In 2006, a group of grassroots environmental activists representing forests and communities in Southern Tasmania joined together in recognition of the continuing threat to Tasmania’s ancient forests. Since this time the Still Wild Still Threatened (SWST) campaign for Tasmania’s Southern Forests has garnered significant attention and dramatically raised the public profile of forests such as the Styx, Weld, and Upper Florentine.
SWST advocates for the immediate formal protection of Tasmania’s precious Southern Forests using a combination of political and corporate lobbying, community education, research, exploration and frontline direct action. We also promote the creation of an equitable and environmentally sustainable forest industry in Tasmania. Protecting Tasmania's ancient forests: a real climate change solution.
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.
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.
Conservationists from Still Wild Still Threatened have today taken peaceful direct action in Butlers Gorge to highlight the ongoing destruction of this area of important wildlife habitat. Two conservationists have blocked access to a logging road. They are sitting on the road, chained to each other and are willing to risk arrest. Still Wild Still Threatened is today releasing footage taken within threatened forest of Butlers Gorge. The footage includes several healthy Tasmanian devils as well as spot tailed quolls, echidnas, pademelons and other animals.
"Areas like Butlers Gorge have been nominated for World Heritage because they are globally significant forests. Habitat for wildlife, and in particular endangered species, is a critical value of these forests that needs to be protected" said Miranda Gibson, spokesperson for Still Wild Still Threatened.
"We are releasing footage today that shows a diversity of wildlife living in these threatened forests. Remote sensor fauna cameras have captured evidence of endangered species including Tasmanian devils and spot tail quolls in these areas that are being logged right now" said Ms Gibson.
"According to independent experts, mapping shows Butlers Gorge as a high priority area for the improvement of reservation and connectivity of reserves for Tasmania's large carnivore species, including Tasmanian devil and spot tailed quoll"
"Based on legal advice, a letter was sent earlier this week to Minister Tony Burke outlining the legal course of action he can take as Environment Minister to bring an end to logging in the forests he has nominated for World Heritage" said Ms Gibson.
"Tony Burke needs to take responsibility as Federal Environment Minister for the destruction being done right now to the homes of endangered species in these World Heritage nominated forests. Over 60,000 protests emails have been sent from around the world, calling on the Federal Government to immediately end this logging. Yet, Minister Burke has ignored these calls from the international community. " said Ms Gibson.
"The values of these forests are being assessed by the IUCN in Paris, and meanwhile those very values, including the significant wildlife habitat in these forests, are being destroyed by logging. It is an absolute hypocrisy" said Ms Gibson.
Today Still Wild Still Threatened has taken action at Butlers Gorge for the second day in a row. Yesterday protesters successfully halted logging operations in three separate logging coupes. Police arrested one protester yesterday afternoon and dismantled structures that blocked access to the logging road. This morning the logging is halted once again by a structure attached to a tree sit. One person is in the tree sit and 15 others are on the logging road.
“Conservationists are stopping logging for a second day today, because it is absolutely critical that the chainsaws stop in these World Heritage nominated forests” said Miranda Gibson, spokesperson for Still Wild Still Threatened.
“Three weeks ago when Minister Burke announced the outstanding universal values of these forests were worthy of World Heritage protection there should have been an immediate cessation of logging. This did not happen” said Ms Gibson.
“Stopping logging in World Heritage nominated forests should not be left up to the community. But unfortunately in the wake of Tony Burke’s deplorable neglect of these forests, conservationists have had to step in and hold the chainsaws at bay in order to try and protect very values for which these areas have been nominated” said Ms Gibson.
“As a conservationists, members of Still Wild Still Threatened cannot stand by and watch as some of Tasmania’s most precious forests carted away on the back of log trucks at a time when they should have been safe. We will continue to take action to end the destruction in these World Heritage nominated forests” said Ms Gibson.
“The message is clear: Tony Burke, enough is enough. You’ve nominated these forests, now protect them” said Ms Gibson.
Over 40,000 protest emails have been sent within the first days of an online petition targeting the Australian Government in a call to end the logging of World Heritage nominated forests in Tasmania. Today, conservationists from Still Wild Still Threatened are continuing to highlight the destruction of these forests by conducting a peaceful protest in Butlers Gorge. One protester has locked themselves to a gate and another person is perched in a tree sit, halting logging operations in the three logging coupes in the area. These coupes are situated in a forest that has been nominated only weeks ago by the Australian Government for a World Heritage listing.
“Today’s peaceful action is taking place to halt the destruction that the Australian Government should have stopped themselves upon nominating these forests for World Heritage to the IUCN. The government’s nomination is recognition of the outstanding ecological values of these forests, despite this they are neglecting their responsibility to protect the area. These forests are not safe” said Miranda Gibson, spokesperson for Still Wild Still Threatened.
” There has been a global outcry resulting from the documentation of the ongoing logging. Since we released a report in conjunction with the Huon Valley Environment Center and Markets for Change last week, thousands of people have signed an online petition calling for an end to the destruction of these World Heritage nominated forests” said Ms Gibson.
“The Federal Government has the responsibility, as commanded by Article 4 of the World Heritage Convention (1972) that Australia is a signatory to, to identify, protect, conserve, present and transmit to future generations these globally significant forests. It is blatant hypocrisy to nominate forests for World Heritage one week and log the same forests the next week.” said Ms Gibson.
“Still Wild Still Threatened will continue to stand up for the threatened forests of Butlers Gorge and other World Heritage nominated forests until they are securely protected. We are calling on the Australian Government to immediately end logging and ensure no new coupes are started within the nominated forests” said Ms Gibson
Today conservationists from Still Wild Still Threatened successfully halted logging operations for the day in the Butlers Gorge forests. One conservationist remains locked onto the gate, blocking access to the logging road that leads to three separate logging coupes in the area. Another protester remains in a tree sit.
“Today’s peaceful action has not only held off logging, giving reprieve for the forests of Butlers Gorge, it has highlighted the complete hypocrisy of the Australian Government who are allowing logging to continue in areas they have nominated for World Heritage protection” said Still Wild Still Threatened spokesperson, Miranda Gibson.
“Tony Burke is failing Tasmania’s forests. The nomination made by the Australian Government to protect these world-class forests could have been something to be proud of. Instead it is now tainted with the ongoing destruction of some of Tasmania’s most spectacular wilderness areas” said Ms Gibson.
“Tony Burke’s recent assertions that the forest wars are almost over is ignorant of the reality faced by these forests everyday, which is an onslaught of logging in some of Tasmania’s most contentious forests. Tasmania’s forests are not at peace; they are being decimated by the logging that Burke is allowing to continue unabated in areas he has nominated for World Heritage. It is absurd and unacceptable” said Ms Gibson
“Despite Burke’s clear failure to protect the values that his government has recognised in these forests, he has the gall to claim that the Greens are not standing up for the environment. While the Burke has been turning a blind eye to the logging going on in the forests he nominated to the IUCN for their World Heritage values, Christine Milne the Leader of the Greens was here with me, in the Observer Tree, seeing first hand the values of these irreplaceable forests. I would like to invite Tony Burke to do the same” said Ms Gibson.
“We are calling on the Australian Government to immediately withdraw all logging operations from Butlers Gorge and to ensure no new logging coupes are started within the World Heritage nominated forests” said Ms Gibson.
World Heritage value forests nominated a fortnight ago by the Australian government for inclusion on the World Heritage register are still not safe and are being logged in secret, Tasmanian environment groups Still Wild Still Threatened, and Huon Valley Environment Centre and national group Markets For Change revealed today.
A detailed report as well as film footage of the ongoing destruction, collected since the nomination, including the installation of new forestry gates to exclude the public was released by the groups. Footage also shows the threatened forests that have not yet seen a chainsaw, although Forestry Tasmania has plans to log the intact areas with the knowledge and apparent agreement of the Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke.
An online action will today be launched from the Observer Tree through social media, where people can write to Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Environment Minister Tony Burke, asking for urgent action to halt the logging of the extraordinary values of the nominated World Heritage Value forests. Also a group of conservationists held a banner out the front of Canberra’s Parliament House this morning calling on Gillard and Burke, “You nominated the forests now stop the logging”.
“When Minister Burke announced that the World Heritage nomination had gone to Paris I was overjoyed. Yet what he failed to announce was that the logging of these forests of global significance would continue. This is unacceptable and I am now compelled to remain in my tree sit until these forests are actually safe, as they should have been as soon as their values were put forward to the World Heritage Committee ,” said Miranda Gibson from the Observer Tree.
Conservationists bring a messages from around the world to Canberra today.
“Conservationists in Canberra today are bringing the voice of the global community to the Australian Government. They have displayed a banner that features over 300 images sent in from around the globe, as the international community called for the protection of these world heritage value forests. Many more people will continue to bring the message to Gillard and Burke through the online action,” said Ms Gibson.
Miranda Gibson said, “In Butlers Gorge nearby the Observer Tree the tall forests are recognised to be absolutely outstanding wilderness and very significant tracts of the tallest flowering plants on the planet, yet this is where logging is ripping the place apart with three separate industrial scale operations.”
Current logging in Butlers Gorge
“The Australian government is abrogating its responsibility to protect the very World Heritage values they have nominated and many conservationists will be shocked that this could happen and angry that they have been kept in the dark about the continued logging. We are calling on the Federal Government to prevent any new logging from commencing and ensure that any current logging cease, so as to maintain the integrity and values of the World Heritage nominated forests.” said Jenny Weber of Huon Valley Environment Centre.
Jenny Weber said, “In the Huon region, seven areas of forests, with extraordinary values are scheduled for ongoing logging. The loggers are not in any of these forest areas now and we do not accept that logging should commence. In the far south in the Catamaran, the tall eucalypt forests in the Esperance and wilderness forests in the Picton Valley, we will not stand by while logging is scheduled to start in these world heritage value forests.”
These unique ecosystems in the Huon are on the schedule to supply timber to Ta Ann whose plywood flooring has already proved controversial in the Japanese market, which is another unacceptable source,” Jenny Weber said.
“Companies selling Tasmanian wood products will now be receiving supplies coming from forests nominated for protection for their world heritage values, a confronting prospect when the markets are actually crying out for improved environmental performance,” said CEO of Markets For Change, Peg Putt.
“Imagine a label on furniture or flooring saying ‘world heritage values died here’ and you get the idea of how horrified consumers will be and the damage this can do to the reputation of Tasmanian timber products just when world heritage recognition was supposed to crown the Tasmanian Forests Agreement. No wonder these logging plans were not publicly announced.”
“A failure of political will is now undermining both the industry and the best environmental treasures of Tasmania and the Prime Minister needs to take the matter in hand and insist that the world heritage values her government has nominated are not under assault for a single day more,” Ms Putt concluded.`
From the threatened forests of Butlers Gorge all the way to Parliament House in Canberra- this banner is sharing the messages of support from around the globe, calling for world heritage forest protection.