FROM her tiny cabin nestled in the once-quiet heart of an
ancient Australian rain forest, Jill Redwood is battling to save
her neighbors - towering 500 to 1,000 year-old eucalyptus trees.
Chain saws whine in the distance now, and Ms. Redwood has for
several years organized protests against the export of wood chips,
which fuels demand for fresh timber. Such activities have hardly
endeared her to the nearby logging community of Orbost.
Every day scores of Orbost-bound trucks, each carrying up to 40
tons of timber from nearby cutting sites, rumble past her 20-acre
homestead. Some blast their horns. Others, on occasion, knock down
her mailbox. There have been even less pleasant warnings left in
"I keep a rifle behind the door now," Redwood says, sipping a
glass of apple juice at her kitchen table.
"I think a lot of people are sympathetic to what I do. But they
have kids in school who could get beat up, and jobs in town that
are at risk, if they get identified as a 'greenie,' she says."
But if Redwood is ostracized in Orbost, she is less alone today
than she used to be. Her fight to save the East Gippsland Forest, a
4,400-square-mile chunk (5 percent) of Victoria, a state in
southeast Australia, has become part of a larger national crusade
by environmentalists to save what remains of Australia's untouched
Before European settlers came to Australia, about 12 percent of
this mostly dry continent was forested. Today less than half the
original forest cover, and just 25 percent of coastal rain forests,
remains intact, according to a 1992 federal report.
As Australia's old-growth forest becomes increasingly a
patchwork of logged and unlogged land, shy animals like the tiny
long-footed potoroo, the powerful owl (Australia's political
version of the US Northwest's spotted owl), and the tiger quoll are
Australian environmental groups contend that their country's
forest heritage is being systematically ground up into wood chips
and loaded onto ships, mostly bound for Japan.
There, the chips are made into paper, packaging, cups, and
fiberboard by companies like Harris-Daishowa (Aust.) Pty. Limited,
a majority Japanese-owned company that runs a large chipper mill in
nearby Eden, New South Wales.
The idea that Australia's old-growth forest is being chipped and
sent to Japan has lately struck a chord. A poll in February 1995
showed that 63 percent of Australians opposed logging in areas that
had not been logged before.
That same month, 10,000 marchers in Melbourne protested a
federal decision to renew 11 wood-chip export licenses. In a
counter protest, more than 3,000 angry loggers drove their trucks
to Parliament in Canberra and blockaded its entrances.
The issue was still smoldering in the run-up to last month's
federal election, when former Prime Minister Paul Keating sought to
mollify the green vote by promising to bar logging on 6 million
hectares (15 million acres) of Australian forest. No logging was to
be permitted in protected areas, known here as deferred forest
areas, while the government negotiated permanent protected reserves
with state governments.
But government policy is up in the air following the victory of
Prime Minister John Howard's business-oriented conservatives. Many
in Canberra, Australia's capital, say the former government's
forest policy could be changed, a federal official told the Monitor.
"The pressure is on now to get those really valuable bits that
are left into the reserve," says Peter Wright of the Australian
Conservation Foundation, an environmental watchdog. "Over the next
three years this issue is likely to be resolved one way or the
Certainly a more hands-off approach by government would be just
fine with Colin Savory, an Orbost resident, who is logging the East
Gippsland rain forest just as his father and grandfather did before
"It's about more than just losing jobs," he says, leaning
against an enormous eucalyptus tree just felled on a mountainside
near Goongerah. …