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Loggers back Tasmanian World Heritage

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A group representing Tasmanian loggers has joined conservationists to oppose a federal government move to wind back the state’s World Heritage wilderness.

The influential Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT) has reportedly written to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee objecting to a cut of 74,000 hectares.

The group has confirmed its submission but is not commenting publicly, the ABC reported.

FIAT boss Terry Edwards, a key negotiator of Tasmania’s peace deal between loggers and environmentalists, did not respond to AAP’s call.

But Wilderness Society campaigner Vica Bayley, who negotiated with Mr Edwards for three years, told reporters earlier on Friday it was his belief FIAT were backing the World Heritage listing.

“(The move to delist) is not done with logging in mind and not done with the majority of industry wanting to log these areas,” Mr Bayley said.

“This is done because of personal politics, personal ideology and an inability to actually move with the times, to embrace the collaborative paradigm that has been developed in Tasmania.”

The pressure on the government comes with the World Heritage Committee due to begin meeting in Doha from Sunday.

A decision on the Tasmania application is expected on Friday or Saturday next week.

The area slated for delisting is part of 172,000 hectares added last year as a result of the historic peace deal.

The deal swapped forest reserves for green groups’ support for the ailing logging industry.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised to wind the World Heritage Area back during last year’s election campaign and Environment Minister Greg Hunt applied to UNESCO in February.

FIAT’s move means both sides in the peace process are sticking by their agreement, despite changes of government at federal and state level.

Mr Bayley, part of a delegation of four conservationists heading to Doha, said it was not too late for the government to withdraw its submission.

“The Abbott government can avoid further embarrassment and avoid wasting more of the World Heritage Committee’s time by withdrawing this application,” Mr Bayley told reporters in Hobart.

Green groups say 90 per cent of the area is intact and its listing ensured the integrity of the 1.6 million hectare World Heritage Area’s border.

Two advisory bodies to the committee have already recommended the government’s application be knocked back.

Federal government forestry spokesman and Tasmanian senator Richard Colbeck accuses the green movement of spreading lies.

Senator Colbeck says much of the area has been logged and some “old growth” is only 60 years old.

“It is clear that there has been harvesting activity in some areas back into the 1940s and in others back to the 1800s,” Senator Colbeck said.

“There is irrefutable evidence that much of this was industrial scale.”

Opponents of the government’s plan will rally in Hobart on Saturday.