Magnificent forests are undergoing ravaging deforestation in Tasmania, a territory of about 26,000 square miles offshore from the Australian mainland and populated by 475,000 inhabitants. Environmentalists are alarmed by the destructive forestry practices there.
Gigantic trees are disappearing beneath chainsaws and bulldozers, and napalm bombs dropped from helicopters execute a fiery purge. Daily, an area equivalent to 44 football fields evaporates in smoke. Some places look like battlegrounds from World War I. All that remains are desert-like expanses, with craters and cadavers of poisoned animals dispersed in a nightmarish landscape.
Giant 200- to 400-Year-Old Eucalyptus Trees
The virgin forests, located about 43 miles west of Hobart, Tasmania's capital, shelter giant eucalyptus trees about 300 feet in height, ranging from 200 years to 400 years old, with trunks up to 16 feet in diameter at the base. After the devastating destruction, young trees are planted. They are essentially young, exotic trees, imported for their rapid growth.
In order to protect the young trees and their small shoots, poison is spread onto the earth where the local fauna, fond of the young plantation trees, is exterminated. The poisoned animals suffer horribly and die violently. These once-heavenly places are disappearing, along with all their rich biodiversity.
A Fraudulent 'PEFC' Label
Products from these forests have been given a PEFC label (Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, also known as Pan-European Forest Certification), which is, in theory, given only to products coming from forests managed in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Organizations such as Friends of Earth, World Wildlife Fund, GoodPlanet, and Greenpeace have denounced this fraud and asked governments and wood dealers to be rigorous in refusing certifying wood from Tasmania. Originally, the label was created by some European foresters at a time when logging operations did not pose major problems, and it was only in 2003 that the certification was extended to exotic wood from virgin forests.
For citizens worldwide, buying "certified" paper or wood is a positive action and a gesture to protect the planet. But in actuality, by buying natural materials from Tasmania, people are contributing to the destruction of the forests there. Wood dealers bleach the wood and grant themselves a label independent of the local environmental protection associations, who have denounced their practices for several years now.
Each Year, 20,000 Hectares of Virgin Forest Are Destroyed
Following protests on all fronts, Australian Prime Minister John Howard promised before the elections to protect logging jobs along with the virgin forests of Tasmania, including the Valley of Giants and the Styx Valley. He kept his word for these two sites, which have officially been classified as part of the national heritage. It was then that the racket of chainsaws gave way to bird songs.
Local government, however, has put restrictions on his promises, announcing that only 68 percent of the virgin forests would be protected. It is noted that "20,000 hectares of virgin forest is cut down every year," and reforestation is no longer assured, since "80,000 hectares of land have been transformed into plantations in the last seven years."
The Gunns group, the principal forestry operation, justifies the method of burning by saying that it will stimulate spontaneous germination in areas where the ground has literally been burned. In Tasmania, napalm is widespread and under the control of the forest commission, which reiterates that the next vegetable growth is already sprouting beneath the burned earth. Gunns claims that all harvested forests are regenerated, which is false, according to environmental organizations.