20 Miranda Gibson Tasmania

Conservationists are celebrating the end of a decades-long struggle after a further 170,000 hectares of Tasmanian forest was added to the Tasmania‘s Wilderness World Heritage Area. Old growth native forests in the Upper Florentine, the Styx, Huon, Picton and Counsel River Valley were given the highest level of environmental protection at a United Nations meeting in Phnom Penh on 24 June 2013.

The listing predominantly adds areas bordering the state’s current World Heritage areas and represents the biggest environmental outcome of the recently negotiated peace deal between green groups and the timber industry.

The peace deal divided the environmental movement with more extreme groups outside the talks at odds with The Wilderness Society, the Australian Conservation Foundation and Environment Tasmania who were all part of the often tortuous three-year negotiations. Wilderness Society hailed the deal, which will ultimately deliver 500,000 hectares of forest reserves, as a success.

Record-breaking tree- sitter Miranda Gibson welcomed her “Observer Tree”, a 400 year old giant Eucalypt in the Tyenna Valley, becoming part of the listed area. “The experience of living on a small platform 60 meters above the ground for over a year (449 days) was one I will never forget: from the powerful moments of inspiration, to the depths of loneliness and isolation. But if I learnt one thing it was how much one action can make a difference.”

“Like the Observer Tree, there’s another part of Tasmania’s wild forests that is close to my heart – the Upper Florentine Valley, where I spent many years on the front lines of the forest debate, alongside countless others. Often cold, wet and muddy, we put our bodies on the line to hold off the logging of an intact valley of old growth forest that was surrounded on three sides by World Heritage, but was under imminent threat. We faced sometimes harsh conditions, the camp being attacked and even fire bombed on one occasion. A protestor and I were also assaulted by a group of loggers, one wielding a sledgehammer. But none of this deterred us from our mission: to bring an end to the industrial scale destruction of Tasmania’s irreplaceable ecosystems. Today I know how much it was all so incredibly worth it.“

Tasmania’s Liberal opposition has promised to rip up the deal if, as looks likely, it wins government next March.