Australia’s Final Hope – The Tarkine Rainforest

Tarkine Rainforest

One of Australia's Last Remaining: Tarkine Rainforest - Photo: Michael

Leftover from the ancient supercontinent Gondwanaland, The Tarkine rainforest in Tazmania is 1,800 square miles of temperate rainforest, rugged coastline and home to over 56 endangered and threatened animal species, and one of the most significant remaining temperate rain forests left on the planet.

Logging has always been the single greatest threat to the Tarkine region. Originally, the forests were under the regulation of the Forest Practices Board, which in 2005 was restructured into the Forest Practices Authority (FPA) According to the FPA’s website, the Tasmanian forest utilizes a co-regulatory approach, which requires the logging industry practice self management, alongside independent monitoring and enforcement by the FPA. This system, in practice since the 80’s, is also the reason more than three quarters of Australia’s rainforests have already been permanently destroyed. (Tarkine.org)

an estimated $58 million in lost revenue due to illegal logging and weak forest relegation

The problem with the co-regulatory approach is inherently that it relies on the logging industry itself for basic regulation. Large ares of forest are set aside for wood-chipping via highly destructive clearcutting practices, where every tree in the area is cut down, allowing zero chance of regrowth. This is currently occurring in even old growth areas of the forest, where the Myrtle beech trees take hundreds of years to reach their peak.

The logging practice also increases the naturally occurring Myrtle Wilt, a fungus that enters the beech tree through an open wound, completely halting sap development and killing the tree within three years. This process generally occurs during storms, when a tree would lose a branch in high winds. The Myrtle Wilt rate has increased ten fold due to current logging practices, as the Myrtle tree is predominate in temperate rain forests such as the Tarkine.

Professor Wangari Maathai

Professor Wangari Maathai, with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan

The Tarkine rainforest is also home to over 56 threatened and endangered species including the largest Eagle in Australia – the Tasmanian Wedge Tailed Eagle, and the largest freshwater invertebrate – the Giant Freshwater Crayfish. Without serious regulation, monitoring is left to grass roots organizations across the area, since no one was aware at the time of the scope of the illegal logging operation.

The destruction suddenly sparked national attention in 2005, when the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network, TRAFFIC, issued a report showing an estimated $58 million in lost revenue due to illegal logging and weak forest relegation. In many cases, 96% potential timber royalties were lost due to under-collection, painting a portrait of a massive, wildly unchecked illegal logging industry in Tanzania.

This caught the attention of Novel Peace Prize winner Professor Wangari Maathai, who immediately organized the Mama Misitu campaign, binding together seventeen non-governmental organizations, aimed at tackling corruption in the Tanzania’s forestry sector.

Sadly, illegal logging still continues in the Tarkine region. In November of 2009, user Bollingerdog came across evidence of new illegal logging practices, and submitted this first hand account:

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