Govt seeks to remove forest protections
THE Abbott government is seeking to remove an area of Tasmanian forest from a protected world heritage zone, arguing it has already been impacted by logging and devalues bordering wilderness areas.
The government wants to modify the boundary of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area to rescind UNESCO protection from a 74,000-hectare tranche of forest.
It will submit the proposal to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in time for it to make a decision at its annual meeting in June.
About 170,000 hectares of Tasmanian forest was added to the protected area in June 2013 as part of the historic agreement struck between green groups and the timber industry after decades of feuding.
If this latest proposal is approved, nearly half of the listed area will be stripped of its UNESCO protection.
Parliamentary secretary Richard Colbeck said the coalition was fulfilling an election promise by proposing a “minor” boundary change to remove a small part of that forest area.
It would exclude a section of forest containing pine and exotic eucalypt plantations, while still retaining high-value tall forests and giant trees in nearby areas.
“This minor boundary modification will restore value to the original wilderness world heritage area listing by removing areas that have been impacted by forestry operations and devalue the existing outstanding universal value,” Senator Colbeck said in a statement on Friday.
Sixty-five registered “giant trees” remain within the proposed minor boundary modification.
Senator Colbeck, from Tasmania, said the coalition would create a truly sustainable forest industry for the state and this proposed change would deliver economic and social benefits.
The state’s unique environmental assets would not be lost, he said.
“No one thinks Tasmania should plunder its natural resources in the pursuit of short-term gains,” he said.
Australian Greens leader Christine Milne said asking UNESCO to reverse its decision was ludicrous and risked international humiliation.
“Winding back world heritage protection will make us a global laughing stock,” Senator Milne said in a statement.
Senator Milne, also a Tasmanian, said there was no future for native forest logging in her home state, and pursuing it could set back the economy for decades.