Tasmania’s forests

Tasmania’s forests

These forests support some of Australia’s most iconic species. They secure Tasmania’s water supplies and store more carbon than most. Sadly, these forests are under threat. Image above: Annie Ford

In a country of diverse landscapes, Tasmania stands a world apart. Its spectacular forests support life across the state—they also form the identity of the place.

Covering over 1 million hectares, or almost 20% of Tasmania, there is simply nowhere else on Earth quite like Tasmania’s world-class expanse of Gondwanan forest, much of it protected within the Tasmania Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Most UNESCO World Heritage sites meet only one or two of the 10 criteria; Tasmania’s forest wilderness is the only place in the world that meets all four natural criteria, plus three cultural criteria, thanks to its rich First Nations heritage. People have lived in, used, managed and modified the landscape of the Tasmania Wilderness World Heritage Area for at least 35,000 years.

Read why the Tasmanian Government's new Tourism Master Plan for the Tasmania Wilderness World Heritage Area is doomed to fail.

“The cultural and ecological descriptors of why Tasmania meets these criteria should be required reading for every Australian because they are a beautiful evocation of Tasmania’s wilderness values.” Tom Allen, Tasmania Campaign Manager.

The forests are time capsules from when Australia was part of the Gondwana supercontinent millions of years ago. They’re home to precious endemic plant species like the thousand-year-old Gondwanan conifers, the pencil pine, and the Huon pine, one of the oldest living organisms on Earth.

Tasmania's forests are:

An endangered swift parrot. Image: Chris Tzaros.

Homes for unique, endangered species

Tasmania’s forests house giants of the natural world like the giant freshwater lobster, and towering Eucalyptus regnans, the tallest flowering plants on the planet. Iconic animals like the swift parrot, Tasmanian devil, as well as Bennett’s wallaby, wombats, pademelons, platypus, possums and quolls, depend on the environments the plants of the forest create.

Use our handy trail guide to take a walk among some of the planet's biggest trees in the Styx Valley.

The best technology to fight climate change

After centuries of growth, the rich soil and dense vegetation in Tasmania’s ancient rainforest store more carbon than almost any other forest on Earth. They are some of the best buffers Australia has against climate change and future climate disasters such as bushfires. Like giant air conditioners, they help shape the climate that makes Tasmania a world-class food producer and iconic destination for nature lovers.

A vital part of our food chain

Tasmania’s leatherwood trees produce lots of sweet nectar when they flower from late spring to summer. It’s a time when many other plants aren’t in flower—so leatherwood trees are vital in sustaining Tasmania’s bee population and agriculture industry year-round.

But Tasmania’s forests can’t escape the past.

For decades, these native forests have been exploited for veneer and wood chips. When native forest is clear-felled, helicopters drop a napalm-like substance to burn off the remains. This releases carbon stored in soil and vegetation back into the atmosphere. For a region that trades on its natural beauty, the chemical-laden smoke tells a different story.

Many people think Tasmania’s forests are protected—and that’s what the Tasmanian government would like you to believe. But in 2014, it tore up the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement, an historic deal the Wilderness Society helped broker between the industry, trade unions and conservationists. It meant that from April 2020, precious forests are once again at risk.

A devastating burn-off. Image: Rob Blakers.

Incredibly, giant trees like the 400-year-old Home Tree in the Florentine Valley, a colossal and ancient stringy bark, are now up for the chop.  

Together we can drive the policy change needed for a plantation-based timber industry and build pressure for new nature laws that actually work to protect Australia’s forests. 

The threat to life

Giant trees amidst a logged forest. Image: The Tree Projects

What happened to the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement?

In 2013, the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement or ‘forest peace deal’ was signed, after years of historic negotiations between the forestry industry and conservation movement. 356,000 hectares of Tasmania’s High Conservation Value (HCV) forests were earmarked for protection. 

Tasmanian loggers received $420 million in taxpayer-funded compensation. Yet in 2014, Tasmania’s new Liberal government abandoned the deal. They reclassified the protected areas as Future Potential Production Forest, which became eligible for logging in April 2020.

Tasmania’s carbon- and species-rich native forests continue to be destroyed—even as our climate and extinction crises worsen.

What’s now on the chopping block

Tasmania’s forests are classified as High Conservation Value (HCV) because they are so old and rich in species. They also capture huge amounts of carbon and are spectacularly beautiful, the giant trees a draw for tourists.

Yet the Tasmanian government has handed 356,000 hectares of this globally important forest to the logging industry. Huge trees will be felled. Rich habitat destroyed. Tonnes of dead trees left behind, to be burnt out with napalm-like chemicals. 

The 356,000 hectares of HCV forests now available for logging are in addition to the 810,000 hectares of ‘Permanent Timber Production Zone Land’ that is already being logged. The Tasmanian government increased the forest available for logging by 40%, while selling off publicly owned ‘plantation estate’ that produces more sustainable timber.

The Wilderness Society is fighting to protect more than 200 precious forest reserves from logging. These areas should be added to the world-class parks and wilderness areas they adjoin, such as:

  • Wielangta 
  • Styx Valley
  • takayna/Tarkine
  • Ben Lomond National Park
  • Douglas-Apsley National Park
  • Tasman Peninsula National Park
  • Bruny Island National Park

The market for HCV wood is declining, as more and more consumers reject its environmental destruction. 

If our politicians truly cared about the people who work in forestry, they’d help them transition to a plantation-based future. It’s the best way to guarantee long-term job security and protect our forests.

When we protect HCV forests, we protect the spotted quoll and Tasmanian devil, and turn the tide on species extinction. 

We preserve the globally unique values, magic and wonder of our forests.

The solution

Moss-blanketed forest in the Florentine Valley. Image: Lily Weinberg.

With your help we can drive the policy change needed for a plantation-based timber industry and build pressure for new nature laws that actually work to protect Australia’s forests.

Strong national nature laws

Incredibly, the logging industry gets exemptions from the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. The Wilderness Society is demanding stronger laws and a watchdog to enforce them to ensure better protections for our vital forests and other wild places.

Plantation-based industry

Pressure is mounting on the logging industry to stop destroying High Conservation Value (HCV) forests. Across Australia, the Wilderness Society is pushing for a swift transition to plantation-based industries that protect jobs and nature.

Community action

Around the country, the Wilderness Society is training Movement For Life leaders to stand up for the places they love. Our people-powered movement is fighting to protect incredible places like Tasmania’s forests for good.

Cooperation with First Nations people 

First Nations people have cared for forests and ecosystems for tens of thousands of years. The Wilderness Society is committed to working alongside First Nations on all aspects of our campaigns.

We need your help

Campaign Manager Tom Allen in front of the magnificent Home Tree.

The reality of logging is so shocking that it’s hidden from public view, behind buffers of trees. In remote wilderness areas, logging crews still tear down giant trees that are hundreds of years old. Helicopters drop chemical bombs to burn the vegetation that’s left. 

It’s a far cry from the clean, green ‘Brand Tasmania’ our politicians want to convey to the world.

“Tasmania’s carbon and species rich native forests continue to be destroyed—even as our climate and extinction crises worsen.” Tom Allen, Tasmania Campaign Manager

The Wilderness Society is working hard to expose the ugly truth of logging, and to drive the transition to a plantation-based industry. But we need your help. 

Together we can protect Tasmania’s forests for our future.