A video capturing the removal of a massive native Australian tree from Tasmania’s old growth forests has ignited a firestorm of controversy and indignation online. The footage, shot in Maydena within the Florentine Valley, showcases a segment of an immense trunk that is believed to belong to a Eucalyptus regnans, the world’s second tallest tree species after the California Redwood, filling an entire trailer.
The video clip, which has since gone viral, underscores the concerns of conservationists and environmentalists who deem such logging practices detrimental to the delicate ecosystems of old growth forests. The spectacle of a century-old tree, once vibrant and awe-inspiring, being transported for eventual processing has struck a chord with individuals worldwide.
Bob Brown, a prominent conservationist and former Greens leader, minced no words in expressing his outrage. He labeled the logging of these pristine forests as “globally shameful.” Brown lamented the loss of this natural wonder, emphasizing that the tree’s death represents an unnecessary and publicly subsidized act. He decried the destruction of the tree, which also brought about the displacement of birds, mammals, and other wildlife that had coexisted with the tree for centuries.
The fate of this colossal tree, however, lies sealed. Forestry Tasmania, recently rebranded as Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT), plans to burn most of the tree that remains on the forest floor. Tasmania’s timber industry holds considerable economic significance, contributing over $1 billion to the state’s economy and providing employment opportunities to thousands. STT, owned by the Tasmanian Government but operating as a private business, defended its actions by citing “safety reasons” as the driving force behind the felling.
Suzette Weeding, STT’s general manager for conservation and land management, clarified that the decision to remove the tree was documented and that the timber product was being recovered whenever feasible. She further elaborated that the tree was felled as part of harvesting operations within an area known as FO020B, which adheres to a Forest Practices Plan, a legal requirement under the Forest Practices Act. This plan dictates specific management protocols, including the documentation of tree measurements to ensure compliance with appropriate management guidelines.
While STT maintains its operations are in line with the certified Forest Practices Plan, critics remain unconvinced. The Wilderness Society and other conservation groups have questioned the logging of large trees within the designated areas, raising concerns about the efficacy of existing regulations in safeguarding these ancient giants.
Euan Ritchie, a Professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at Deakin University, echoed the sentiment of many when he termed the situation an “utter environmental travesty.” He posed a poignant question, asking what the public’s reaction would be if the felled tree were a whale rather than a tree.
As dissent continues to grow, Bob Brown took to the Florentine Valley in protest. He bemoaned the transformation of what was once a forest of towering giants into a landscape of broken branches and debris. Brown issued a call for Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to intervene, urging him to visit the site and address the issue at the upcoming Labor’s National Conference.
The controversy surrounding the felling of ancient trees underscores the broader debates over environmental conservation and sustainable practices. As states like Victoria, Western Australia, and parts of Queensland pledge to end native logging, the situation in Tasmania and other regions without such commitments highlights the ongoing struggle to strike a balance between economic interests and the preservation of invaluable natural habitats.