The island-state of Tasmania is home to the world’s tallest hardwood forests and the largest area of rainforest in Australia. Old growth trees standing as high as 300 feet provide crucial habitat to native animals, including rare and endangered species such as the wedge-tailed eagle and the giant freshwater crayfish. Visitors come from all over to view these spectacular forests, making them one of Tasmania’s most valuable tourist assets.
But new logging roads, logging, burning, and poisoning are destroying this magnificent wilderness. According to Forest Practices Board Annual Reports, “Over 10,000 football fields of native forest are being clearfelled and burnt in Tasmania each year.” This includes rainforest. Most of the trees logged in Tasmania end up as woodchips, and 1080 poison used in logging operations is killing thousands of animals each year.
Although Australia’s recently re-elected Coalition Government vows to protect large areas of Tasmania’s old growth forests, most notably in the Tarkine – Australia’s largest continuous rainforest – much of the State’s wilderness will remain without protection. Unfortunately, a delay in the government’s protection policy is keeping all of Tasmania’s old growth forests vulnerable.
The Wilderness Society of Australia propelled Tasmania’s wilderness to the forefront of Australia’s recent general elections. Still, the forests remain a long way from recovery. Efforts to save this natural resource face many hurdles, beginning with the implementation of a promised government policy to protect Tasmania’s old growth trees.
What needs to be done? Prime Minister John Howard promised to preserve these forests during his reelection campaign. His administration now appears to be delaying. Letters from concerned citizens (particularly travelers who may vote with their dollars) are needed to help convince the government to follow through on its environmental promises.