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Landmark deal saves Tasmania's native forests

16 Jan, 2012 06:54 AM
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4
 

LARGE tracts of Tasmanian native forest have secured legal protection from logging in the tortuous process aimed at ending the state's forests dispute.

Federal and state governments said yesterday the conservation agreement, for 428,000 hectares of public forests, was a landmark on the way to final settlement.

Green groups strongly criticised the deal, which leaves about 2000 hectares of forests, still hotly disputed for their high conservation values, open to chainsaws in coming weeks.

The agreement follows more than 18 months of talks between green and industry groups, which gained traction after the collapse of native timber markets.

It comes with the governments under pressure to honour a protection promise of months ago.

Under the conservation agreement, the state agency Forestry Tasmania is restrained from logging swaths of disputed public forest while the deal is settled.

It allows deeper consideration of the values of these protected forests - some of which have been long argued to be of World Heritage significance. They include tall eucalypt old-growth forest fringing the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, parts of Australia's largest temperate rainforest in the Tarkine, and the Wielangta forest of the east coast that the Greens leader, Bob Brown, fought for in the Federal Court.

''I would suggest if people are not happy with 99.5 per cent of the original ask, then they are very hard to please,'' said Tasmania's Forests Minister, Bryan Green.

''We are keeping faith with both the conservation movement and the industry.''

Forestry Tasmania said the agreement provided certainty for the industry and should reassure international markets.

However, a map of the areas shows logging still penetrating deep into a handful of wilderness forests. Senator Brown said some of the island's most stunning wild and scenic heritage areas were on the death list.

''Ceasing routine meetings with the Prime Minister over this dishonouring of her 2011 intergovernmental agreement is a weak gesture considering the gravity of the matter,'' he said of his decision to cut contact earlier this week.

In August an over-arching agreement between the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Premier, Lara Giddings, specified ''immediate protection'' for the 430,000 hectares - and federal compensation for any contract that remained unmet as a result. This clause went unfulfilled for months, with the state claiming the industry did not want compensation to shut down.

Environment groups including Australian Conservation Foundation and The Wilderness Society said the failure on the compensation clause had severely shaken confidence in the peace process.

''Conflict in the forests and instability in markets are the inevitable result if governments will not deliver conservation outcomes as agreed,'' said the society's Tasmanian campaign manager, Vica Bayley.

The federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, was confident that industry and green groups would still take part in talks.

''There will always be points of tension,'' Mr Burke said. ''Walking away results in an outcome that's much, much worse.''

He said he did not expect environment groups to be satisfied with the agreement.

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READER COMMENTS

Ian Mott
16/01/2012 10:36:41 AM

Is this moron suggesting that harvesting trees that are not surrounded by 428,000 hectares of forest would be a better option?
jose
16/01/2012 12:06:00 PM

This is no landmark deal, it has broken the agreement made between conservationists, union and industry, and the agreement made between state and federal government. Giving in to Forestry Tasmania only satisfies one party, so conflict will continue. As with every previous forestry agreement, when state government gets into the mix, they give FT what they want, and call conservationists whingers. We had hopes that this one would not just recap old history, but that is the way Lara Giddings has chosen.
Jo McRae
16/01/2012 1:23:31 PM

Conservationists are not hard to please, we are however very tired of having every forest agreement turned into a handout to Forestry Tasmania, who have got their desired outcome of permission to destroy more native forest. This breaks the agreement made between all parties.
Bill Pounder
16/01/2012 7:58:58 PM

Landmark deal? Now, how is that other local industry faring? "...visitor numbers in Hobart remain steady, here in the North-West a downward trend has been ongoing for some time now. During the past year some operators have reported downturns in the order of 40-70% on previous years." http://www.ruthforrest.com.au/ind ex.php/issues/42-featured-issues- left/67-tourism-in-regional-areas -of-tasmania

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Emily, have U seen what is happening to Chinas peasant farmers in their country? Cleared out and
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Hey it is pretty dumb all unifying together to make good progress if you are headed in the wrong
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