Near the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Site on the island of Tasmania, the Styx Valley Forest is filled with temperate wet eucalyptus trees, lichens, mosses, and some of the world's largest flowering plants. Southern Sassafras, Celery-top pine, and Myrtle Beech also fill the rainforests of the region.
In the Styx Valley Forest, adventurers - what else would you call them, wading into the dark and disturbing forest? - discovered the most massive tree in all of Australia in 2002. They nicknamed it El Grande because it was, well, grand. You get the idea. And then it burned down in an autumn fire the following year, 2003.
The fall of El Grande is symbolic of the larger, ongoing conflict between environmentalists, who have asked for the Styx Valley Forest to be protected by naming it a National Park, and representatives of the logging industry. A tourism-based economy would be beneficial to the local economy and, once established, could last for a long, long time. This is the argument, or one of the arguments, that the environmentalists make. But the logging industry, dependent on the wood that is chopped from the edges of the forest, will fight with powerful lobbyists and huge percentages of their profits to keep the site from ever becoming protected.
Over the years, though, the environmentalists have done all they could to make their voices heard. The community has organized tree sits, many supported by Greenpeace and the Tasmanian Wilderness Society, in which members build a platform and position themselves in the trees they want to keep from getting cut down. Gandalf's Staff, an 85-meter-tall tree that is named for one of the characters in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series, holds the world record for supporting the highest tree sit platform.