triabunna chip mill, which perhaps brought home more than anything the sheer scale of the removal of old-growth forests:

So when the ObserverTree project started, I photographed Miranda at its beginnings.

Perhaps the pinnacle of this was my visit to the platform in the tree to take photographs of Miranda, as to me this was a notable point in the history of the whole sorry forests saga and as such definitely needed to be photographed – a non-violent, non-confrontational protest streaming live to the world over the Internet. I’ll confess to finding the method of ascent into that tree just a tad terrifying, and once up there the precarious perch and acute lack of space became more than evident.

Now, months later and after a time which I don’t think anyone predicted would stretch for this long, I have to admit to having to re-evaluate my thoughts on the hardship that someone might deliberately subject themselves to in order to stand up for something they believe in. Miranda’s dedicated protest is certainly both extraordinary and astonishing, no matter what anyone might think of the reasons for her doing so. I found the few hours I spent up there taxing enough, and the fact that she is still there nearly five months since ascending that rope simply beggars belief. Conditions are unbelievably exposed, cramped and isolated, and I doubt most people could endure more than a day or two up there at the most. With no end in sight, this is simply an amazing feat of endurance and commitment.

Perhaps my favourite photo from that afternoon in the tree was this one, as a cold front swept through. Perched on the edge of the platform, hanging on to her ropes with the wind blowing the rain, branches and her dangling leg almost horizontal, yet still with a broad grin on her face, it perfectly captures Miranda simply being Miranda.

Guest Blog Bio: Alan Lesheim

Alan Lesheim is a career photographer, working full-time in photography since entering RMIT University (Melbourne) to study Illustrative Photography in 1971. Employed as an advertising photographer after graduating in 1973, he moved on to work at a portraiture and wedding studio in 1981, starting his own business in late 1982. By 1985 this had morphed into a specialist wholesale photographic restoration and copy service for retail outlets all over Australia. This continued after he moved to Tasmania in January 1995, although in later years as the digital revolution reduced the quantity of restoration work this has been increasingly supplanted with photographing in the forests and covering both news and social events, usually taken with emphasis on the potential historical record of such photographs, many of which he prints and displays in his own gallery. Always a history buff, he sees this as the purest form of the photographic art. Embracing digital photography for the possibilities it brings in better photographing things in previously impossible ways, he often works at the cutting edge of the technology in order to better display scenes as naturally as possible. Sometimes this can involve the combination of hundreds of photographs into the one finished result, exactly as the eyes and brain constantly do together in normal human vision.

Guest Blog: Sea Shepherd

The 2012 Bob Barker crew from The Sea Sheperd recently visited The Observer Tree.

Guest Blog Bio: Sea Seapherd
Established in 1977, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. Our mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.

Sea Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas. By safeguarding the biodiversity of our delicately-balanced ocean ecosystems, Sea Shepherd works to ensure their survival for future generations.

Miranda’s Daily Blog: Day 144

Wow! How bright is the moon tonight? It is spectacular. Tonight it is apparently a “super moon.” A natural phenomenon in which the moon is extra-large, the biggest it will be for the year. How special to get to view it from the upper canopy of the forest. I wasn’t sure how much I would get to see it.  Early on in the evening the cloud cover was thick. And although the night was exceptionally bright, I could only see the moon itself in very quick glimpses, as the clouds faded for a moment. Now, however, it is shining brightly. A wispy thin layer of cloud rushes past, illuminated in the brilliant light of the moon. It’s a nice night to be in a tree!

Well, I have something very exciting to share with you tonight! I have decided to start a new video blog series for you. It’s called “Conversations with Miranda.” It is a talk show, Observer Tree style, featuring a different special guest each episode. Now, I don’t know how frequently the episodes will be, as it’s not all that often I get visitors to my place! But tonight I am launching the first episode, with special guest Lily Leahy.  Lily is one of my best friends in the whole world. And as well as being a great friend Lily is also a great plant nerd, always identify plants where-ever she goes and sharing interesting little facts about them. Lily and I are co-authors of Flora and Fauna of the Upper Florentine Valley.  And in this little film you get to learn all about the plants that grow in the forest around my tree. Plus some handy hints on getting started with becoming a plant nerd too! We even take you on a tour of my tree tops, to check out some of the life growing in the upper canopy of the Observer Tree. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as Lily and I enjoyed making it.

Please take a minute to help defend Tasmania’s ancient forests.
Click HERE to sign the online cyber action.

Guest Blog: Nick Fitzgerald talks about carbon stored in old forests

Guest Blog: Nic Fitzgerald – Forest Ecologist

Guest Blog: Mount Mueller’s forests by Rob Blakers

Guest Blog: The Tale of Two Forests by Geoff Law

It was late evening and there was no one else on the track. A thick, misty drizzle drifted through the tree-tops, obscuring the highest limbs. At ground level, water dripped on my raincoat from the dense tangle of shrubs and small trees crowding the track with their small leaves. Occasional open patches of ground were a carpet of ferns. Golden-brown leaf-litter cushioned my feet as I moved from one immense tree-trunk to the next.

The trees were huge and clearly very, very old. Some were almost impossibly gnarled, others were arrow-straight, shooting upwards towards the dim, complex canopy high above.

I was in a forest of redwoods – Sequoia sempervirens – in northern California. My trip there was funded by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, allowing me to look at unique forests in the USA, Europe and Japan. The Californian redwoods were the obvious place to start. These are the world’s tallest trees, their top-most fronds up to 115 metres above the ground. They are highly celebrated and one of the most spectacular living environments on planet Earth.

They reminded me of Tasmania’s tall-eucalypt forests at almost every step. Long, branchless stems; prodigious dimensions; a verdant understorey; ferns and undergrowth; a soft, leafy forest floor; pristine streams; fresh air and rain; sublime beauty.

There are plenty of other similarities. The forests in the cluster of reserves centred on Redwood National Park are inscribed on the World Heritage list. So are the stands of Tasmanian giant eucalypts fortunate enough to occur within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA). Indeed, the tall-eucalypt forest is one of the officially recognised World Heritage features of the Tasmanian Wilderness.

Spectacular landscapes of the Tasmanian Wilderness include rugged mountain ranges cloaked in delicate alpine and sub-alpine flora and scattered with picturesque tarns; expanses of buttongrass moorland; some of the world’s tallest flowering forests; and extensive karst systems containing glow-worm displays.

 So says the Australian Government’s ‘statement of outstanding value’ pertaining to the Tasmanian Wilderness. The technical document goes on to say:

The property contains examples of the world’s tallest flowering forests. These eucalypt forests tower above rainforest trees of substantial stature, forming awe-inspiring forests of truly exceptional beauty at both a landscape and individual scale.

Many Tasmanians have experienced these qualities at first-hand, on trips to giant trees in valleys such as the Florentine, Weld, Arve and Huon. These include the tallest hardwood trees on Earth, with trees up to 99 metres tall and six metres in diameter. Paradoxically, most of these oldgrowth forests are not protected. They occur outside the TWWHA, along its eastern fringe. Even the world’s greatest concentration of giant trees – those of the Styx valley – stand outside the TWWHA. Evocatively-named giants such as Icarus Dream, the Chapel Tree, Damocles, Medusa and Gandalf’s Staff occur in small reserves that are hemmed in by logged areas. Other big trees that do not meet Forestry Tasmania’s restrictive criteria for protection are ear-marked for logging.

And that’s another another quality shared by the redwoods and Tasmania’s ancient eucalypts – the severe diminution of their range by logging. According to the respected Save the Redwoods League in San Francisco, only 5% of the original area of redwoods remains as oldgrowth. In Tasmania, only 11% of our original Eucalyptus regnans forests (the world’s tallest flowering plant) remain as oldgrowth. Of that original cover of E. regnans, only 3600 ha (3.6%) is to be found within the TWWHA.

In the USA, most of the remaining oldgrowth redwood forest is protected. There is virtually no oldgrowth on public land available for logging.  In Tasmania, however, nearly half of that remaining E. regnans oldgrowth is still threatened by logging – almost all of it on State Forest managed by Forestry Tasmania. Trees that are protected mostly occur in small, scattered strips and scraps of forest along streams or on steep slopes in areas otherwise dominated by logging. The figures for other tall-eucalypt species, such as Eucalyptus obliqua (‘stringybark’) and Eucalyptus delegantensis (‘gum-topped stringybark’), are similar.

The plight of our wonderful tall-eucalypt forests has driven campaigns to protect what’s left. Paper companies in Japan have been implored not to consume Tasmanian woodchips from native forests. The consumers of plywood produced by Ta Ann (which has mills in the Southern Forests and on the edge of the Tarkine) have been told of the impacts of extracting the company’s logs on oldgrowth forest and wilderness. Protests in Harvey Norman’s shops have focussed on the impacts of logging Tasmanian tall-eucalypt forests and the resultant destruction of wildlife habitat.

And on Mt Mueller, Miranda Gibson keeps vigil 60 metres up the ObserverTree – a  huge Eucalyptus delegatensis in logging coupe TN044B, whose steeply forested slopes are due for cable logging within the next two months.

One of the objectives of Miranda, of Still Wild Still Threatened, and of other conservation groups is to extend the TWWHA to incorporate adjacent tall-eucalypt forests. In September 2009, Senator Bob Brown launched a report prepared by me which proposed a World Heritage Area occupying some 33% of Tasmania (2.2 million hectares). It would include the Tarkine rainforests and coastline; the Great Western Tiers; the moorlands, mountains, lakes, rivers and rainforests of parts of the west coast; Recherche Bay; Melaleuca; and the giant trees of the Styx, Weld, Florentine, Counsel and upper Derwent valleys.

Our current World Heritage Area (1.4 million hectares, or 20% of Tasmania) is a major economic contributor to Tasmania. Consulting firm Gillespie Economics has estimated that the TWWHA creates over 5000 Tasmanian jobs and $200 million per annum of revenue to Tasmania. Extension of the TWWHA would boost these numbers.

Developing these economic opportunities requires additional tourist infrastructure. Walking tracks and a visitors centre in the Styx Valley could help create a southern-hemisphere counterpart to the famous Redwood National Park in California. Additional facilities, tracks and services for visitors could also be established in the upper Florentine, next to the road to Strathgordon. Such development, if carried out sensitively and marketed professionally, would be a great economic boost to the Derwent valley, including towns such as New Norfolk, National Park and Maydena.

Rehabilitation of some logged areas and the closure and re-vegetation of redundant logging roads is also required. Globally, this is nothing new. When Redwood National Park was extended in the 1970s, over one third of the redwood forests within it had already been utterly devastated by logging. In this unstable and tectonically active landscape, the National Park Service had no option but to restore the contours of the land and the natural species-composition in order to minimise siltation and erosion. This world-leading project is still occurring today. In Tasmania, it need not be done on such a large scale, but there are certainly many logging roads into sensitive areas of the Styx, Weld and Florentine that are ecologically destructive and will soon be surplus to requirements.

Achieving this vision requires political will. Where the murky processes of the Tasmanian Intergovernmental Agreement (‘the IGA’) will lead is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, the IGA is being flouted as logging continues within the tracts of oldgrowth forest that Prime Minister Gillard and Premier Giddings pledged to protect – including the Mt Mueller forest that has become Miranda’s home. Hope for these forests, and for an extended Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, rests with those who love these places. Let’s all support Miranda, Still Wild Still Threatened and the ObserverTree so that their message can be conveyed to the rest of the world.

Then our tall-eucalypt forests can enjoy the same protection and reverence as California’s statuesque oldgrowth redwoods and become a great international drawcard for Tasmania.

Guest Blog Bio: Geoff Law –

Geoff Law has been a wilderness conservationist in Tasmania for over 30 years.He was a full-time volunteer in the landmark Franklin River campaign. He was then the Tasmanian Campaign Officer for the Australian Conservation Foundation, helping to stop the Wesley Vale pulp mill and Huon valley woodchip mill, and worked on campaigns that created the Douglas-Apsley National Park and extended the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area to include significant tracts of tall-eucalypt forest. From 1999 to 2008, Geoff was involved in coordinating campaigns to protect oldgrowth forest and working to stop Gunns’ proposed pulp mill, through his role as Tasmanian Campaing Manager for The Wilderness Society.  Geoff was of the “Gunns 20”;  being sued by Gunns for their work on the forests campaign. He has also worked on environmental issues for Senator Bob Brown, producing a report in 2009 proposing extension of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Geoff has been arrested several times protesting in Tasmania’s threatened wilderness areas. In 2008, Penguin published his entertaining recollections of the Franklin River campaign in his book ‘The River Runs Free’. In 2010, he worked on Indonesian forest issues from the Javanese city of Yogyakarta. In 2011, he travelled to World Heritage forests in the USA, Europe and Japan under a Churchill Fellowship.

Guest Blog: Miranda’s family offer their support and Christmas wishes

In the first of The ObserverTree’s guest blogs Miranda’s family talk about their support for her campaign to protect Tasmania’s ancient forests. Glenys, Dave, Rhiannon and Simone all wish Miranda a happy Christmas and send their love. They encourage everyone to get behind The ObserverTree.

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