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5/2003 - El Grande, Tasmania: vandalism by govt logger/regulator exposed


5 MAY 2003


(Forest Practices Board's response will be a test of Tasmania's heavily-criticised forest-practices system)

The Wilderness Society has called for an investigation by the state's forest-practices watchdog into the torching of Australia's most massive tree, El Grande.

"The burning of the largest flowering plant on Earth is a
serious indictment of Tasmania's forest practices and should be investigated," said Geoff Law, Campaign Coordinator for the Wilderness Society.

"How can Forestry Tasmania be entrusted with many of the state's most valuable assets if they can't even look after one tree?" The Society has written to the Forest Practices Board requesting an investigation that addresses several particular questions.

"We have asked the Board to see whether Forestry Tasmania breached the Giant Trees Policy, and whether they also breached the Forest Practices Code in this area."

"This will be an important test for the state's forest-practices system, which has been under intense scrutiny recently."

The forest-practices system has been heavily criticised on the channel Nine's Sunday program, in local media, and in last Wednesday's The Australian.

Further information:

Geoff Law (03) 6224 1550, 0409 944891.



2 MAY 2003


(Australia's largest tree cooked from the inside, says botanist)

El Grande, Australia's most massive tree, has been killed by Forestry Tasmania s regeneration burn, according to botanical consultant Alan Gray, who has 45 years experience in the botany of eucalypts and acacias, has inspected the tree twice this week.

He has noted massive damage to the tree, including damage to its root system from machinery clearing a path around the tree; intense burning inside the hollow tree; and the loss of huge branches from the canopy as a result of flames emerging from hollows up to 65 metres high.

Mr Gray has the following expertise in the botany and health of trees:

  •  He was a consultant for the Regional Forest Agreement in carrying out surveys of the forests in north-east Tasmania;
  • He has worked as a botanical consultant on the management
    of trees for the Glenorchy and Kingborough Councils;
  • He has worked as an information and education officer at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens;
  • He has worked as a vegetation consultant for Landscape
    Planners, Greening Australia, mining companies,and environmental consultants;
  • He has been a tutor and lecturer on botany;
  • He is an honorary botanist at the Tasmanian Herbarium.

His report is attached below.

Wilderness Society Campaign Coordinator, Geoff Law, said that the revelations about El Grande, which have been aired nationally, show the futility of the recently released arrangements being negotiated between the logging and tourism industries.

If Forestry Tasmania cant look after one tree, how can they be trusted to care for the states magnificent forests?

El Grande is listed on Forestry Tasmania‚s website as Tasmanias most massive tree. This makes it the most massive tree in Australia ‚ at 79 metres tall, 20 metres in girth and a volume of 439 cubic metres.

Further information: Geoff Law 0409 944891.



APRIL 2003

An on-site inspection of this large tree was made on 27 April 2003.

According to Forestry Tasmania, the tree had been protected from a regeneration burn in a nearby logging coupe and had been spared.

The examination of the tree revealed that it was clearly dead, from the roots to the crown.

The following observations are relevant:

  • The leaves of the crown are still present but quite brown, brittle and dead, but NOT burnt or singed.
  • The lower butt of the tree had been exposed for approximately 1/2 - 1 metre by a bulldozer or a similar machine. Some roots had been exposed and damaged.
  • The regeneration burn had burnt up to the tree and had charred the buttress bark, particularly on the southern side.
  • The fire appears to have been particularly intense in the vicinity of the tree; humus and other organic litter having been burnt to mineral earth.
  • Tree ferns and smaller shrubs and trees as well as fallen timber were severely charred or completely destroyed.
  • The removal of 'soil' from around the tree had exposed a number of openings between the buttresses.
  • The openings were continuous with the hollow (piped) centre of the tree which contained dry rot material and dry dead wood.
  • The dead and hollow centre of the tree extended up to at least 60 (65?) metres from ground level.
  • Further openings in the trunk were evident at approximately 20 metres.
    * The fire had burnt to the tree and then had been drawing into the ground-level openings.
  • The dry rot and wood inside the trunk had ignited and the
    configuration of draught holes at the base with outlet
    holes further up had acted like a furnace and chimney.
  • The temperatures generated within the tree core mush have been extremely high, virtually cooking the tree from the inside-out!
  • The external furnacing had extended to 60-65 metres where the flames appear to have exited from some hollow branches of this level.
    N.B. The charring is visible!
  • Some of these large branches were thus weakened and have fallen, bringing down other branches is the process.
  • Numerous small sections of bark were cut away to the cambium layer at many sites on exposed root buttresses, burls, trunk, and fallen branches. All revealed dead or near dead tissue of different colour and texture to normal living tissue.
  • There is no moisture movement apparent and with the crown
    of leaves dead (thus no negative pressure to draw sap) the transport systems of this tree must be regarded as defunct.

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