The massacre of Tasmania’s forests could be stopped at any time. Where are Australia’s leaders? | Bob Brown

After the photo of the “single-rider” tree trunk being trucked out of Tasmania’s Florentine Valley forest gained worldwide notoriety, I took a walk in the forest, guided by the Wilderness Society’s Alice Hardinge. The loggers stopped work when we arrived and the boss was furious.

The already logged area was studded with stumps more than 2 metres across which, according to Sustainable Timber Tasmania’s management plan, should have been saved from the chainsaws. These are Eucalyptus regnans, the tallest flowering trees on Earth. They are the next generation reaching up to surpass 100 metres in height and to host centuries of wildlife including the Tasmanian masked owl, wedge-tailed eagles, white goshawks and an array of marsupials.

Scattered among the mass of debris on the logged forest floor are young E regnans, 20cm or 30cm across, that until a few weeks ago were destined to grow for four or six centuries and eventually become giants like their ancestors, dominating the valley’s rainforests. Not considered worth even woodchipping, this newest generation of trees will be incinerated when STT, at taxpayers’ expense, comes back next year for a “regeneration burn”. Every remnant, even the remaining native spiral-shelled snails, will be burned to a cinder.

We walked over a giant stump and beneath a still-standing massive tree into the intact magical fernery behind. One tree fern (Dicksonia antarctica) had three lush tops coming from a “wall” of trunk which was embossed with a myriad of smaller ferns and lichens. I had never seen such a large fern buttress. Another fern, leaning and more exposed to the light, had its trunk carpeted with green and yellow mosses and tiny plants. I couldn’t reach around its stem.

On a fault in this limestone country beneath snowy Mt Field, the fernery ran like a narrow ribbon through the towering forest. It could have been there for millions of years.

Elsewhere D antarctica are abundant and can grow up to 15 metres high. Many of us have enjoyed them on the south-east mainland and elsewhere in Tasmania, such as the Liffey Falls, takayna, the Styx valley and the Royal Botanical Gardens. But the Florentine’s fabulous natural fernery took the prize. It would require a seriously planned future footway for minimal-impact visitors to experience its splendour.

As we emerged back into the logged area the police arrived and, threatened with arrest for trespassing in this beautiful but doomed public forest, we walked out and drove home as the bulldozers fired up again.

Last Saturday I returned to the fernery and found it destroyed, razed to the ground. Splintered branches, fern fronds and its myriad of littler ferns were now smashed into the mud. The greater fern buttress was upturned and the top of it pulverised into the bulldozer tracks. Trees to the north were tagged with blue ribbons, perhaps indicating that a cameo area there will be spared. But the magnificent heart of the fernery has been eradicated for ever.

‘Single-rider’ log from a downed giant native tree, a Eucalyptus regnans, trucked out of Tasmania’s Florentine Valley forest.
‘Single-rider’ log from a downed giant native tree, a Eucalyptus regnans, trucked out of Tasmania’s Florentine Valley forest. Photograph: The Bob Brown Foundation

The clearfell logging is expanding south and west but two forlorn trees have been left standing because the loggers have come under public surveillance. When they firebomb the area those trees are likely to burn too.

At any time the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, or Tasmanian premier, Jeremy Rockliff, could stop this needless massacre of nature.

To purloin a line from Shakespeare: “O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth, That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!”

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