The ObserverTree Online Art Exhibition will run from today until May 31 on the ObserverTree website. Artworks include beautiful photographic prints by Miranda Gibson, taken from up in the tree-sit, and personally signed by her. There are also paintings, prints and photography by artists who support the ObserverTree campaign. Funds raised from the exhibition will go towards the continuing campaign to protect Tasmania’s threatened forests. Please check out the exhibition here, and please share it with your friends and on social media.
While many conservation-minded people once held hope that the forest negotiation process may lead to forest protection outcomes, these hopes have been diminished by the ongoing conservation compromises made and more recently due to the current amendments made by Tasmania’s Legislative Council.
The amendments that have been made to this agreement by the Legislative Council render the deal void of any real conservation gain, yet prop up the dying native forest industry. These amendments are totally unacceptable.
One amendment is that forest proposed for protection in the first stage are only those areas that are in the World Heritage nomination currently before the IUCN. Leaving out large areas of high conservation value forest, in the North West, the Tarkine, the North East and East, Weilangta, Tasman Peninsula and Bruny Island, and West Wellington. These forests will not be reserved unless the native forest industry in Tasmania receives Forest Stewardship Certification (FSC). Protection will be delayed until at least October 2014, however it will be dependent on this certification.
This is an amendment laced with problems; the forestry industry is not committed to changing the current regime of clear-felling, creating huge quantities of wood that is referred to as‘residues’ by the industry, continued logging on steep slopes, old growth destruction and continuing regeneration burns. If these are the logging practices that are to be granted FSC status, then this would be a severe sabotage of the FSC process and bring into question the credibility of certification. Worse still it entrenches Tasmania into ongoing destruction of native ecosystems at a critical time of climate change.
Grass roots environmental groups, the Huon Valley Environment Centre and Still Wild Still Threatened have called on all parties to reject the legislation before the House of Assembly when tabled tomorrow, 30th April.
Environmentalists Jenny Weber and Miranda Gibson stated, “Tasmania’s forests deal is unacceptable, it has been for a long time and now these amendments by the Legislative Councillors make it worse. This legislation will not provide adequate protection of Tasmania’s unique wild forests.”
Huon Valley Environment Centre’s Jenny Weber stated, “The results of the three year Tasmanian forests agreement process are fundamentally flawed and unacceptable.
“It failed to address crucial environmental and economic issues; including the need to change silvicultural practices and transition out of native forests; failure to restructure an irresponsible and damaging Forestry Tasmania; continued presence and new arrangements by some environmental groups to support human rights violators, the Sarawak timber company Ta Ann; the continued push to process ‘waste’ after logging in the form of wood-chips and bio-fuels to prop up an unviable and non-competitive saw-log industry; and a severely ill managed exit program. All the while there has been ongoing logging of proposed reserves, and loss of wilderness forests.” Jenny Weber said.
Still Wild Still Threatened’s Miranda Gibson stated, “The forest agreement has been mutated to the point of being the complete opposite of the original stated purpose of these negotiations, which was a transition out of native forest logging. If this legislation is passed it will prop up a dying native forest industry based on outdated practices that are both economically and environmentally detrimental to Tasmania”
“The amendments made by the Legislative Council nullify the majority of conservation outcomes from this agreement, by making further reserves dependent of the native forest industry receiving Forest Stewardship Certification (FSC). The current practices of industrial scale forestry, clear-felling and burning are not acceptable for any legitimate certification. This amendment therefore serves to either jeopardise the integrity of FSC or otherwise result in the majority of identified high conservation value forests never being reserved” said Ms Gibson.
“We call on all parties of the House Of Assembly to reject this bill tomorrow and instead enact real protection for Tasmania’s globally significant forests” concluded Ms Gibson and Ms Weber.
The Legislative Council has fired a torpedo into the Tasmanian Forest Agreement.
After the Agreement was struck last year the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, made it clear that she expected it to be implemented without alteration. In perhaps the biggest downpayment in Tasmanian history, the Commonwealth gave $120 million to the collapsed logging industry to make good the Agreement. It promised over $100 million more for regional development on condition that the Agreement was fully implemented, including its promised forest reserves.
However, here in Tasmania, under concerted fire from the Liberals and disgruntled individuals from the logging industry, the Legislative Council has voted to amend the enabling legislation which was passed by the House of Assembly and blown up the Agreement’s environmental outcome.
Conservationists from Still Wild Still Threatened are today halting logging operations, in world heritage nominated forest in the Tyenna Valley. One conservationist is perched in a tree sit, which is attached to logging machinery.
Conservationists are alarmed that logging has been allowed to commence only in the past weeks, after these forests were nominated for world heritage protection two months ago.
Miranda Gibson, spokesperson for Still Wild Still Threatened said, “These forests in the Tyenna Valley were nominated for World Heritage protection two months ago. The recently commenced logging in these forests, shows a complete failure by Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke to protect the very forests that his government have nominated for World Heritage.”
“This logging is occurring within several kilometres of the Observer Tree, where I spent 449 days in a tree sit watching over the World Heritage value forests of the Tyenna. During that time people all around the world showed overwhelming support for the protection of these forests. Over 60,000 protest emails were sent to Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Environment Minister Burke requesting that they use their Commonwealth powers to stop the destruction of these forests,
Regrettably Prime Minister Gillard and Environment Minister Burke have ignored the international community and instead stood back and allowed forests to continue to be destroyed, forests they have acknowledged to be globally significant,” said Ms Gibson.
“Despite neglectful silence and wanton destruction of the values of these globally significant ecosystems on behalf of the Federal Government, conservationists in Tasmania will continue to take peaceful action in defence of World Heritage value forests that continue to be logged. Still Wild Still Threatened are calling for an immediate cease all logging of world heritage value forests in Tasmania,” said Ms Gibson.
“What was it like? That first moment you set foot on the ground again?” Many people have asked me this over the past few weeks, since ending my 449 day tree sit on March 7th. And to be honest, I can’t remember. I can’t remember what was going through my mind as I made that quiet descent – twirling around as the rope spun, watching the forest floor slowly get closer and closer. You know those times when there are so many thoughts that could be going through your mind, so many emotions- and because there are just too many your mind is instead quiet and uncannily empty? Strangely, one thing I do remember is the smell! As soon as I entered the understorey I was fully immersed in the scent of celery top pines- after almost a year and a half living in a cloud of eucalyptus. It smelt beautiful!!
When I set foot on the ground I clung to my rope like it would save my life. I didn’t want to let you. I descended into a media scrum. Despite how absolutely lovely and understanding they all were, it still felt a little like getting out of the tree to a pack of wolves waiting at the bottom- it was the biggest group of people I had seen at once in a very long time! The smiling face of Bob Brown welcomed me to the ground. And a hug from Jenny Weber nearly brought me to tears- after all this time working so closely together on the forest campaign, but at a distance it was so nice to see her face to face once again. I looked around me, apologetic faces of photographers looked back, as they snapped away at their cameras while knowing how strange it all must feel for me. I gave a smile and gripped the rope tighter.
“You can get out of your harness now!” Someone suggested. “uh..uh” I shook my head and kept my fingers firmly in place on the rope that had been my life-line for all those months. I did my media interview like this and still didn’t let go after the media left and the forest fell quiet. That rope was the thing that physically connected me to the tree for over a year. I didn’t want to let go- of the rope, or of my tree. Hours passed, as my support crew walked back and forth up the hill, packing up camp and taking my things to the car. I stayed at the base of the tree, connected to the rope. My last goodbye. Eventually I slowly undid my prussiks from the climb line and took a step back. The rope dangled in the air. I took a deep breath and stepped away from the tree for the first time in over 14 months. I turned around and looked into the forest around me. And without looking back, I disappeared in the undergrowth of ferns. I was shocked by my own agility. Each foot taking one step after another, over rocky ground and tree roots, the ground below me moving up and down as I crossed the steep terrain. I couldn’t believe it! I guess I owe a big thank you to the wonderful support crew who sent me up that stepping machine last winter. The daily exercises paid off and I was taking to the land like I’d never left! Great- one less hurdle to worry about. And i was relieved to do without the embarrassment of falling flat on my face like I’d envisaged.
Now that I was getting the hang of this walking thing, I started to look around me at the forest understorey. All those months I had come to know the forest so intimately, yet I had known it from only one perspective. The upper canopy is dominated by the giant eucalypts that tower above the forest floor. Down below it was a whole other world. I marveled at the tree ferns, growing much taller than me despite only progressing approximately 1-2 cm per year. I watched small wrens dart about on the ground and then disappear into a thicket of ferns. I saw a small animal, maybe an antechinus, scamper across the leaf litter and dive into a burrow between tree roots. I sat down on the ground, springy with brown leaves, twigs and a coating of moss. I looked up into the green canopy of sassafras leaves closing in above the forest. As much as I was already missing my tree top home, I felt a renewed appreciation for the beauty of the forest on ground level.
I returned to the tree and stood beside a bundle of rope that had been thrown onto a log protruding at a 45 degree angle from the ground. Perhaps this log had once been a limb of my tree and long ago plunged violently into the earth. Now it acted as a great bench right beside the tree. The rope draped across it’s rotting flesh triggered a memory. Like dejavu I instantly relived the last moments I had been here in this place. So strange that I had been right here with this tree for so long, but the last time I stood by it’s base was mid-December 2011. I reminisced about the what it had been like. The forest had been a hive of activity, climbing ropes and polypropylene ropes coiled and bundled around us. Planks of wood in an assortment of sizes carefully marked and labeled so we would able to fit the pieces of the puzzle together again up in the tree. I tried to remember how I’d felt then… anxious and excited. Full of anticipated mingled with trepidation at the uncertainty of what I had decided to embark on. Now, as those same ropes were once more coiled and bundled and walked back down the hill towards the car, it was the end of an incredible journey for me. A journey that those days of preparation and anticipation could never have prepared me for. A journey into the forest, into this ecosystem, into this campaign and into myself… in a way I could never have imagined back then.
Someone walked past me carrying a box of food “Geez, hard to believe all this stuff could fit on that tiny platform!” I followed their gaze up into the branches of my tree. It was strange to look at the pattern of these branches in reverse. From 60 meters away the platform circling the trunk right at the crown of the tree certainly did look tiny. But it had come to feel so spacious to me. There was all the space I needed. To walk around (3 steps one way and back the other, that is), to sleep, eat, bathe, watch the sunrise and talk to thousands of people around the world. It was all the space I needed. And sometimes it felt luxuriously large. At other times I felt like tearing my hair out at being confined on a 3×3 meter platform. Now, as I stood looking up, I had the whole world at my feet, but all I wanted to do was jump on that climb line again and go back up to that little platform that I call home.
I resisted the urge, despite the growing anxiety about what now lay before me. I tried not to think about life beyond the forest, it was all too overwhelming. Lying down with my head on the trees roots like a pillow I looked into the upper canopy of my tree, to branches I had watched every day for over 400 days. My anxiety was immediately comforted by the familiar movement of them as they danced against the blue sky. Although the leaves were now tiny specs from this great distance, they were the very same leaves that I knew so well. And it was like this, the weight of my head nestled against the base of the tree, that I said my final goodbye.
Over the past few weeks I’ve tried many times to write a blog to let you know what this has been like- getting down, adjusting to the world on the ground. But every time I sit down to write i don’t know what to say. It is so overwhelming- everything that has taken place and all I have thought and felt these past few months- it felt impossible to know where to start. Today I have told you the story of my feet touching the ground again, but now that I’ve started writing there are so many more stories that want to come tumbling out: of the fire, my last day in the tree, my first day in a house! So stay tuned… Keep checking this blog and in the meantime, don’t forget to take action to help protect these forests… CLICK HERE.
It’s hard to know what to say that could possibly capture all that I have been through in these past few days. Firstly I want to say thank you so much to everyone for your ongoing support. It has been so incredible to receive so much amazing support over the 14 months I was in the tree and that has continued over these past days, helping me to get through this time.
We all know that the fight is not over. And regardless of whether I am in the tree or on the ground, my determination to protect these forests has never wavered. When I climbed to the top of that magnificent old growth tree in December 2011 I vowed to remain there until the forest is protected. I may have been forced to evacuate due to bushfire, but I am still there in spirit, and will be until these precious forests are protected. Just as I know you all have been there in spirit through out this past year and will continue to be. The job is not done and we will continue to fight until Tasmania’s breath-taking, unique forests are safe from destruction.
I am proud of what I have achieved in my time in the tree. For one thing, that forest would have been a clear fell last summer had I not climbed into the upper canopy. Now it is on it’s way to a potential World Heritage listing this June. And beyond the valley and hills that I watched over, there are so many forests right across this remarkable island that I may not have been able to see from my tree top perch, but which I never forgot. Through my action I have been able to expose to the world both the beauty of these forests and the urgent need to protect them from an insatiably destructive timber industry that is tearing the heart out of Tasmania. And the world has responded to the call. All across the globe people have taken a stand. It doesn’t mean climbing 60 meters above the ground – there are so many ways to support this campaign, adding your voice to the call for forest protection. Together we have already achieved remarkable things, including a World Heritage nomination for many of Tasmania’s most iconic forests.
I want to share with you all of the thoughts, experiences and emotions that I have been through over these days. From the moment I first saw smoke rising up through the valley, and then watching the fire spread as flames roared from tree tops and my eyes watered from smoke. From the last goodbye in the upper canopy to the moment my feet touched the ground for the first time in over a year. Then all that has followed, in the process of adjusting back to life on the ground. There are so many stories to tell and their time will come soon. Right now I am resting and recovering (as well as doing lots of media interviews!). Stay tuned to the blog, though, as those stories will be making their way to you very soon.
For now, the most important thing is to remember how critical it is to keep on fighting at this time. Right now the chainsaws are still carving their way through forests that have been nominated as World Heritage by the Australian Government. The forests of Butlers Gorge, one of Tasmania’s most significant tracts of tall eucalypt forests, are being torn apart by three separate logging operations. This industrial scale logging is destroying the homes of Tasmanian devils and spot tail quolls that were seen on amazing video taken by our remote sensor fauna cameras in the area. You can check out the footage HERE.
Please watch and share this short video about recent action by Still Wild Still Threatened to defend Butlers Gorge.
Sign the online petition and hold Minister Burke and Prime Minister Julia Gillard accountable for the destruction they are allowing in the forests they themselves have nominated for World Heritage.
Thanks again for all your support.
After spending so long in a tree to protect these forests for all of us, let’s help Miranda! Please contribute to the Observer Tree fund online to help Miranda continue her work on the ground.
On Thursday March 7th, 2013 Miranda reluctantly had to descend out of the Observer Tree, back to the ground, due to the imminent threat of a wildfire within kilometres of the tree. Miranda spent an incredible 449 days in the Observer Tree, but the campaign is not over! These forests have now been nominated for World Heritage status by the Australian Federal Government, but right now these forests are still being logged. Environment Minister Tony Burke needs to take action now to stop the logging in these forests while they await official world heritage listing in June.
Miranda needs your support now, to help pay for the daily costs of phone, internet, transport and other ongoing costs of the campaign while she gets her feet back on the ground. The transition to life back on the ground after 15 months is a big process, and your help would be greatly appreciated in making it easier. Since being back on the ground Miranda has been doing lots of media interviews and enjoying the pleasures of ground dwelling life – like a hot bath!
Miranda Gibson has spent 449 days living in the canopy of the Observer Tree, an old growth Eucalyptus deep in the heart of Tasmania’s threatened wilderness forests. When Miranda first climbed the Observer Tree in December 2011 she sought to highlight the threats to the stunning forests in which she was living. These world heritage value forests have been scheduled to be clearfelled by Tasmania’s voracious and unsustainable logging industry. Through Miranda, the story of these forests has reached the world, through amazing national and international media such as CNN, The Guardian and Al Jazeera.
Please contribute to the Observer Tree fund here, and please share with your friends and share on social media.
Photo by Matthew Newton.
Miranda Gibson has today reluctantly left her perch high up in the Observer Tree, after 449 days, as a bushfire burned to within a kilometre and it became clear that predicted hot weather early next week could precipitate an emergency situation in the remote forest.
Miranda, of Still Wild Still Threatened, has spent almost 15 months in the Observer Tree after she climbed up on 14th December 2011, vowing to remain as long as possible to defend the forests, including the World Heritage value area in which the tree is situated.
“Our campaign to stop the logging of these World Heritage nominated forests and of the proposed protected areas will continue despite my exit from the Observer Tree. Although it is disappointing to leave this forest whilst these precious places continue to fall to the chainsaw, I have a huge respect for the forces of nature that are in play. And I remain as dedicated as ever to standing up for Tasmania’s threatened forests. ”
“I want to stress that magnificent forests are still in jeopardy, including places it has been agreed should be protected and become World Heritage listed, and that our will to see them safe remains as strong as ever. The campaign for these globally significant forests will now move into a new phase,” Ms Gibson concluded.