We’re not, I have to say, protestors. We love trees and have been working hard over the last 2 years to raise awareness of the world's big trees but we're quite moderate in our approach. However, though our love of forests and our work promoting significant trees we felt personally compelled to visit the camp, if only to lend our skills to the campaign and make a contribution to saving this forest.
While we were there, we did have a few goals in mind. The Tree Projects, the organisation that we run, is all about communicating the true scale of trees and promoting canopy exploration. We have been wanting to test out our new drone for weeks now. We wanted to document a Myrtle with the aim of testing out our gear but also to give the resulting image to the BBF to use as a campaign tool. We also wanted to test out a new portaledge for sleeping in the trees. This was a particularly exciting prospect as we had never slept in a tree before.
Thanks to Erik who found the Myrtle, we didn’t really have to do any searching. Erik found a magnificent individual just 250m from the road and yes inside the logging coup. Getting our equipment to the tree, even though it was only 250m, took an extraordinary effort. 45 minutes of tumbling, falling and plunging our way through the incredibly thick understory was a trying experience especially with our delicate equipment. As if from a Hollywood film we struggled towards an invisible GPS point thought this tangle 200m to go, then 100m…. 50m….. 25m…. and at 15m we still couldn’t see the tree. Then it was revealed: a very tall Myrtle in its absolute prime situated at the very edge of a lush gully and glowing in the morning sun.
We quickly set about surveying the surrounding forest checking for its suitability. Our style of image building requires a gap in the canopy big enough to fly the drone. Success! We couldn’t have hoped for a more perfect situation for our subject to be in. We setup the equipment with much excitement and anticipation and within 3 hours we had recorded all we needed. There were a few exciting moments when strong gusts of wind pushed our drone dangerously close to a nearby tree. Also, we had frustrating issues with clouds blocking and revealing the sun at quite inopportune times, resulting in having to hover the drone in position waiting for the light to return, wasting many precious minutes of battery life. All we could do now is hope that once we got the images back to the computer we had all the pieces of this giant puzzle.
With this task complete and our batteries empty we struggled once again back to the road and back to camp ready for a strong cup of tea before our next goal of setting up the portaledge. We have been climbing into the trees for 4 years now, but never had slept in one. This was until we were contacted by John Middendorf at Big Wall Gear who offered us the use of one of his new designs. A portaledge is basically a tent for rock climbers who have to spend more than one day climbing and need to sleep overnight on the wall.
For our purposes, it seemed perfect a quick and easy setup in the canopy and a comfortable place to sleep. It was an extraordinary opportunity for us and although the wind was blowing a strong easterly, flexing the tree and branches, we couldn’t pass it up. I won’t lie, it was a rough night as are most new experiences. The wind did not let up all night and a few gusts really did throw around the platform and more scarily, push the tree around which is quite the experience when trying to sleep. But, as if to contrast this the sunrise, the following day made it all worthwhile.
Dawn over the top of the forest brought a chorus of birdsong with green rosellas, superb wrens and strong billed honeyeaters all staring in the show on this brisk pre dawn. In just a few seconds the sun rose over the distant horizon and the steel blue hues were transformed into a burning orange. The tree that had held me all night now blazed with warmth as did the entire canopy landscape of the proposed logging coup. I’ve always thought that the hardest experiences result in the greatest experiences and on this occasion that was very true.
As our third morning dawned then progressed it was apparent that our time was up, again.
Steve & Jen
An article in The Examiner by 18 Mar 2017
Conservationists are ramping up their protest efforts as they brace for Forestry Tasmania to begin logging two coupes in the Tarkine.
It comes as the Forestry (Unlocking Production Forests) Bill 2017 heads to the upper house, aimed at unlocking a further 100,000 hectares in the region, as part of a proposed 356,000 hectares statewide, after the legislation passed through the House of Assembly early Friday morning.
Meanwhile, loggers were expected to move into the already available Frankland River area “any day”, where the Bob Brown Foundation was holding a vigil in a tree canopy.
Activist Scott Jordan said the vigil camp was well into its fourth week. “We’re watching over the area and conducting surveys and presenting evidence back to Forestry Tasmania as to why they shouldn’t be logging it.”
With artist Calandra Kidd and photographer Charles Chadwick, Andy photographed the threatened forests.
Charles Chadwick, Tasmanian photographer visited Frankland River threatened forests.
Here are his wonderful photographs:
It is a battle that has been fought over many decades, occasionally popping up in national and international media.
This time, a treetop vigil organised by the Bob Brown Foundation, has sparked a flicker of global interest in the Tarkine again, as Forestry Tasmania prepares to move in on two coupes earmarked for logging around the Frankland River.
If Forestry Tasmania does start logging and conservationists continue their occupation in the North-West, the state government’s anti-protest laws will come into effect.
A spokesman for Forestry Tasmania says he will not comment on the activities of protesters, but confirmed loggers intend to harvest the area this year.
“The Forest Practices Plans for [the two coupes] take into account forest values, including management prescriptions for threatened species and other special values.”
Environmental groups, including the Bob Brown Foundation, Save the Tarkine and the Wilderness Society say the wild region should be listed for national heritage, world heritage, and be given national park status.
But the federal government says the area is not being considered for potential listing on any fronts.
“In December 2015, the meeting of environment ministers discussed updating Australia’s World Heritage tentative list,” a spokesman for federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said. “The Tasmanian government did not put forward any places for inclusion on the tentative list.
“We regularly receive correspondence from interested parties on a range of matters including potential heritage sites. However, it is incumbent on the state government to put forward a nomination.
“The Tasmanian government has not requested the Tarkine be considered for World Heritage listing, and the department understands the area has not been assessed for its potential outstanding universal value.”
As peaceful protesters occupy the Frankland River area where Forestry Tasmania is due to begin logging “any day”, environmentalists are also watching closely as a contentious new forestry bill heads to the upper house.
On Friday, the state government passed its Forestry (Unlocking Production Forests) Bill 2017 in the House of Assembly, after a debate of nearly 12 hours – one of the longest in the history of the Tasmanian parliament. The government hopes to now push it through the upper house before a two-week parliamentary break.
Under the new legislation, the Labor-Green Tasmanian Forest Agreement, known as the ‘peace deal’, will be overturned. It had a six-year moratorium on logging in 400,000 hectares of Tasmanian forests, including parts of the Tarkine.
If it passes the upper house, the legislation will unlock 356,000 hectares of forests, including around 100,000 hectares in the Tarkine, for logging from July 1, 2018.
Forestry isn’t the only fight going on in the area. The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre says opening up takayna (the Tarkine) to 4WD tracks will wreck indigenous heritage.
The government is making changes to the Aboriginal Relics Act, which are welcomed by the Aboriginal community, but the centre’s chief executive Heather Sculthorpe says the tracks in the Tarkine undermine the positive amendments.
“Whilst they’re bringing in amendments to the Relics Act, they’re continuing with their determination to open takayna to 4WD tracks, which will … wreck Aboriginal heritage.”
Environment Minister Matthew Groom says improvements to the act show a commitment by the government to reset its relationship with the Tasmanian Aboriginal community. “The additional protections this bill provides for our rich Aboriginal heritage is another way we are demonstrating this.”
The Tarkine is home to the world’s second-largest temperate rainforest, wild rivers, buttongrass moorland, unique cave formations and rare Tasmanian species.
Resources Minister Guy Barnett says its new “unlocking forestry” bill, which will open up around 100,000 hectares of the Tarkine to logging, will mean the government can stop subsidising Forestry Tasmania to the tune of $25 million a year.
"Our legislation will end the subsidies by making available for harvest trees formerly locked up under the job-destroying Labor-Green forest deal - trees which can be harvested more economically (without subsidies) than up to one-quarter of those in the existing production forest.
"The only other way to end the subsidies is to reduce the amount of trees harvested by around a quarter, costing up to 700 jobs, which is something we simply won't countenance."
However, Forestry Tasmania will not harvest those contentious areas because it might affect its Forest Stewardship Council certification bid. Instead, the areas will be leased out to private companies.
The new legislation does not have the support of the opposition or the Greens, however, or even the state’s peak forest industry representative body.
“It will create unnecessary sovereign risk in log supply and problems in our markets, and a return to the ‘forestry wars’,” the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania said in a statement.
This is certainly not the first time the Tarkine has been in the spotlight as a result of environmental protest. The current debate is around forestry, but it has just as often been about mining.
In 2012, for example, during the previous government, there were 10 mine proposals and 58 exploration licences across the wilderness area at one stage.
Then-federal Environment Minister Tony Burke had let the region’s emergency heritage listing lapse the previous year, and was called upon to intervene in a similar way to the 1983 Franklin Dam case.
“The mining stuff is still simmering away, but the prices have dropped so much that it’s not viable, which is what we were saying quite a few years ago,” Tarkine campaigner Scott Jordan said.
“In the meantime, the state government has torn up the forestry agreement and seems hellbent on reigniting the forestry debate, and so is pushing into areas that just shouldn’t be logged.
“We want intervention from the state government and the federal government - any one of them can stand up and put a stop to this.
“We’ve campaigned for the Tarkine for over two decades now. This passage of this legislation won’t change that.”
Despite the decades of battle, all three environmental groups are united in the belief that the Tarkine will eventually receive heritage listing and national park status.
“I think it absolutely will happen eventually. It’s just a matter of having a government that wakes up to the opportunity,” Wilderness Society spokesman Vica Bayley said.
Bob Brown says Tasmania is the “place to be”.
“That isn’t because of logging. It isn’t because of mining. It is because of our wild and scenic heritage, certainly our historic heritage, and our marvellous foods and wines and the cleanest air in the world, and the Tarkine’s a winner on all things.
“Much like with the campaigns of the past, it’s just a matter of whichever big party sees it’s going to have a winner in the Tarkine.”
The Bob Brown Foundation has developed a campaign to create a 104-kilometre Trans Tarkine Track, which will take visitors through rainforest, over the Norfolk Range and around the West Coast with Aboriginal rangers to help people along the way.
“It’s much longer than the Overland Track or Cradle Mountain, and the South Coast Track,” Dr Brown said.
He says the development will cost in the order of $20 million, and believes it will bring more prosperity to the North-West than mining or forestry if it goes ahead.
The groups intend to continue lobbying until the region is awarded national park status or world heritage listing.
“Until we get that protection, our job is pretty straightforward, in convincing the public that these areas have to be protected,” Mr Jordan said.
As we hit day 31 since a team of five of us trekked into the Frankland River proposed logging coupes in the Tarkine, I wanted to reflect on the incredible effort that has been put in by over 60 volunteers, the generosity of those who have sent supplies and awesome baked goods, and the creation of the 'Frankland River Film Society'.
What an incredible team we have assembled. Lisa, Jess, Claire and Zeb occupying the treesit, and a ever changing team of volunteers on the ground supporting the tree sitters, conducting on ground surveys, and capturing images of these outstanding forests. I've met some people with amazing stories to tell, and have been inspired by the diversity of the people who are prepared to defend the Tarkine.
Mostly my task has been logistics. Without phone signal on the ground, and usually only texting capability from the treesit, getting images onto the internet and campaign HQ means we have to load all of the day's images and video onto a data card and drive 150km back to the Burnie office and upload. While there we also take the opportunity to re-supply. The shopping list varies, and can be anything from the most mundane items to the most obscure. Some times I'm sure they add an item just to test my resourcefulness (sorry Eric, I never did manage to locate your 'parade of circus performers').
One of the most important tasks on a project like this is keeping up morale. Little things like a block of chocolate or filling an esky with Ginger Beer and icy poles on a hot day can mean a lot. Items sent in by supporters have a special significance, and so when visitors call in with a box of apples or some baked goods the camp goes into a near-Christmas level of excitement. But one of our most successful tools in the morale toolbox has been the 'Frankland River Film Society'.
Kitted out with a projector, a pull up screen and a small very quiet generator, we've occasionally taken a night off surveys, and hosted our own little film nights right here in the Frankland camp. We position the screen so that it can be seen from the tree sit, and just relax and watch a film. We've even had popcorn and lollies! It's great down time, and just another way we can say thank you to our awesome volunteers.
Scott Jordan, Bob Brown Foundation
Back home again in my tree. The amazing Claire came down today after 5 days in the tree with pretty wobbly legs! She was very happy to be on the ground, take off the harness, and have a swim in the incredible Frankland River. And I have again taken her place for another week up here on this tiny 2x1m platform.
It is amazing to be back and I am so happy that we are still here, 17 days in and going strong!
Night is falling around me and the sky is darkening to navy blue with just a tinge of orange clinging to the horizon. I always put off pulling the tarp over me until the last minute as it feels wrong to be up here in the canopy but not be able to see the stars, the moon, the faint silhouettes of branches around me. Sometimes I take the risk and sleep without my 'roof' on, knowing I will wake at the first raindrops hitting my face and have to frantically waterproof my platform before me and all my gear gets wet. I think it's worth that risk tonight.
I have such a strange feeling of living this double life at the moment, from my day-to-day work in the land of rural General Practice, to this life in a tree in the Tarkine. So incongruent and yet both so much a part of me.
A lovely local couple are here for the night and brought dinner out for us, which is such a welcome treat. Ratatouille and potato salad. Delicious. I devoured it while savouring the last rays of sunshine. Having support from local people is so encouraging and keeps us going out here.
"The Liberal resources minister, Guy Barnett, on Tuesday tabled a bill to make an extra 356,000 hectares of forests available for logging, which he says will save 700 jobs as supply of sawlogs runs dry."
From the 9 News website:
"The legislation spells doom for a large number of rare species, including Tasmanian devil, wedge-tailed eagle and swift parrot which are primarily under (Mr) Frydenberg's duty of care."
Thousands of hectares of the land earmarked for logging by the state government is within the sensitive Tarkine region, Dr Brown says.
Tasmania's parliament will debate the legislation."Read the full story on 9news.com.au here.
Media Release 14 March 2017
"Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg should use his powers to protect rare and endangered species to save 356,000 hectares of wildlife-rich forests now facing destruction in Tasmania," Bob Brown said today.
"The Hodgman government legislation spells doom for a large number of rare species, including Tasmanian Devil, Wedge-tailed Eagle and Swift Parrot which are primarily under Frydenberg’s duty of care," Brown said.
"Quite recently the Swift Parrot was listed at national and international level as critically endangered. The Hodgman government’s plan is reckless and threatens the island state's reputation right around the world," Brown said.
Bob Brown has been visiting the Tarkine, including a vigil against logging in the Frankland River forests, over the last three days. 100 ,00 hectares of the Hodgman targeted forests are in the Tarkine region, where Australia's largest tract of temperate rainforest remains threatened by logging.
Jenny Weber 0427 366 929