News National UNESCO protects Tasmanian wilderness

UNESCO protects Tasmanian wilderness

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The United Nations’ World Heritage Committee (WHC) has delivered a rebuke to the Australian government, rejecting its request to cut Tasmania’s World Heritage Area so it can be logged.  

The WHC, meeting in Doha on Monday, declined an Australian application to wind back 74,000 hectares of protected forest added last year.

GALLERY: This is what the government tried to log

The area was initially part of 170,000 hectares protected under Tasmania’s forest peace deal struck by former state and federal Labor governments.

Green groups had accused the Abbott government of pursuing the unprecedented delisting for ideological reasons.

Speaking from Doha early on Tuesday morning Australian time, Wilderness Society Tasmania Campaign Manager Vica Bayley called on the government to now accept the WHC decision and get on with the job of protecting forests and engaging with Tasmania’s Aboriginal community on outstanding cultural heritage assessments.

Also in Doha, Environment Tasmania spokesperson Dr Phill Pullinger described the decision as “a great relief for the wild forests of the Great Western Tiers, Weld Valley, Butlers Gorge and the Upper Florentine Valley”.

However, “much of Tasmania’s natural heritage remains at risk, with the Tasmanian Government aiming to turn vast areas of protected forest into logging zones”, Dr Pullinger said.

“The World Heritage Committee’s decision sends a clear message that the international community holds Tasmania’s forests in the highest regard,” he said.

“It is a message we hope the Tasmanian government listens to by delivering the remaining 400,000 hectares of forest reserves agreed under the Tasmanian Forest Agreement,” he said.

Also part of the Doha delegation, Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Jess Abrahams said the finding underlined the fact Tasmania’s forests were some of the most spectacular on earth and “the Southern Hemisphere’s equivalent of the Californian Redwoods”.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt applied to UNESCO in February, a move that threatened to reignite decades of conflict over forestry in the island state.

Federal forestry spokesman and Tasmanian senator Richard Colbeck has previously accused the green movement of spreading lies about the forest area in question.

He said much of it had been logged and some “old growth” was only 60 years old.

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