Monday, March 21, 2011

Tasmania and the Environment

Tasmania has a long history of logging and mining in remote areas.  Over the past 30-40 years, this has resulted in several controversies.
Franklin River
We visited one of the sites of controversy on our cruise on the Gordon river and our stop at the tiny suspension bridge over the Franklin river.  This early controversy was the Franklin Dam project, initially proposed in 1978.  The proposal mobilized environmental groups including the Tasmanian Wilderness Society.  The controversy brewed for several years, eventually culminating in protests at the dam sites and hundreds of arrests.

The controversy eventually pitted the State of Tasmania against the Commonwealth of Australia in a High Court case.  The Court ruled against Tasmania in 1983 which ended construction of the dam.

The successful outcome is seen as a pivotal moment in the history of Australian environmental groups and the growth of the Green Party.
During the controversy, the Franklin and Gordon rivers were named a World Heritage Site.  The site comprises 20% of Tasmania and met 7 of 10 possible criteria for inclusion.  Few World Heritage Sites meet as many criteria as the Tasmanian Wilderness.

The Franklin Dam controversy echoes today in a fight against a planned pulp mill and a related change in Tasmania's logging practices.  Current articles can be seen here, here, and here.

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