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save the Blue Tier

the dispute

Image of Halls Falls

Halls Falls, below the logging coupe - not the greatest but, hey, this is ours

Blue Tier Nature Recreation Area

- L. Nicklason

The Blue Tier is situated in the north east of Tasmania and is the most easterly extent of what is termed the North East Highlands. The closest major town is St. Helens, 24 km to the east, in the Break O'Day municipality. During the Regional Forest Agreement the local community contributed around 80 submissions to the Public Land Use Commission for the protection of the Blue Tier's cultural, natural, spiritual and ecological values. Upon the signing of the RFA in 1997 only the area around the summit was protected.

The Blue Tier campaign covers the area from Margurita Ridge (Goulds Country) to Emu Flat (behind Weldborough) and includes Lehners Ridge (Pyengana).

Currently 5,500 hectares of the Blue Tier is in a Reserve; this occurs above 600 m altitude and therefore does not include the forested slopes. There is also a 1,200 ha. reserve on the Weld River, the Frome Reserve and a small reserve on the Tasman Highway near Weldborough: the Myrtle Reserve. The intent of this campaign is to have these three areas (as well as other small patches of informal reserve within the area) combined into a viable reserve - a total of 13,600 ha. The protection of a further 6,000 ha is required to form the proposed Blue Tier Nature Recreation Area. This represents less than 4% of the State forest available to Forestry Tasmania in the Break O'Day Municipality (158,300 ha - NRM Strategy) of which 119,605 ha are already in provisional logging coupes (TCT Briefing paper). In reality the figure would be more like 2% as much of the area is usuitable for forestry activity. At least 500 ha within the proposed reserve have already been clearfelled and 200 ha a year are to be cleafelled under the current plan ..... gradually stripping the foothills bare and causing irreparable damage.

The Blue Tier is the icon of the Break O'Day municipality - rich in mining heritage and indigenous history, is home to some of Tasmania's most awe-inspiring giant trees (incuding the Blue Tier Giant with a girth of 19.4 m), rainforest (blackwood, sassafras, myrtle and celery top pine), tall eucalypts (E. regnans and obliqua) and massive tree ferns towering up to 9 m.

Through this ancient ecosystem flow pure creeks and rivers, tumbling over spectacular waterfalls. Four large rivers and their tributaries originate in the upper catchments of the Blue Tier, making this land mass the single core provider and source for most major river systems in North East Tasmania. The Ringarooma (Weld and Winifred rivers), Great Musselroe, Ansons and George (Ransom and Groom) Rivers all have their headwaters on the Blue Tier. The Groom and Ransom Rivers are Tasmania's best examples of rehabilated water courses (post mining in the early 1900s) and are classified as pristine. These rivers are habitat for platypus, freshwater crayfish and many sensitive aquatic bugs. The reason we still have good water quality is that the catchment is still intact.

Sixteen thousand years ago the Tasmanian climate was much cooler and glaciers covered large areas of the state. Areas of rainforest mixed with wet eucalypt forest were much less extensive. In the North East Highlands the only sites likely to have suported rainforest during this time were the sheltered sites of the south and eastern slopes of the Blue Tier, below 450 m altitude. These sites are important to protect because the more extensive rainforest, which covers the area today, has spread from them. They are places where the plant and animal life are most likely to survive any further extremes of climate change (this is known as glacial refugia). These areas contain some of the rarest ecosystems on the planet and are home to ancient plants such as Club Moss. Despite the recommendations of many eminent scientists Forestry Tasmania, using the Regional Forest Agreement as justification, is logging in these areas with total disregard for their importance for the future.

Rare and vulnerable species occuring in the Blue Tier include the North East Forest Snail, Simpson's Stag Beetle, Grey Goshawk, Tiger Quoll and the Tasmanian Wedge Tail Eagle. The old growth trees with their deep hollows provide homes to owls, bats, cockatoos and pygmy possums. These hollows take up to a hundred years to form. Once the tree has fallen the rotting log provides habitat and nutrition to a wide range of creatures such as millipedes, centipedes, snails, slugs, beetles, spiders, and lizards. Fungi and microscopic bacteria that feed on dead plants and animals cause rot. Fungi thrive in damp, dark paces. The minute threads (hyphae) soon spread along hidden cracks in the log, feeding as they go. Mushrooms and toadstools are the fruit of the fungi - they appear in cool wet weather and provide food for animals as well as a spectacular display of every color, shape and size imaginable. Over many years the log breaks down and, together with leaf litter and other rotting matter, form rich compost for new plants to thrive in. All this is lost during the regeneration burnoff that follows clearfelling.

Tin mining commenced on the Blue Tier in the early 1870's. It is an incredibly special place where the relics of some of Tasmania's formative industrial experiences can be appreciated within a setting of naturally regenerated forest. Much of the heritage and its artificats remain largely intact and are a huge tourist attraction and place of interest to historians, archaeologists and lovers of nature.

The Blue Tier offer the best short walks in the North East with many established walking tracks, including the Goblin Forest Walk that has wheelchair/pram access. Numerous 1 to 3 hour walking tracks are in place on the Tier - Halls Falls, The Big Tree Walk, Crystal Hill Walk, The Don Mine, Australia Hill, The Wellington Walk, Mt. Michael, Moon Rim Walk, Emu Flat and Mt. Poimena. Four days of the North East Highland Trail (total of 9 days) are spent traversing the Blue Tier. The 'Blue Tier Experience' starts at Harridge Falls on the Weld River and ends at Halls Falls on the Groom River (4 days). Mountain bike and horse riders join the bushwalkers on these fantastic trails.

Friends of the Blue Tier believe that the area can be managed as a Nature Recreation Area, bringing much more benefit to the Break O'Day community than the unsustainable practice of clearfelling. Our vision aims to safeguard the water catchment, enhance tourism potential, protect the rare and endangered ecosystems, conserve the valuable historical and culturally significant sites, protect the native wildlife and their habitat, and preserve the area for traditional users such as bushwalkers, woodchopping association, fossicking groups, picnickers, mountain bike riders, horse riders, photographers, historians, botanists, archaeologists .....

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