The Guardian today reports on a disturbing attempt to roll back conservation in Tasmania:
Fallout from the federal government’s request to Unesco to remove 74,000 hectares of Tasmanian forest from world heritage listing has erupted into a war of words and pictures over the status of the disputed land.
On Friday the Coalition announced it would follow through on an election commitment to request a rollback of last year’s 170,000 hectare extension of world heritage listed forest. The final proposal sought to delist a smaller area of 74,000 hectares but was met with strong opposition from environmental groups, the Tasmanian state government and representatives of the timber industry.A spokesman for the environment minister, Greg Hunt, told Guardian Australia the delisting sought to remove areas from the world heritage extension that the government considers “detract from the overall outstanding universal value of the property and diminish its overall integrity”.
Senator Richard Colbeck, parliamentary secretary to the minister for agriculture, has released a newsletter with pictures he says are of forest areas within the extension zone that have been recently harvested or contain access roads and power lines.
“They clearly show the extension does not meet any definition of Wilderness World Heritage, which is how the rest of the [world heritage area] is classified,” wrote Colbeck, who labelled the extension a “deceit”.
“The Tasmanian and Australian people have been grossly deceived, as has the World Heritage Commission.”
In response, the Wilderness Society released their own photographs, which they say refute Hunt’s and Colbeck’s claims. In a statement it said more than 93% of the extension area was old growth, rainforest or intact natural forest and non-forest areas.
“These images demonstrate what’s at stake with Mr Hunt’s plan to undo world heritage protection to allow new logging in areas like the Upper Florentine, Weld and Great Western Tiers,” said Vica Bayley, spokesman for the Wilderness Society.
Hunt said “a wide range of stakeholders were consulted” before the government made the proposal to Unesco, but that has been labelled a “smokescreen” by environmentalists. Representatives of the logging industry have also said they do not want the change.
The chief executive of the forest industries association of Tasmania, Terry Edwards, wrote to Tony Abbott in December requesting that the government back away from its election pledge, the ABC reported.
A number of stakeholders who are against the proposal told Guardian Australia they doubted Unesco would agree to it. The organisation has never delisted something from world heritage on request from a national government.
However, specialty timber suppliers and the federal government hope the request will be granted when Unesco meets in June…
Read the whole story here.