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From ab758@virgin.vip.vi Sun Aug 27 15:41:41 2000
Date: Sat, 26 Aug 2000 23:08:53 -0500 (CDT)
From: Mark Graffis <ab758@virgin.vip.vi>
Subject: Logging in Tasmania threatens old-growth forests
Article: 103545
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
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Logging in Tasmania threatens old-growth forests

By Mark Schulman, Earth Times News Service, 26 August 2000

SYDNEY--Australia's giant gum trees are being threatened by unsustainable logging practices and deforestation according to the Wilderness Society of Tasmania. Over 22,000 hectares of native forest in Tasmania was logged last year, the conservation group has reported. Nearly two-thirds of those forests were old growth.

If forest policy in this State doesn't change, says Tim Graham, a community service officer with the Wilderness Society, we are going to lose one of the last remaining tall, old growth forests in Tasmania.

The Wilderness Society is currently leading a campaign to protect the Styx forest in southwestern Tasmania, one of the country's last strongholds of old growth Eucalyptus regnans, which literally translates to king of the gum tree.

Of Tasmania's original 99,900 hectares of E. regnans, only 13 percent remain as old growth forest and less than half of that is protected.

Not only are the E. regnans the largest of the 600-plus species of Eucalyptus found in Australia, but they are the tallest standing hardwood trees in the world - only second in size to the world famous Californian redwoods. The average growth of a mature E. regnans ranges from 75-90m. and has a life expectancy of up to 450 years. Currently, the tallest tree recorded in the Styx is measured at 91.6m. The tallest Redwoods exceed 100m.

This towering tree, as well as many others of similar stature, are found in a small 15 hectares reserve, less than two hours west of the island-state's capital, Hobart. While there are no known plans to log this reserve or some of the other reserves throughout the 16,000 hectares Styx Valley, the old growth trees are not legally protected and can, therefore, be cut down by the logging companies at any given time to feed the strong consumer demand for paper products and, particularly, for the production of woodchips - one of the State's largest exports.

At the current rate of production, over five million tonnes of woodchips will be produced this year for markets in Japan, South Korea and Indonesia. Controls for woodchip exports were removed two years ago and woodchip production has reached an all-time high, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The timber industry is a major part of the stagnant Tasmanian economy, generating sales worth more that $1 billion and employing thousands. The Styx is also an important ecosystem for wildlife, including the Wedge-tailed Eagle, Australia's largest bird of prey and a listed endangered species in Tasmania. The breeding season has temporarily halted planned clear-cutting in several areas where the eagles nest, but the reprieve is not expected to last long.

Skeptical of the State's forest management plans and conservation efforts, the Wilderness Society would like to see this state land, as well as the entire Styx Valley, protected under the aegis of a new national park.

Tasmanian's old growth forests are being logged at an unsustainable rate, Graham claims. What's worse is that a lot of the public forests are being destroyed and replaced by plantations.

Not true, defends Kim Creak, the general manager of operations for Forestry Tasmania, the agency responsible for the State's forest resources. The management of Tasmania's forests are carried out in the most regulated environment in the nation, he recently wrote in a letter-to-the-editor in one of the island's local newspapers. He added that under a regional forest agreement between Tasmania and the Australian Commonwealth more than 400,000 hectares of new national parks and conservation areas were created, with 86 percent of Tasmania's old growth forests on public land now protected.

These statistics are very misleading, Graham says, because they include non reserved forests that the forestry agency does not have plans to log now, but could at any time, and they obscure the fact that 75 percent of Tasmania's old growth forests have already been lost.

The Wilderness Society continues its campaign to raise public awareness of the plight of the Styx and to prevent the logging that is destroying this magnificent old growth forest.

(For more information on the Wilderness Society's Styx Campaign visit the following website: [1]www.wildnerness.org.au/tasmania)


1. http://www.wildnerness.org.au/tasmania
2. mailto:comments1-8-26@earthtimes.org
3. http://www.earthtimes.org/lowgraphics.htm