World's largest Christmas tree

Feature story - 23 December, 2003
The world's tallest Christmas Tree isn't on the White House lawn or in Trafalgar Square this year: it's in the Styx Valley, a tract of ancient forest in Tasmania. It's a living, 84 meter (276 foot) Eucalyptus tree, currently home to a half dozen activists who for more than a month have lived in its heights, protecting it from being cut down.

World's tallest living Christmas tree is home to Greenpeace activists in Tasmania.

The activists, from Japan, Australia, and Canada watched their forest perch turn into a beacon of hope for the Tasmanian Forest December 17th when more than 3,000 solar-powered lights were switched on.

"This ancient tree has seen over 400 Christmases in its long lifetime," said Wilderness Society Campaigner Geoff Law.

"It is a great pity that a living relic such as this is could be clearfelled, ground into woodchips and sent to paper companies in Japan," he said.

Like other trees in the Styx, the tree is scheduled to be logged in the coming year.

The Styx Valley, just 70km (44 miles) west of Hobart in southern Australia, has the largest hardwood trees in the world. Many are taller than a 25-storey building, over 400 years old and up to five metres wide at the base.

The forest is home to endangered and rare animals such as the majestic wedge-tailed eagle and the grey goshawk, as well as bettongs, bats, wombats and possums. Its dramatic terrain features limestone caves, the high dolerite bluffs of the Snowy Range, and the Styx River.

These forests are being logged for woodchip, using practices banned in the rest of Australia and seen only in developing countries. Old growth forests are clearfelled and fire-bombed from the air with petrochemicals. Carrots laced with poison are then used to kill wallabies and possums that browse on the seedlings established in place of the cleared forests. The poisoned carrots also kill other wildlife ('non-target' species) such as bettongs, quolls and owls.

The Wilderness Society, Greenpeace and other community groups are calling for the immediate protection of about 240,000 hectares of old growth forests. This is about a quarter of the public forests currently available for logging.

The activists have been living in the world's tallest tree-sit since November 12. They were recently joined by acclaimed singer John Butler, who recorded "Treat your mama with respect" high above the forest. (You can listen to the song here.)

You can wish the activists a happy holiday via their weblog, where you can join their efforts to stop these magnificent forests from being turned into woodchips by adding your voice to the more than 5,000 cyberaction emails that have been sent to buyers from over 91 countries, urging them not to source woodchips from Tasmanian ancient forests.

As Japanese activist Sakyo Noda said, "I want to show Mitshubishi, Oji and Nippon, the Japanese buyers of Styx woodchips the beauty of this ancient forest, which is home to rare and endangered species, and to let them know that they can help stop the destruction."

"They can choose to source their woodchips from sustainably managed plantations instead of buying from the destructive logging company Gunns Ltd," he said.

Gunns is the biggest native-forest logging company in Australia and the biggest hardwood-chip company in the world.

"Living in that tree-sit, they remind me of Merry and Pippin riding the shoulders of a wise and ancient Ent," said one cyberactivist, in a post referring to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings -- "I hope their battle against the logging industry will end the evil that is being done to their forest."

Take Action

Contact the Japanese buyers of Tasmanian woodchips.

Send the tree-sitters best wishes for the holidays.

Become a forest guardian

More Information

Visit the Styx Valley Weblog.