Protecting Tassie's ancient forests

Some people say we have to choose between the environment and jobs — we don’t. 


On 21 June 2014, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee’s rejected the Coalition Government's request to delist Tasmania’s new World Heritage forests so they could be logged. The decision sends a clear message to the Tasmanian state government, which wants to log other iconic forests, such as the Blue Tier, Tarkine, Bruny Island, Tasman, Reedy Marsh and the North-East Highlands.

“Tasmania’s forests are some of the most spectacular on Earth, home to the tallest flowering trees on the planet, centuries-old trees almost 100 metres high, ancient rock art and endangered animal species including the internationally renowned Tasmanian Devil,” said Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Jess Abrahams. 

UPDATE: What's happening with the Tasmanian Forest Agreement?

On 8th May 2014, the Tasmanian state government tabled a new law that seeks to undo the landmark Tasmanian Forests Agreement. The Forestry (Rebuilding the Forestry Industry) Bill 201, if passed, will repeal the Tasmanian Forests Agreement under which approximately 500,000 hectares of forest became future reserve land.

Under the proposed Bill approximately 400,000 hectares of future reserves will be converted to future logging areas. While the forest cannot be logged for six years, some specialty timber logging may begin immediately. Environment group signatories including ACF believe the proposed Bill will only serve to increase uncertainty for the industry. The Tasmanian government must instead embrace the forest peace deal to secure a future for the industry and protect Tasmania’s forests.

On 15th May 2014, the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications tabled its report on the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

The committee heard from environment groups, scientists, government departments, and interested individuals about the outstanding universal values of the wilderness area and attempts by government to move the boundary to allow logging.

The Committee found that ‘the government's proposal to remove 74,000 hectares from the extended Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area is fundamentally flawed and will have an adverse impact on the values of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area'. ACF’s detailed joint submission to the Committee is available here.

On 16th May 2014 in Paris, the Advisory Bodies to the World Heritage Centre, the IUCN and ICOMOS will hand down their report and draft decision to the World Heritage Center on the Abbott government’s proposed changes to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. 

Environment Minister Greg Hunt and Prime Minister Tony Abbott are asking the UNESCO committee to delist tens of thousands of hectares of these old-growth forests — approved for the world’s highest protection just last year. 

This would enable logging in ancient and iconic forests like the Upper Florentine, Styx and Weld Valleys. The World Heritage Committee will make their final decision on the proposed delisting at the 38th Session of the Committee in Doha, Qatar, between June 15 and 25.

TAKE ACTION: Sign the petition and tell the World Heritage Committee to stand by their decision to protect Tassie forests.

Back in June 2013, a contested area of Tasmania's high conservation forests was granted official World Heritage protection by the UN World Heritage Committee. What does this mean?

A 170,000 hectare extension of the state's wilderness, including the wild eucalypt forests fringing its eastern boundary, now falls under international protection. This development represents a globally significant conservation outcome and the resolution of the long-running conflict over logging along the boundary of the existing reserve.

Tasmanian Forest Agreement

After decades of conflict, in 2012, the Tasmanian Forests Agreement was negotiated between environmental groups, timber industry, workers unions and timber community representatives. The Agreement provides protection for high conservation value forests and support for a new future for the state’s wood product industries.

This protection for Tasmania’s forests has been the result of three years of honest, difficult work between the environment movement, workers, industry, and timber communities to find a way through the conflict, together.

The result delivers major outcomes for the environment, industry and workers

Though we didn’t achieve everything we had hoped for, and the Tasmanian Parliament added amendments that make the legislation weaker than we would like, after a difficult two weeks of further negotiations, ACF and our joint environmental signatories agreed it was better to proceed than walk away.

The commitment to the nomination of an extension of 170,000 hectares to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area was safe.

On 30 April 2013, the Tasmanian Parliament finally passed the Bill to legislate the Tasmanian Forests Agreement. It provides the mechanisms necessary to deliver formal legislative protection and management of the high-conservation-value native forests identified in the schedules of the legislation for current and future generations. It will provide the confidence for a Tasmanian forestry industry to have a sustainable and certain future and will support the greater Tasmanian economy by creating new opportunities to enable it to grow and diversify.

As a result of the TFA legislation passing the Tasmanian Parliament, on 2 May 2013 the Prime Minister and the Tasmanian Premier signed a new Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement. In addition to assuring the commitment this year to the nomination of the extensions to the TWWHA, it will put into place a conservation agreement under the Federal EPBC Act over the high conservation value forests identified in the Schedules of the TFA Legislation. It also directs the Commonwealth and the state parties to enter into expeditious negotiations to amend and extend, as required, the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement to reflect the relevant forest industry and conservation outcomes by October 2014.

The outcome shows just what we can achieve by putting old differences aside and working together proactively to achieve economic and environmental sustainability.

The signatories to the TFA will continue to build on the strengths of the TFA reforms through a joint commitment to additional supportive measures. The signatories have commitments from both governments and their agencies ensuring timely and effective actions are taken to assist with delivery of the Agreement’s provisions.

The TFA will see more than half a million hectares of native forests protected as reserves and more than $100 million of federal government funding invested in the state’s economy. 

Read more about the Tasmania Forest Agreement here.

Alongside our allies, ACF members and supporters made this happen. It matters a lot. Thank you. If you are not a member, join us. It’s $10. 

Protecting globally unique forests

In 2012, ACF became part of a historic agreement to end the decades of conflict that have surrounded Tasmania’s forests.  The agreement includes new reserves that will keep forests within the Styx, Weld and Upper Florentine valleys and the Weilangta and Tarkine regions safe from logging.

Here’s a map of the new reserves.

These forests are full of towering old-growth Eucalypts and ancient rainforests of World Heritage significance. These magnificent forests have the world’s highest recorded diversity of wet forest macro fungi and are home to nationally endangered and vulnerable species, like the Tasmanian devil, spotted-tail quoll, swift parrot and masked owl

The conservation values of the proposed reserves were assessed by an independent panel of scientists before the industry and union agreed to their protection.

A sustainable forestry industry future

The Agreement has the power to see more than $100 million in federal funding invested in Tasmania’s economy. This is on top of more than $100 million of government funding that has already been provided through the agreement process, bringing the total to more than $200 million.

The funding is to support the forestry industry’s transition to a sustainable future, including a focus on plantation timber, and to diversify the state’s economy, creating new employment opportunities in industries, such as agriculture and tourism.

The new reserves will act as valuable assets for the state’s nature-based tourism industry and have the potential to generate millions of dollars for the state’s economy under the national price on carbon. 

During the negotiation process, a panel of independent experts assessed the industry’s wood supply requirements, the effects of continuing business as usual on jobs, and the economic value of the reserves as a carbon sink.

The agreement is a positive outcome for the environment, workers and the forestry industry, which could not have continued to survive by depleting native forests at an unstainable rate and to an extent that was unacceptable to consumers

National Heritage listing in the Tarkine

It is not only Tasmania's World Heritage forests that are under threat. The beautiful Tarkine wilderness in the island's north-west remains unprotected and very much at risk. The Tarkine contains one of the world’s most significant remaining tracts of temperate rainforest, huge sand dunes, sweeping beaches, rugged mountains, pristine rivers and extremely important sites of Indigenous heritage.

On 8 February 2013, Environment Minister Tony Burke announced National Heritage listing would apply to only a small part of the Tarkine, rejecting advice of the Australian Heritage Council and refusing to recognise the extraordinary natural values of the region.

The Australian Heritage Council had recommended 439,000 hectares of the Tarkine be placed on the National Heritage List and thereby given stronger environmental protection at a federal level, but Minister Burke has ignored the Council’s recommendations and has instead set aside just 4 per cent for protection.

The rest of this sensitive and significant environmental area has been left open for mining companies to damage. With less than 5% of the Tarkine protected as a National Park, the area’s extraordinary natural values remain under threat from mining, logging and poaching.

ACF was deeply disappointed by Minister Burke's announcement and is considering the way forward to protect the Tarkine. ACF is also a member of the Tarkine National Coalition.

Download the new Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area map.

See out Tasmanian forests frequently asked questions and answers.

Read our summaries of the Independent Verification Group’s findings:

Read our summaries of the Independent Verification Group’s findings: