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Posted: May 16th, 2012 By BWM

We wanted to take the time and tell you about what our friend Miranda Gibson has been up to. For the last 154 days, long time forest defense activist Miranda Gibson has been living in an old growth Eucalyptus tree (named Observer tree) nearly 200 feet up in the heart of Australia’s Tasmania’s southern forests. The forest that Miranda has been calling home is due to be logged any day now, and she has vowed to stay up in Observer tree until the forest is protected.

With the help of a decent solar panel, Miranda has turned the tree top platform into a fully functional media center. She has an awesome blog; Observer Tree, which allows the world to keep up with her forest defense work in protecting the beautiful Tasmania forest. The Observer Tree blog is frequently updated with video footage of Miranda and all things forest defense. You should really check it out and keep up to date with her campaign. Miranda has already broken the record for the longest tree sit in a Tasmania forest, and from the looks of it, she is only getting started.

Why?

This area of forest is in an area earmarked as one of Tasmania’s future forest reserves. It was promised protection by the State and Federal governments. Yet, if the logging industry has its way, it is going to be logged this summer! What is really going on in Tasmania’s forests?

A brief history of the Tasmanian Forest Negotiations:

2011 could have been a year of celebration for Tasmania’s wild forest. In October 2010, A statement of principles signed by Environmental NGO’s, industry groups and Unions paved the way for comprehensive forest protection and a restructuring of the logging industry. But, more than a year later, not one tree has been saved, more cash has been delivered to the timber industry and destructive logging continues in some of our island’s most sensitive and iconic forest areas. So what went wrong?

A series of broken promises, industry pressure and Government backpeddling have jeapordised the progress of this historic agreement.

First, in December 2010, the Tasmanian Government failed to implement a promised moratorium on the logging of 572,000 hectares of high conservation value forest. Forestry Tasmania, the State-owned forest management agency, flaunted this failure of leadership by pushing ahead with roading and logging in some of Tasmania’s most contentious forest areas.

In August 2011, the Tasmanian and Federal Governments signed an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) that promised immediate protection for 430,000 hectares of high conservation forest. The IGA stipulated that the Tasmanian Government would ‘ensure that the 430,000 hectares of State Forest identified … is not accessed [for logging]‘ and that the Commonwealth would compensate any contract holder affected by the protection of these areas.

But the agreement also required that hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of sawlogs and veneer peeler logs must continue to be supplied to the industry. Malaysian logging company Ta Ann Holdings has been promised an ongoing supply of over 265,000 cubic metres of timber per year from Tasmania’s forests. Forestry Tasmania argued that they could not supply this timber without continuing to log within the 430,00 hectares. In another backflip, the Tasmanian and Commonwealth Governments have turned a blind eye to the ongoing logging of pristine forests within an area they earmarked for immediate protection.

As 2011 draws to a close, Tasmanians are suffering the loss of hundreds of hectares of native forest that should have been saved from logging. Activists have occupied forests on the flanks of Mt Mueller to document this destruction. Prime Minister Julia Gillard must keep her word before the trail of broken promises undermines this crucial opportunity to protect Tasmania’s forests. 

A brief introduction to WHO is responsible for Tasmanian forest destruction

Ta Ann Tasmania’s wood requirements are driving the continued destruction of vital high conservation value forests. The supply of peeler billets to Ta Ann Tasmania is the major factor stopping forest protection, according to the official reports on the failure to reschedule logging operations. Forestry Tasmania is targeting areas rich in this wood supply, which equates to preferentially targeting high conservation value forests. Furthermore Ta Ann Tasmania received wood from areas containing old growth forest, as defined by the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement (RFA), on at least 35 occasions throughout 2009-2011.

The wood used by Ta Ann cannot be described as eco-friendly in any way.

Ta Ann has failed to ensure that their contract be supplied from outside the crucial forest areas, including such iconic areas as the Weld, Styx and Upper Florentine Valleys. Instead the source of their wood has been extensively misrepresented. Ta Ann’s wood supply has laughably been described as a plantation-based supply.

In Tasmania, where Ta Ann is at least forced to admit that their wood supply comes from native forests, they continue a misinformation campaign focused on the fact that they process wood of small dimensions. This material has often originated from high conservation value forests, which were destroyed to fulfill Ta Ann’s requirements, but they imply that the forests were all regrowth and of no conservation value when this is not the case.

Ta Ann has misled its customers in Japan and Europe by falsely promoting some of its Tasmanian products as ‘environmentally friendly’ plywood. Ta Ann, their partner SMKC, and their Japanese customers claim that these ‘eco-products’ are sourced from plantations and forests that have been replanted after logging. However, the reality is that Ta Ann is processing and selling timber products that are sourced from the logging of old growth forests, high conservation value forests, and forest with recognised World Heritage values in Tasmania.

(This information courtesy of taann.net)

Where?

Mount Mueller is a spectacular mountain located near the Styx Valley, Southwest Tasmania. The Weld, Styx and Florentine rivers all flow from this iconic mountain. While the mountain top is protected in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, the pristine ancient forests at its base remain under threat from industrial scale logging. The Tree Top Watch Spot lies in the heart of these forests.

This area of forest is known to Forestry Tasmania as “TN044B.” We have affectionately named it “Julia’s Forest.” Named after Prime Minister Julia Gillard. She is, after all, responsible for the life of this forest. On the day she signed the Intergovernmental Agreement, making a promise to protect this forests, she became it’s guardian. Julia will be accountable for every tree that falls in this forest.

Julia’s Forest is a prime example of Tasmania’s spectacular and unique forests. The ridges are lined with giant Eucalpyts, the tallest flowering plant on earth. Steep fern gullies are bursting with tree ferns, sasafrass, leatherwood and other Tasmanian rainforest tree species. Unique and threatened wildlife have been found in Julia’s Forest, including Tasmanian Devils, Spotted Tailed Quolls and the unique Tasmanian White Goshawks. The waterways in this forest are also home to a rare and threatened Hyrdrobiid snail.

The terrain is so steep in this forest that the loggers need to use specialised cable logging machinery. This is despite the historical land-slips that have occurred in the area. This type of logging causes irreparable damage to the soil and waterways.

Who?

Miranda Gibson

Miranda Gibson is one of Tasmania’s most committed front-line forest campaigners. She has been a core member of the grassroots environment group Still Wild Still Threatened for over five years, living high in the trees at Camp Floz, a blockade in the Upper Florentine Valley. Miranda has been the media spokesperson for Still Wild Still Threatened for the past year and half.

Miranda is a qualified high school teacher, specialising in Study of Society and Environment and English. She has put her career on hold to dedicate herself to the campaign to protect Tasmania’s forests.

Miranda was one of 13 forest campaigners who were targeted by woodchipping giant Gunns Ltd when the company attempted to sue these activists for the protesting at a woodchipping facility. The case was eventually dropped after about two years.

In 2008 Miranda was one of two activists assaulted by logging contractors in a vicious attack that was caught on film and made international headlines. Undeterred, Miranda has worked with other Still Wild Still Threatened campaigners to monitor wildlife in Tasmania’s threatened forests using remote-sensor cameras. Their work has documented the presence of threatened species including Tasmanian Devils and Spotted Tailed quolls inside areas scheduled for logging.

In 2008, Miranda also co-authored a guide to the “Flora and Fauna of the Upper Florentine Valley”, the sales of which have helped raised money for the forest campaign. Miranda is passionate about giving young people the opportunity to learn about and learn from the wonders of the natural world. She is an inspiring example of an individual willing to take a stand to ensure that future generations can experience and enjoy our precious natural heritage.

Email: observertree2011@gmail.com

Still Wild Still Threatened

The Observer Tree is a project by Still Wild Still Threatened, a grassroots environment group based in Tasmania. 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. Apart from supporting The Observer Tree we also run Tasmania’s longest running forest blockade Camp Florentine. And are involved in peaceful community action to highlight the values of Tasmania’s forests and advocate for their protection.

www.stillwildstillthreatened.org or contact us: stillwildstillthreatened@gmail.com

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