Top three reasons to protect
1. At the heart of our Australian identity: The Australian bush is part of our national identity. Many of us have ‘gone bush’ at some stage of our lives, whether it be camping with friends and family, or a solo bush walk. Forests are like a familiar old friend - ever reliable, and always there when we need to take a breather from our daily lives. The forests we’ve walked through hold special meaning for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians alike.
2. A home for wildlife: Our South-Eastern Forests are home to some of Australia’s most iconic creatures. Yet exploitation of these forests mean that Koala populations are now in rapid free-fall, Tassie Devils are on the endangered list, and tiny possums and gliders are finding themselves homeless as a result of logging. Without urgent forest protection, these iconic animals face certain extinction.
3. Opportunity to transform an industry: Over-logging, a high Australian dollar, and increasing consumer demand for sustainability has seen Australia's forestry industry crippled. Exports have stopped, mills have gone broke, and many jobs have been lost. The time is right for loggers - with the support of local communities - to transition to a business model based on sustainable plantations alongside a small, high-value native forest industry.
Images of devastating industrial logging operations have been seared into the minds of Australians over decades. One minute, an 80 metre-tall forest giant stands as it has for hundreds of years - the next, it crashes to the forest floor decimating an ecosystem hundreds of years in the making.
Sadly, this story is repeated daily across our country. Large areas of forests are cleared, mostly for low-value woodchips. Forests are cleared, burnt, then artificially ‘re-generated’ to grow trees for timber - but not for wildlife.
The Fairy Leadbeater’s Possum is just one native species being driven to the brink by logging. This tiny possum is the animal emblem of Victoria, and makes its home in the tall Ash forests of the Central Highlands, north of Melbourne. Shockingly, it's estimated that only 1000 of these tiny possums now remain in the wild. Without an end to logging in these forests, The Fairy Leadbeater’s Possum will be just another contributor to Australia’s undesirable record for the highest rate of mammal extinction in the world.
There are other threats on the horizon too. In Europe, ‘renewable’ energy regulation has seen an explosion in wood exports from North America to be burnt in power stations. Countries such as South Korea and Japan are now encouraging wood-fired power, and the forestry industry has long seen burning wood chips for power as a replacement for wood chip exports. While the Wilderness Society is a strong supporter of truly renewable energy, burning our ancient forests – in Australia or overseas – has no place in a sustainable future.
What we're doing about it
For decades, the Wilderness Society has fought hard to protect our forests. We’ve worked with the community to tell leaders that Australians won’t accept our own backyard being destroyed. We’ve used science to demonstrate the importance of keeping our forests in their natural state. We’ve won and lost battles. We’ve worked with and against governments, companies, and the forestry industry. And we’ve certainly learnt a lot along the way.
Does your office or workplace unknowingly use copy paper sourced from our native forests? We've created an Ethical Paper campaign designed to inform and empower businesses, organisations and individuals across Australia to make forest-friendly choices when it comes to copy paper. A small act like signing the Ethical Paper pledge can make a huge difference to the survival of endangered animals like the Leadbeater's possum.
We’ve campaigned at home and abroad against the destruction of Tasmania’s old growth forests for many years. Our deep involvement in this issue recently gave us a seat at the table with industry, unions, and community groups, to map out a sustainable future for our forests.
The result of all this hard work was an historic peace deal. Signed in November 2012, and passed into law in April 2013, the Tasmanian Forest Agreement set aside to be reserved half a million hectares of native forest while restructuring the forestry industry to meet 21st century markets and standards. It's a fantastic plan, and we're committed to doing all we can to see it fully realised over the coming years.
Already, we've seen crucial parts of the Forest Agreement realised in Tasmania. In June at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Cambodia, the Wilderness Society was present to see 120,000 hectares, including some of our most treasured tall forests, protected from logging forever in an extension of the current World Heritage Wilderness Area.
We’ve been busy telling consumers right across the country that buying Reflex paper means buying into the extinction of the Leadbeater’s Possum, and putting pressure on Australian Paper to stop the destruction of the tall Ash forests of the Central Highlands - home to the tallest flowering plants in the world. Although the forests are still falling, we're gaining traction. Australian Paper has realised it can no longer afford to ignore community sentiment, as a recent decision to build a recycled paper factory demonstrates.
The Wilderness Society will continue to fight for our forests like it always has. Decades of work means we now have a chance to save our precious forests, and to play a constructive role in the creation of a new forest industry that supports workers and regional communities without destroying the environment.
Our vision for the future
It's an exciting time in forest conservation. We believe that a sustainable future for both the forestry industry and our forests can be realised. The hard work of environmentalists over decades means that our vision for Australia's South-Eastern Forests now stands a chance of being realised.
A sustainable industry is a fundamental part of the Wilderness Society’s strategy to protect our forests. The current Australian native forestry industry is based on an unsustainable model that needs to adapt to modern demands and expectations. We strongly support the participation of Indigenous Australians in forest management, and recognise that Indigenous land ownership and traditional cultural use of forests can also support conservation outcomes for our forests.
In an era where carbon pricing is becoming commonplace, Australia’s native forests will play an increasingly valuable role in our national economy. Our South-Eastern Forests are some of the most carbon dense in the world, so logging them not only releases locked up carbon into the atmosphere, it also removes the most efficient tools on earth at sucking carbon emissions straight out of the air. By protecting these forests, we can help to slow the effects of climate change.
These biodiverse forests are not only spectacular - they perform a wide range of functions essential to our society, such as regulating water supplies, and buffering floods and droughts. Keeping these forests healthy will not only ensure that future Australians can enjoy them in a recreational context, it will help safeguard our natural resources and our Australian way of life.
What you can do
You can help us protect our iconic Aussie eucalypt forests in the South-East of our great country. Donate to the Wilderness Society today and be a part of something incredible for Australia.