The Wilderness Society
(TWS) is an Australian not-for-profit non-governmental
environmental advocacy whose mission is protecting, promoting and restoring wilderness
and its natural processes. It is a community-based organisation with a philosophy of non-violence and consensus decision-making
. While TWS is a politically unaligned group, it actively engages the community to lobby politicians and parties. "TWS" is often pronounced "twiz" (twɪz).
It spent considerable energy in its first decades of existence arguing that wilderness was a specific quality in parts of Australia's environment that was vital to preserve for future generations. The political response in most states of Australia, is that there are now wilderness inventories, and acknowledgement of areas of wilderness.
The Wilderness Society's campaigns have included:
The Wilderness Society
was formed initially as a protest group called The Tasmanian Wilderness Society
to fight against the apparent unchecked power of The HEC
to build dams wherever it saw fit without external checks. The bureaucrats and engineers of the HEC had appeared to exert an influence over politicians and the community, justifying this stance as being in the best interest of Tasmania, specially regarding the fate of Lake Pedder
The motivation for the TWS formation was the planning and construction of the Franklin Dam on the Gordon River, in South West Tasmania by the HEC. To the TWS and many Australians, the Gordon and Franklin Rivers were seen as part of the South West Wilderness, and not as an extension of the on-going HEC expansion.
The group was originally established in 1976 from the members of the Southwest Action Committee. Along with the United Tasmania Group, they had protested against the earlier flooding of Lake Pedder. The group had established interstate branches within a short time, and was nation-wide by 1980.
Following the success of the Franklin Dam issue, and the national approach being more important due to other issues interstate, it became known as The Wilderness Society.
Tasmanian forestry business Gunns has brought a litigation case against the Society in the Melbourne Supreme Court, in a case dubbed the "Gunns 20". Proceedings are ongoing.
The most prominent of those who helped the society evolve was Dr. Bob Brown
, who became the director of the Wilderness Society in 1978
, and with him the group greatly increased their presence in Tasmanian politics. Brown was elected to the Tasmanian parliament
in 1983, and with the group of fellow conservationists elected subsequently, he went on to become part of the political party known as the Tasmanian Greens
. Bob Brown was later elected to represent Tasmania and the Greens
in the Senate
in the Federal parliament
, a position he still retains.
While The Wilderness Society has worked with them on certain campaigns, it is not affiliated with the Greens, or any other political party, and has a policy of not allowing its paid campaigners to be part of any political party either.
The Wilderness Society's long-term vision and strategy is to revolutionise conservation planning in Australia
. This involves both protecting the best of what is left of Australia's natural environment
and restoring important areas. The Wilderness Society's conservation framework is WildCountry
, a continent-wide, long-term conservation initiative to maintain and restore connections, flows or processes that exist between Australia's ecological environments (or "landscapes
"), as well as bringing understanding to the changing connections that exist between species, habitat, climate and people.. The WildCountry framework was developed in collaboration with ecological scientists, and outlines a concept for a for Australia. The inspiration for WildCountry came from the Wildlands Project
in the United States
The Wilderness Society has been criticised as only pandering to populist environmental issues, distracting attention away from several equally important but less recognised environmental problems. Not known for active campaigning in relation to regulating Australian farming practices, weed management, control of vermin or urban sprawl , TWS prefers to concentrate on better publicised issues such as forestry.
Traditionally fundraising was performed through their Wilderness Society Shops, which were popular for many of their calendars and posters by photographers
such as Peter Dombrovskis
and Olegas Truchanas
. But following the rise of the Internet, online shopping is now as important as well as fund raising from membership.
- Gee, H and Fenton, J. (Eds) (1978) The South West Book - A Tasmanian Wilderness Melbourne, Australian Conservation Foundation. ISBN 0-85802-054-8
- Lines, William J. (2006) Patriots : defending Australia's natural heritage St. Lucia, Qld. : University of Queensland Press, 2006. ISBN 0-70223-554-7
- Neilson, D. (1975) South West Tasmania - A land of the Wild. Adelaide. Rigby. ISBN 0-85179-874-8