Australia is moving to strip Tasmania protected forests of their world heritage status only one year after they were added. Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government this week proposed to UNESCO to delist 74,000 hectares. Tasmania, Australia is home to the tallest hardwood forests on Earth, with eucalyptus trees reaching nearly 100 metres and living for over 400 years. Tasmania’s temperate rainforests contain large tracts of intact old growth forest, wild rivers, indigenous heritage sites, and critical endangered species' habitat. The area is part of a 172,500-hectare addition to the world heritage area requested by Australia and approved by UNESCO just last year. The outstanding universal value of Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area lies largely in their ecologically intact, large natural habitats; which will be lost with these boundary changes. Tasmanian, Australian, and global ecosystem sustainability depend upon protecting and restoring Tasmanian old-growth forests and other spatially extensive natural vegetation.
The coalition government – also moving to end Australia’s carbon tax, and allow silt to be deposited on the Great Barrier Reef – described the requested annexation of 74,000 hectares of forest as a "minor boundary modification", saying the forests were "degraded" – a claim quickly disputed by environmental groups. In the case of the bitterly contested 7,000-hectare middle and upper Florentine Valley - part of the area proposed for delisting - only about 150 hectares had been logged. Less than 11,000 hectares of the 170,000 hectare extension are recovering from logging and these areas were included to ensure integrity of the entire landscape’s intact ecosystem. Even the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania continues to support the 2013 extension, stating it was integral to a forest peace deal. UNESCO's World Heritage Committee must be called upon to reject the Abbott government's exceptionally unusual move to reduce protections for Tasmanian wild forests. UNESCO's world heritage committee will consider the amendment in June.
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Clearcut industrial logging of Butlers Gorge Tasmanian old-growth for Australian sawmills and Malaysian plywood. Protected old-growth temperate rainforests are a requirement for local, regional, and global ecological sustainability.
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cc: Australian embassies worldwide; Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population, and Communities; Commonwealth Ombudsman; Australian Human Rights Commission; Australian Institute of Health and Welfare; Central Land Council; Forest and Wood Products Australia Limited; Tourism Australia