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Woman Spends 449 Days in a Tree to Save Old Growth Forests, But Her Fight Isn’t Over

Woman Spends 449 Days in a Tree to Save Old Growth Forests, But Her Fight Isn’t Over

In 2011, Miranda Gibson climbed a tree and stayed up there there for 449 days to raise international awareness about the urgent need to protect old growth forests in Tasmania. Her story was just captured in an inspiring short film, Still Falling, that explores her journey and the battle to protect trees still to come.

Gibson spent her time on a platform close to the top of an ancient eucalyptus tree believed to be around 400-years-old, which was dubbed the Observer Tree. Four months before she ventured up the tree, the Australian government announced that it would conserve 430,000 hectares of forest and put a moratorium on logging, but never officially put protections in place.

She wanted to show people who believed forests were safe that the trees were still falling, in addition to helping to expose unsustainable logging practices and misleading eco-friendly claims being made about the wood that was being taken and sold on international markets.

She says her idea came out of her experiences living at the blockade at the Upper Florentine Valley Ė Tasmania’s longest running forest blockade. Even before her tree sit, she and thousands of others have fought to stop the destruction of Tasmania’s old growth forests and to get them World Heritage protection. Gibson vowed not to come down until the forests were safe, but was eventually forced to evacuate due to a deliberately lit fire nearby.

The battle to extend World Heritage protection in old growth forests has been going on for years. Gibson and others believe that if they’d waited for the formal process to take place, by the time they got it, it would have been too late for many areas, including the Upper Florentine.

Last June they won a victory when the World Heritage Committee unanimously voted for an extension to add 170,000 hectares to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Yet, despite the success of the activists who stood up to stop the destruction, the fight to keep old growth forests protected in Tasmania is far from over. Earlier this year, the Australian government applied to the World Heritage Committee to remove 74,000 hectares, or roughly 286 square miles, of newly protected forests from site and open them up to logging once again.

The move has been criticized by environmentalists, politicians and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which advised against removing land. At the end of April, nearly 2,000 people came out to the Rally for World Heritage in the Upper Florentine Valley to show their support for forest protection.

Gibson says she hopes the world will understand the value of these forests and join Tasmanian activists in an effort to keep them from disappearing. The World Heritage Committee is expected to announce a decision in June.

You can stand with Miranda and others who are fighting to keep World Heritage protection by visiting globalvoicesforworldheritage.org and learn more about her efforts at The Observer Tree and Still Wild Still Threatened.

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Photo credit: Jeff Wirth/Burning Hearts Media

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141 comments

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5:41PM PST on Nov 15, 2014

I hope she succeeds in her fight to save the forests.

10:21AM PDT on Aug 21, 2014

Miranda, a lot of people are standing behind you. Thank you for your great effort to protect the trees.

2:12PM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

Good news.. take that Abbot!

The United Nations' World Heritage Committee, meeting in Doha, took just 10 minutes to reject the Government's application to reverse protection for 74,000 hectares.

The area was part of 170,000 hectares added to the WHA last year under Tasmania's forest peace deal enacted by the former state and federal Labor governments.

News of the decision was quickly welcomed by conservation groups, including former Greens leader Bob Brown who described the decision as a "global diplomatic humiliation" for the Abbott Government.

The Coalition had argued the 74,000 hectares were degraded by previous logging and should be unlocked for the timber industry.

But opponents to the move said only 8.6 per cent of the forests had been disturbed, with the rest being pristine old-growth rainforest.

9:18AM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

Australia are such hypocrites.. protesting global warming but one of the biggest producers and exporters of dirty coal. Destroying their coral reefs and recklessly "culling" sharks, along with Queensland's murders of turtles, their mass murders of dingos and kangaroos, destroying critical habitats for greed, endangering native species like koalas, etc.. Always keep in mind that Australia are the same nasty people as those other European white colonizers and land stealers.. for many of them is in their blood to destroy everything good in this world

7:24PM PDT on Jun 12, 2014

Thank you so much for you dedication to our forests. I'm to old to climb the trees to protect them. So thank you again for your stand.

4:38PM PDT on Jun 9, 2014

Courageous lady. Thanks for your work.

10:01AM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

Great woman x

3:26AM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

I have been angry with people who log old forests for so long that at last I have started to wonder WHY anyone could possibly allow such terrible destruction and the answer in too simplistic form is MONEY. If you look a little deeper, you will see that loggers presumeably have NO thought for anything but making al iving, or they couldn't do the job they do. To them, activists are potentially taking away their jobs and they won't be able to pay their mortgage or feed their familes, so I think that when we petitions and lobby governments to save the forest, we need at the same time to ALL suggest alternative ways that the loggers can make money if they are not allowed to cut down the forests. I might take all of us trying to ge through to governmenst how many people could be given alternative jobs in tourism and especialy in the production of power if only governments would focus on green power and that would emply THOUSANDS of people. I am quite sure, between all of us, we could come up with good alternative ideas to present to governments when we petition AGAINST destrohying the forest. At the moment, our PM does not care no jot for the enviornment and the only way to get through to him is to persuade him that there are just as good alternative ways to make money and that we will NOT vote for him if he continues to destroy our forests! ( Unusual as it is, his Ahcilles heel seems to be in his wallet and in his ego!)

7:13PM PDT on Jun 4, 2014

Thank you

12:27AM PDT on Jun 4, 2014

ty

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