Future of Tasmania’s World Heritage Forests Hangs in the Balance

By Gemma Tillack

The island of Tasmania is renowned for its wilderness, its vast expanse of towering forests, and its unique wildlife, including the Tasmanian devil. It’s also known for the bitter dispute over logging that has raged for decades.

The frontline for the battle of Tasmania’s forests is a stretch of tall eucalypt forests that borders the mountainous ranges of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Valleys such as the Weld, the Styx and the Upper Florentine have been profiled by conservationists and experts as forests of global importance for many years, and community groups and activists have put their bodies on the line to stop bulldozers from destroying the forests to make woodchips for paper.

In 2013, a major breakthrough was achieved when the logging industry, the Tasmanian and Australian Government and conservationists struck a peace deal that aimed to protect Tasmania’s World Heritage value forests and transition the forestry industry away from the logging of high conservation value forests. A major conservation outcome of the peace deal was an agreement to add a vast area of tall eucalypt old growth forests to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area, including these contentious valleys, to ensure that they would be protected from logging forever.

The peace deal presented a new opportunity for the state of Tasmania. It had the potential to end the bitter conflict over logging that divided the community for decades, provide new investments in wilderness-based tourism and a much needed transition to a plantation-based forestry industry. Right now, this opportunity is being squandered by the new conservative Australian Government as it has decided to declare war on the environment to suit its political agenda.

However, less than a year after the peace deal was put into effect and the World Heritage Committee declared these areas to be of global significance, Australia’s newly elected conservative government is attempting to strip 74,000 hectares of forests of their World Heritage status to allow industrial logging. The Australian Government plans to allow these last stands of tall eucalypt forests, some of which reach 100 meters in height, to be logged, burnt and reduced to woodchips. We can not allow this to happen.

All that stands between the bulldozers and chainsaws and these biodiverse forests that contain the tallest flowering trees on Earth is a decision that will be made by the World Heritage Commission at its upcoming meeting that starts on June 15.

The World Heritage Committee must make a stand for Tasmania’s forests and reject the proposal to strip these areas of their World Heritage status. If they fail to do so, it will not only set a dangerous international precedent but it will be a step back for nature, our climate, the people of Tasmania and its economy.

Once again the global community is uniting to protect Tasmania’s unique forests.

You can lend your voice by writing to the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee today. You will be speaking up for Tasmania’s forests and ensuring that World Heritage is forever, everywhere.

Take action now!