Greens Senator Wins Partial Halt to Tasmanian Logging

HOBART, Tasmania, June 7, 2005 (ENS) - Forestry Tasmania has agreed not to log, in 2005, one of two contentious areas in the Wielangta State Forest on Tasmania's east coast, after Greens Senator Bob Brown challenged the logging in the Federal Court on Friday.

The senator, who represents Australia's island state of Tasmania in Parliament, applied for an interlocutory injunction to stop Forestry Tasmania's operations in the Wielangta Forest.

The Court, in Hobart, will give Senator Brown’s challenge to the logging a full hearing on September 19.

Senator Brown said the Wielangta Forest is a "hot spot" for rare and threatened species and that he has been preparing to take legal action since the area was first scheduled for logging in 2003.

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Breeding in only in Tasmania, the swift parrot migrates to the mainland every autumn to winter box-ironbark forests and woodlands of Victoria and New South Wales. (Photo courtesy Tarkine National Coalition)
He said the logging violates Australia's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and is destroying the habitat of the threatened Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle and the rare, migratory swift parrot.

"Wielangta is the epicentre of the swift parrot’s breeding," Senator Brown said outside the courtroom Friday. "This is a test of the nation’s real intent to protect its rare wild creatures."

Because of clearing of more than 85 percent of its preferred wintering habitats, and continuing clearing of 500 to 1000 hectares of its breeding habitat for commercial woodchipping every year, the breeding population of the swift parrot has declined in the past 10 years, according to the conservation group Birds Australia. Fewer than 1,300 breeding pairs remain and numbers are decreasing by more than one percent every year.

"Are we not going to put survival ahead of money?" Senator Brown asked outside of court.

In addition to suspending its logging plans for one of the controversial areas, Forestry Tasmania also agreed that its scientists will consider whether any measures are desirable in a second area, which is already being logged.

The scientists will consider whether logging is affecting the rare and endangered Wielangta stag beetle, which Senator Brown said has been found there, but the court did not require that the agency stop logging operations.

Forestry Tasmania’s Acting District Forest Manager David Brown welcomed the Federal Court agreement to maintain the existing harvesting operation in the Wielangta State Forest.

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Trunk of a giant eucalypt in the Wielangta forest, around 1911. Standing beside it is James Russell Allport, whose family founded the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts in Hobart. (Photo courtesy State Library of Tasmania)
The area of the current harvesting operation for sawlogs covers about 46 hectares, the manager said.

“The contractor and the sawmills will be pleased that current harvesting can proceed to supply some 1,000 cubic meters of sawlogs to local sawmills,” he said.

The Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement reached with the Commonwealth on May 13 protected an additional 848 hectares at Wielangta Forest in a formal reserve, bringing the total area protected to some 9,000 hectares, said District Forest Manager Brown.

The A$250 million Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement, signed in the Styx Valley, is the biggest single step in Tasmanian forestry in 50 years and represents an opportunity to end the conflicts over Tasmania’s vital forest industries, said the state's Premier Paul Lennon.

Premier Lennon said the agreement protects Tasmania's natural environment and secures all the jobs in the industry. "We’re making sure Tasmanians can be proud of our environment and our forest industries."

But Senator Brown said the agreement failed to fully protect rare species' habitats.