New Hope for Australia's Old-Growth Forests

Article excerpt

In October 2004, Ethical Traveler launched a letter-writing campaign to protect endangered old-growth forests in Tasmania, Australia. Recent elections in Australia have led to pledges of government protection for some of these ancient forests. However, delays are causing concern among conservationists, who urge supporters to continue pressing the Australian government to implement its promises.

Australia has some of the world's tallest hardwood forests, with trees reaching nearly 300 feet. The state of Tasmania hosts Australia's greatest tract of temperate rainforest. The forests are home to rare and threatened species such as the wedge-tailed eagle and the giant freshwater crayfish. New roads, logging, burning, and poisoning are destroying these natural assets.

Tasmania is the site of some of Australia's most voracious logging. About 50,000 acres of native forest are clearcut and burned each year. Much of this destruction is subsidized by Australian taxpayers.

Logging is destroying significant areas of Tasmania's forests and driving some species toward local extinction. Pressure from the Australian public has helped to protect some Tasmanian old-growth forests, but more than 500,000 acres still face destruction. Environmental groups have proposed a number of new conservation areas to protect these forests.

Ethical Traveler launched its old-growth protection campaign in partnership with The Wilderness Society, an organization dedicated to protecting, promoting, and restoring wilderness across Australia. Tourism is an important part of the region's economic base. Reports show tourism to Tasmania growing 30 percent in the last fiscal year. …