A grassroots group of concerned citizens called the Forest Embassy has embarked on a National Forest Uprising — a rolling campaign of national events calling for an end to native forest logging by 2020.
The campaign began in January and will continue until the 2019 Federal Election in an attempt to influence political decision-makers across the country.
The campaign’s major event was held at Parliament House Canberra on 13 February, with satellite events in other parts of the country on the same day and more events to come over the coming months.
Rather than respond to concerns raised during the National Forest Uprising, the Prime Minister held meetings in Melbourne that week to expand current logging practices, announcing yet more Government subsidies for the logging industry. State forestry ministers were consulted on logging native forests behind private land fences and how to persuade the public that logging is necessary for the economy.
Community groups say that federal and state governments have refused to listen to their concerns. Musician the Lone Drummer addressed this situation in recent months, playing in the bush alongside logging trucks, in government settings and even on the beach, in an attempt to call for the protection of forest habitats.
He was joined at Parliament House on 13 February by The Lone Band, for a performance at the national forest uprising. The three musicians who make up The Lone Band travelled to Canberra to attend the rally and speak up for all Australians that have had enough of the way governments are treating our lands.
The Lone Drummer said:
“We are sick of feeling powerless and voiceless. We are going to stick it to the people in power until they get the message.”
The Wilderness Society's Forest Campaign Manager Peter Robertson and chair of the Nature Conservation Council Don White addressed the audience at Parliament House, along with Senator Janet Rice. NSW State Parliamentarian Dawn Walker and other prominent forest guardians also attended the many events held across the country during February.
A Forest Embassy spokesperson says it is time for the Australian public to work out what they want from their governments:
“If cutting down more trees on private land as well as public land is what you want, and you want our governments to burn trees for electricity generation, then vote for what we already have.”
Alternatively, the Forest Embassy recommends that the Australian public attend "meet the candidate" events and ask politicians for a firm commitment on their stance to stop Australian species from becoming extinct.
The Forest Embassy says:
“It is time for all levels of government to assume responsibility for the consequences of the decisions they make on our behalf."
Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Richard Colbeck, says the states and territories are eager to work together on the Coalition Government’s National Forest Industries Plan, with $20 million to fund the establishment of regional forestry hubs:
“The forestry industry has the potential to increase its contribution to the Australia economy.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s plan calls for one billion trees to be cut down to meet the growing global demand for timber products.
The Forest Embassy said it was disappointing that the Federal Government would not consider their requests for changes to logging practice.
The National Forest Uprising also saw protests at Coffs Harbour and Wauchope Forestry Corporation offices, in Gibberagee State Forest (near Whiporie) and Wang Waulk State Forest (near Coolongolook), with more events occurring throughout the country running right up to the 2019 Federal Election.
At Wang Waulk State Forest, residents obstructed truck access in an effort to highlight the heavy logging of koala hubs that the [NSW] Office of Environment and Heritage identified last year as areas of significant koala resident populations.
At the Wauchope Forestry office, residents focused on the new rules that zone 140,000 hectares of native forests between Taree and Grafton for clear felling ,despite the area being 39 per cent high quality koala habitat, containing 33 per cent of the Government’s ‘identified’ koala hubs. These trees are intended to be burnt for electricity generation.
Forestry Corporation at Coffs Harbour was rebranded by residents as the National Centre for Koala Conservation, emphasising the benefits of creating the Great Koala National Park for the protection of koalas and the regional economy, with a call to quarantine protected old growth and rainforest areas from logging schedules.
Residents attending Gibberagee State Forest provided Forestry Corporation with a list of their failures in adequately surveying for koalas and protecting habitat trees, which was also sent to the EPA and the Minister for the Environment, Melissa Durack.
Concerned citizens also held a vigil at Corunna State Forest on the far south coast, as well as other locations around the country, while representatives from the Great Southern Forest and South East Regional Conservation Alliance attended the Canberra rally.
Residents from Braidwood and the campaign to protect the Corn Trail at Monga between Braidwood and Batemans Bay also attended the Canberra rally, as well as representatives from many other organisations including the National Parks Association.
The National Forest Uprising comes at a time when Australians have launched a Chuffed campaign to raise funds to protect the Leadbeater’s Possum, which is facing extinction due to extensive logging practices in Victoria. Residents of New South Wales do not currently have the right to bring an action in court against Forestry Corporation — as this right is reserved exclusively for the Environmental Protection Authority. Even if residents raised funds to protect the Swift Parrot and the Greater Glider from extinction, the courts would not allow any action to be commenced by anyone other than the New South Wales Government which owns the State’s logging corporation.
The Forest Embassy spokesperson said:
Australia has ageing citizens who have spent their entire lives fighting to protect our native flora and fauna. We are staring down the barrel of extinction for so many species, yet we are looking at residents in their early 20s coming into the campaign and hoping they do not also end up spending their entire lives fighting for what we all know is right.
Elizabeth Walton is a freelance writer and photographer.
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