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Wentworth Hills forests: Demand immediate protection for these forests in Tassie's Central Highlands

Updated: Jan 27


In January 2024, activists once more joined the fight for the protection of Wentworth Hills forests. The natural values of these forests are spectacular, and it is an outrage that these ancient forests continue to be logged.



Violet CoCo, prominent activist from NSW, took a stand to end native forest logging in Tasmania, in particular the ancient Wentworth Hills forests.




Desmond Blurton


Desmond Blurton, deputy chair, deaths in custody watch committee, proud ballardong/yuid man from the Bibbulmun Nation, Western Australia, joined us to demand immediate protection of the Wentworth Hills forests from logging.



We will continue to defend these forests. It is frustrating to see them still falling, especially when mainland states have stopped native forest logging for good.



Natural Values of the Wentworth Hills area


The Wentworth Hills is a dolerite plateau located in the Central Highlands of Tasmania. The area spans from the King William hydro impoundment in the west, to the Derwent River in the south, the undulating terrain around Laughing Jack Lagoon to the north and gradual slopes towards the Nive River in the east.


Elevation ranges from around 600m at the Derwent River in the south to 1244m at the summit of the hills. The climate is cool and wet with an annual average rainfall 1170–1800 mm recorded at surrounding weather stations. Freezing conditions and snowfall area frequent in winter, particularly at the higher elevations.



Very little of the Wentworth Hills region has been affected by bushfires since around 1980, when detailed fire history mapping is available, and much of the landscape appears to have been unburnt for centuries.


Land tenure is mostly permanent timber production (PTPZ) land or informal reserves on forestry land. Some Future Potential Production Forest occurs in the northeast. Laughing Jack Lagoon and a network of canals are managed by Hydro Tasmania.



The native vegetation of the Wentworth Hills comprises a mix of mid- to high-altitude eucalypt forest types, with rainforest communities dominating in some of the wetter and more fire-protected locations. Small areas of non-forest vegetation including scrub, grassland and sedgeland occur in places where fire, waterlogging or extreme cold has excluded trees.


The only non-native vegetation is hardwood and softwood timber plantations on the eastern margins of the region.


Most of the forest on the slopes of the Wentworth Hills is old-growth forest.



Fauna Values


The combination of dry highland forest types, old-growth wet forest and alpine ecosystems provides habitat for a variety of native fauna. Nine threatened fauna species have been recorded in the region: Accipiter novaehollandiae grey goshawk, Aquila audax subsp. fleayi Tasmanian wedgetailed eagle, Dasyurus maculatus spotted-tail quoll, Dasyurus viverrinus eastern quoll, Galaxias johnstoni Clarence galaxias, Haliaeetus leucogaster white-bellied sea eagle, Lathamus discolor swift parrot, Perameles gunnii eastern barred bandicoot, and Sarcophilus harrisii Tasmanian devil.


Numerous nesting sites for the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle have been recorded in and around the Wentworth Hills. The region contains high-quality habitat for the spotted-tail quoll. Lake Knight, on the top of the hills, is one of only six key sites for the Clarence galaxias. This native fish, endemic to the Central Highlands of Tasmania, is now restricted to a few small subcatchments and waterbodies which are free of the invasive brown trout.



Threats to biodiversity


Feral animals

Fallow deer are expanding their range into the Tasmanian highlands and pose a threat to the natural values of the Wentworth Hills, particularly the highland ecosystems, if they become established

there.


Bushfire

Most of the Wentworth Hills has not been subject to bushfire for many decades, if not centuries. This is reflected in an extensive development of rainforest and old-growth eucalypt forest with rainforest understorey. Extremely fire-sensitive vegetation types: pencil pine forest and Sphagnum bogs – occur on the plateau of the Wentworth Hills.


Logging

Intensive logging is occurring on the slopes of the Wentworth Hills and is reducing the extent and quality of old-growth forest in the area. Disturbance to wet forest ecosystems from logging also

increases the risk of bushfire.


Climate Change

The hydrology and ecology is vulnerable to declines in rainfall and increases in temperatures, which could result in a decline in rainforest and alpine species.



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