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A Threat to the Wild

AUSTRALIA | Friday, 20 March 2015 | Views [264]

The following is a letter regarding the management plan of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area released in January 2015. I have submitted this letter to the Draft TWWHA Managment Plan Representation, the Director of National Parks and Wildlife in Tasmania, the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment in Tasmania, the Minister for the Environment Honorable Greg Hunt and the Premier of Tasmania Honorable Will Hodgman. I obtained most of my information for this letter from a submission guide provided by the Wilderness Society. The Management Plan is available here. Here are some other links for more information:

Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt

Australian Government (World Heritage)

UNESCO's World Heritage List (Tasmanian Wilderness)

UNESCO's Criteria and Values

To whom it may concern (and it concerns everyone),

I spent 7 days as a visitor in your state for the sole purpose of bushwalking in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (hereafter referred to as the TWWHA), specifically the Overland Track from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair. It was not until I learned of the impending threat to this globally-significant wilderness, in the form of the new management plan proposal, that I truly understood how my time in the TWWHA had impacted me personally.

Picture this serenity: a quiet, still lake, it's flat surface betraying the wealth of life - fish, bugs, platypus - within it. This lake is surrounded by a tall-eucalypt forest - the tallest hardwood forest on earth - their grey arms stretching into a pale sky, their peeling bark revealing brightly-colored flesh. Animals roam freely, wallabies grazing and wombats rooting down into their burrows. Birds scatter across the sky sounding a cacophony of different calls. There is not a human soul for miles. This is the wild.

Now, take that image, and add some intrusive details. First, chop down some of those tall eucalypts and build up a massive tourism resort on the shores of the lake. Don't forget to add a road so that people can access the resort. Then, add the whip of a helicopter propeller thumping across the sky, drowning out the bird calls. Send a jet ski streaking across the pristine lake surface. Now, a float plane drops out of the sky and lands on the lake. Somewhere beyond the view of the tourists, logging and mining operations are destroying animal habitat and raping the land.

This is the before and after picture of the proposed management plan.

A proper management plan will do the following:

  • maintain and protect the Wilderness Zone instead of changing it to a "remote recreation" area,
  • explicitly prohibit all logging and mining operations and recognize the international value of the rare tall eucalypt forests in this area,
  • tighten restrictions on aircraft in the WHA and prohibit jet skis,
  • prohibit new commercial tourism structures and maintain restrictions on current commercial accommodation in the area.

Furthermore, a thorough management plan will 

  • emphasize the value of this area by explicitly listing the characteristics of this area that relate to World Heritage criteria
  • giving decision-making power to experts in nature conservation and cultural heritage over those representing commercial interests and 
  • providing a clear fire policy, 

none of which the proposed management plan does.

Mine is a plea of emotional commitment to the value of this space. I am a stark disapprover of criticism without alternative solutions, so it pains me to say that I do not possess the expertise or education to offer improvements for the current management plan that you say is "outdated." While I do not possess the ability to specifically direct you further, I can confidently recommend consulting local park rangers, UNESCO, the Wilderness Society and any other group that values the TWWHA without respect to economic profit. The local and global community will suffer a great loss if the TWWHA becomes scarred by profit-driven projects like logging, mining and tourism.

The wild is a rapidly disappearing concept, one that is very close to my heart. Areas should be left to grow and exist without human witness or interference. This is important to all of us, but particularly to those of us who want to raise children in a world with protected, safe, preserved spaces, pristine and mysterious beyond their wildest dreams. 

I have 3 nieces: Alice is 3, Margot is 1 and Coral is just months old. My plea to you is this: don't force the adults in their lives to tell them stories about wilderness the way we tell stories about dinosaurs. When I read to them about wild spaces, forests and lakes and animals and mountains untouched by humans, when I tell them about my amazing walk on the Overland Track and the rugged beauty that spreads as far as the eye can see, allow me to say that we value it enough to keep it safe for them. 

Respectfully,

Emma Castleberry 

Tags: australia, human impact, logging, mining, tasmania, unesco, wilderness, wildlife

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