Locking up carbon, preserving habitats more critical than ever


We will debate the logging and incineration of wildlife-rich native forests but before we can engage in meaningful debate with Nick Steele, he will need to stop his continued misinformation campaign and stop writing fiction. He ignores the urgent need to conserve forests to make our planet liveable.

Tasmania’s logging habitat of critically endangered species is not the envy of the world. The vast majority of Tasmania’s logged native forests end up as woodchips rather than Steele’s “critical construction materials”. Deforestation overseas is on our doorstep, as the two largest companies taking timber from Tasmania right now are Sarawak logging companies responsible for deforestation for palm oil in Borneo’s tropical forests. The Tasmanian and Federal  governments spent taxpayers’ money assisting these companies to move into Tasmanian forests. We are the only ones who ever talk about this.

It beggars belief that Mr Steele justifies the woodchipping of critically endangered Swift Parrot habitat for paper and cardboard. Imagine still being in that mindset that logging forests for toilet paper and cardboard boxes is more critical than protecting native forests for all species survival and securing the fastest, most effective way to stabilise climate.  

The experts tell us that the Swift Parrot is at extreme risk of extinction due to the loss of breeding habitat driven by logging practices in Tasmania. This represents the greatest threat to the survival of this Critically Endangered species, not the glider predation.  Gliders are an introduced animal and pose a significant threat to Swift Parrots, but the gliders’ predators are also suffering pressure from loss of habitat to logging.

We are consistent at the Bob Brown Foundation. Before the Foundation was established, many of us were involved in calling for native forest protection and have been for the last two or more decades. 

We provide solutions. Nature-based solutions – defending forests for climate, wildlife and environmental benefits, including protecting all native forests and restoration of destroyed forested areas across Tasmania – are increasingly recognised by the IPCC and IUCN as critical weapons in the fight against global heating. They may not resonate with the people who want to keep logging forests in an age of biodiversity and climate crises. Mr Steele is not listening to the warnings of scientists that are so loud, they are deafening.  

Mr Steele knows plantation forestry is where the jobs and wealth creation are. He also knows there are enough plantations established in Australia to meet all our wood needs and to end native forest logging tomorrow. He should be honest enough to admit that plantation forestry is now the dominant employer in Tasmania’s forest industry.

It is a lie to say that carbon stored in timber products is greater than in old forests. Old forests store a huge amount of carbon naturally and when cut down, two-thirds or more of their carbon is released into the atmosphere as a global warming pollutant.  Only about five percent of forest carbon ends up in ‘long lived’ (>30 years) wood products.

Most important to our Foundation, and to more than sixty percent of Australians, is that Tasmania’s giant eucalypt forests, and other forests around Australia, are some of the biggest carbon storehouses in the world. The study by logging industry promoter, Forest Wood and Products Australia, found sixty-one percent of Tasmanians believe logging of native forests for wood products is unacceptable.

Unlike the violence that Forestry Tasmania brings upon Tasmania’s forests and wildlife every day, our non-violent protest is a traditional form of civil disobedience. Our protests are always non-violent and operate with strong liaisons with police and the nearby disability outpatient support service. 

. A sit-in is an age-old protest where the defenders enter a business and remain seated until evicted. We used sounds of chainsaws and recordings of animals dying, like those killed in logging coupes every day, because no one, apart from the loggers hear these animals suffering.

That these sounds and non-violent protest interrupted the people in the headquarters of native forest destruction in Tasmania may have been uncomfortable, but it is the experience of thousands of hectares of wildlife-filled forests crushed and incinerated every year.

We have just spent the last Swift Parrot breeding season in forests that are on the permanent logging schedule, with the parrots in the trees.  We were in forests that were in an active logging area and the Swift Parrots were nesting and breeding, but the chainsaws and logging machines were poised to cut through the forests.  It was up to us the citizens to find this logging, find the parrots and lobby for the logging to halt. The forests we were arrested in last year in the Eastern Tiers are now logged, but we temporarily halted logging while the parrots were breeding in the very same forests. Once they were gone, the machines rolled back in and flattened their nursery. Many Australian birds that depend on forests face extinction this century, including the Swift Parrot. Another important reason that native forest logging must end.

Meanwhile Forestry Tasmania announces they are going to incinerate 8,000 hectares of Tasmania’s public land, areas that have been destroyed by logging. Forests are irreplaceable carbon stocks, but, when logged and burnt, emit megatonnes of greenhouse gases.  Australia needs nature-based solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises that includes protection of all native forests and proactive restoration of logged and degraded native forests.

Last month’s IPCC report pleaded with us that we face “unavoidable multiple climate hazards” over the next two decades and are entering an era that will expose millions of people to food and water insecurity and that any further delay in global action “will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable future for all.” 

I am not sure there is time to wait for Mr Steele to catch up and debate these issues. I would much rather see our Australian native forests, our climate heroes, protected. Mr Steele is arguing for continued logging, incinerating and woodchipping of native forests. Is this the type of behaviour we can accept in this day and age?

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