The Guardian July 23, 2003


Defending the Styx Valley Giants

In 2002, in a late night sitting of the Federal Senate, the Liberal and 
Labor Parties combined to pass the Regional Forests Agreement Bill. The 
Bill handed Commonwealth control over forest logging back to the 
States.

At the time the two major parties also voted down an amendment by the 
Greens that would have provided for compulsory compensation for forestry 
and mining workers affected by any loss of access to state forests.

The legislation was always going to be a boon for big business and a 
disaster for workers and the environment. Fast forward to the Styx Valley, 
Tasmania.

On July 13, more than 2000 people braved the cold and the rain to protest 
against the planned logging of the giant trees in the old growth Styx 
Valley of the Giants, which contains Australia's tallest tree, the 96-metre 
Mount Tree.

It and similar sized trees are threatened by logging, burning and poisoning 
with the chemical 1080. According to the state's timber agency, Forestry 
Tasmania, around 1770 hectares of Tasmania's old growth forests were logged 
in 2001-2002. More than half of Styx Valley has been logged.

A Regional Forest Agreement allows for logging in most of the area. 
Protestors noted that the loggers put away their chainsaws for the day of 
the action, "because they know that Tasmanians hate what they are doing".

A tent village was established in the Styx Valley in the lead-up to the 
protest, which was organised by the Wilderness Society. Within walking 
distance was the Mount Tree giant, "the world's tallest Christmas Tree", 
with a star at the top lit up each night by solar panel technology.

Down the road from that is the famous Chapel Tree, a giant more than 80 
metres high which can accommodate 30 people inside its trunk. Without the 
Wilderness Society campaign, both these and many other trees in the Valley 
would now be woodchips in Japan.

Of course, the loggers haven't gone away and given up, the Forest 
Industries Association of Tasmania saying that there is $724 million worth 
of timber crying out to be logged.

Greens Tasmanian Senator Bob Brown said that awareness is growing that 
Tasmania's old growth forests and their wildlife are being destroyed at the 
greatest rate in their history under the Federal Government's policies.

Referring to the landmark campaign against the damming of Tasmania's 
Franklin River, in which he played a leading role, Senator Brown said, 
"Most of all this campaign needs to go, as the Franklin did, to the hearts 
of 20 million Australians."

Writer Richard Flanagan stressed that "this isn't a Tasmanian problem. It's 
a national tragedy. We are here today to say it's not over and it's not 
going to be over until the last chainsaw has ceased to be heard in the old 
growth forests of Tasmania."

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