Impending tragedy in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area
As uncontrolled wildfires rage across Tasmania, the Wilderness Society and Nature Photographers Tasmania have called on the Premier of Tasmania Will Hodgman and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to urgently request international amphibious water-bombing assistance to combat the unfolding tragedy at some of the world’s most important and iconic natural sites, in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
Fire is now at the very edge of the largest remaining forest of thousand-year-old King Billy pines in the world, at Mt Bobs, and directly threatens Federation Peak and the entire Arthur Range.
In the midst of devastating loss of people’s homes, we are also on the brink of losing ancient forests and alpine communities. We need not lose one to save the other. We acknowledge the tremendous contribution made by fire crews, including efforts to protect wilderness values. However the scale of the fires, with over 2.5% of Tasmania burnt or burning, has overwhelmed fire-fighting capacity to the extent that little is available to combat remote fires in the Tasmania Wilderness World Heritage Area. Ancient Gondwanan plant communities thousands of years old stand to be irrevocably lost to fire—never to recover in our lives, our children's lives, or our children’s-children's lives.
These irreplaceable wilderness icons are among the most critical features of the entire Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Tasmania and Australia have responsibilities as caretakers of the Australian World Heritage properties, and these responsibilities are now not being upheld.
These are not ‘natural fires’ as we historically understand them. Dry lightning strikes of the type that ignited scores of fires in southern Tasmania over the last month were virtually unheard of before the year 2000, but have been exponentially increasing since that time. January 2019 will smash records for hot and dry conditions in Hobart and Southwest Tasmania. The current fires are as much a consequence of climate change and global warming as are bleaching reefs, retreating glaciers and disappearing ice-caps.
Unprecedented changes in the climate call for unprecedented fire-fighting responses. Very large amphibious water-bombing aircraft are routinely used to combat wildfires in North America, Canada and Europe. We call on Premier Hodgman and Scott Morrison to immediately contact Northern Hemisphere leaders and urgently request the deployment of these strategically effective craft to avert a global catastrophe in Tasmania.
For more information, please call Vica Bayley on 0400 644 939 (Wilderness Society) or Rob Blakers on 0427 232 539.