Outrage over 'utter insanity' as giant Aussie tree spotted on back of truck

The tree spotted on the back of a logging truck in Tasmania is estimated to be over 150 years old.

Video showing an ancient felled tree being hauled out of a logging coup in Tasmania has been described as “utter insanity”.

Mountain ash (eucalyptus regnans) are the world’s tallest flowering tree and can grow over 100 metres high. The specimen filmed on the back of a truck is conservatively estimated to be over 150 years old.

Veteran conservationist Bob Brown spoke to Yahoo News Australia this morning from Maydena in the Florentine Valley, near where the tree was filmed yesterday. “You'd expect this 100 years ago, but seeing it in 2023 is just appalling,” he said.

A massive mountain ash can be seen on the back of a logging truck.
A massive mountain ash has been filmed on the back of a truck in the Florentine Valley in Tasmania. Source: Bob Brown Foundation

He’s there with members of the Wilderness Society and the non-profit he founded, the Bob Brown Foundation to “bear witness” to the ongoing logging of the region’s forests.

While some of the timber is used for housing and furniture, protesters are particularly concerned that large volumes are exported to the Northern Hemisphere as wood chips.

Florentine Valley a 'stronghold' for Mountain Ash

The region is home to endangered wildlife like the Tasmanian devil and the giant Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle that has a two-metre-wide wingspan.

After areas are logged, they are generally set on fire, and this can have a destructive impact on the wildlife that survives. In March, a charred devil was filmed in the foetal position after a Central Highlands logging coup was burned.

In the Derwent Valley, the state government’s forestry operator’s burning practices killed a 350-year-old tree affectionately known as El Grande with fire. At the time it was believed to be the tallest tree in Australia, but a larger specimen named Centurion has since been found.

Taller examples once grew across Victoria, but that state has systematically logged most of its old-growth forests. Now the Florentine Valley is what Dr Brown describes as a “stronghold” of the species.

“It’s one of those things that should be a tourist drawcard, and not flattened and incinerated,” he said.

Online backlash to logging of ancient tree

Dr Brown is not the only one upset by the image of the ancient mountain ash being hauled out of the Florentine Valley. The video has been viewed over 22,000 times on Twitter alone.

Wildlife ecologist Professor Euan Ritchie wrote on the platform that he was shocked at the size of the tree. “This is utter insanity and environmental vandalism,” he added.

Others have tagged environment minister Tanya Plibersek in the post questioning how the practice is still legal.

“Pointless destruction. Heritage lost,” another person wrote. “An absolute tragedy,” someone else added.

An old growth tree in Tasmania - left. A felled tree in Tasmania - right.
Conservationists are calling for an end to native forest logging in Tasmania. Source: Wilderness Society

Timber harvesters respond to criticism

The state government's timber company Sustainable Timber Tasmania told Yahoo News Australia the tree was cut down due to "safety reasons" and the timber was then recovered.

"(STT) is confident that current operations are in accordance with the certified Forest Practices Plan," it's general manager of conservation Suzette Weeding said.

This Forest Practices Plan includes an obligation to "minimise impact to live trees greater than 2 metres diameter at breast height where it is operationally safe to do so".

The harvesters also undertook what they described "extensive detailed operational planning" before it began cutting down trees, and each tree wider than 2 metres at breast height was measured.

"Tree measurements were documented to identify appropriate management prescriptions during harvesting operations," Ms Weeding said. "No Giant trees were verified within the harvest boundary. Giant trees are defined as trees that are at least 85 metres tall or at least 280 cubic metres estimated stem volume."

Pressure mounts to end native forest logging

There is growing pressure on the states to end native forest logging. Victoria and Western Australia will phase out the practice by 2024, joining South Australia which did so yesterday.

Tasmania, along with NSW appears committed to these industries, but because logging of old forests releases so much carbon into the atmosphere, Dr Brown is warning it's time for the prime minister to rethink its logging agreements with the states that allow the practice to continue.

“If Anthony Albanese wants to reach his 43 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide by 2030 then he needs to end native forest logging,” he said.

State government-owned logging agency Sustainable Timber Tasmania has been contacted for comment.

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