Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Old Growth Logging in Tasmania

Guest blog: A letter received by the World Land Trust on behalf of Sir David Attenborough, and posted with his permission.

Dear Sir David Attenborough,

I urge you to campaign to protect beautiful Tasmania from the ravages of an unscrupulous logging industry which clear-fells ancient old-growth hardwood forests with impunity and is planning a new pulp mill to further accelerate forest destruction. I enclose an article by Richard Flanagan, recently published in The Telegraph in the UK, which eloquently expresses the plight of Tasmania.

The devastation wrought by clear-felling is total - nothing is spared. Many of the mightiest eucalypts are worthless being hollow and ridden with rot. These are bulldozed and burnt along with rare, slow- growing rainforest species such as myrtle, celery-top pine and sassafras. An acquaintance said walking the Tasmanian Trail (a north-south route) was one of the most depressing things she had experienced: 4m diameter tree stumps lay smouldering in wastelands of ash and starving animals were given handfuls of corn from the back of trucks. Gum seedlings, to be planted by hand as part of the 'regeneration' process, are left unplanted in piles by the roadside.

Every day the main road near us is clogged with countless trucks loaded with logs destined to be wood chips and ultimately newspapers in Japan and elsewhere. While the government claims the credit for reserving a large percentage of Tasmania's forests, the reserves mostly contain inaccessible and alpine forest that could not be economically logged. There is widespread use of 1080 bait and atrazine in forestry plantations. Tasmania's unique mammalian population is threatened since most cannot live successfully in new-growth forest, requiring old hollow trees in which to shelter. Tasmania's forests are also home to the majestic wedge-tailed eagle and rare swift parrot.

The logging industry is led by a single, voracious company called Gunns, that is the real power in Tasmania. Their interests spread into all walks of life. The state government seems to exist only to support their interests rather than those of the populace at large. A process was set up to review the viability and environmental credentials of Gunns' proposed new pulp mill, however the commission entrusted with this review started asking too many questions. The state government promptly changed the law to take them out of the process - a process that is in fact a sham, a farce with a guaranteed outcome. A sawmiller that spoke out against old-growth logging was virtually bankrupted by Gunns before being targeted for takeover.

Living here is like living in a feudal, oppressed state. No one dare speak out for fear of a 'red-neck' in a truck coming around to smash up one's place. The state and federal governments doggedly support a marginal industry - already being out-competed by plantation timber from elsewhere in the world - which employs a tiny percentage of Tasmanians, makes a handful of people very rich and denies Tasmanians the tourist wealth it could be reaping.

Because Australia is a western, democratic nation, the world thinks we exaggerate and turns a blind eye, but the destruction and corruption here is as bad as any in the third world. I believe the only way our forests can be saved is by greater international exposure of what is happening. That would surely lead to general vilification from all right-thinking nations. My plea is an urgent one as our forests are disappearing rapidly and the pulp mill is due for approval in August of this year. I thank you for your attention and hope you can help us save our land.

Yours sincerely
Mrs Jenny Cambers-Smith

The newspaper article referred to in this letter can be found at:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2007/06/28/eatas128.xml

1 comment:

  1. Forests.org has a good archive of articles about Gunns and their activities in Tasmania.