Australia: Tasmanian forests added to UN heritage list
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Australia: Tasmanian forests added to UN heritage list

Conservation groups who fought for the protection of old-growth forests around the Tasmanian Wilderness have a reason to celebrate: The UN World Heritage Committee officially approved the extension of the state’s forest into its World Heritage List. This means 170,000 hectares of forests are added into the highly protected area.

The decision was passed in a meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia June 24.  The 21-nation committee unanimously accepted the nomination. Committee members Germany, Malaysia, India, Serbia, Albania and Estonia all spoke in strong support of the extension, the Habitat Advocate notes.

Although an advisory body earlier recommended to refer the case back to Australia for more work on the extension’s cultural values, the nomination went ahead. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature had been making repeated recommendations in support of protecting these forests.

The announcement protects outstanding forests such as Styx, Weld and Upper Florentine Valleys and on the flanks of the Great Western Tiers, while the extension covers forests from Cockle Creek to Cradle Mountain. See map here.

The UN’s decision means thousands of hectares of contiguous tall eucalyptus wild forests, endangered species habitat, wild rivers and ancient karst systems have finally had their globally significant values recognised.

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Tasmanian forest on fire. (Photo: HVEC)

Jenny Weber, campaigner of the Huon Valley Environment Centre’s said this is the first time HVEC has witnessed the protection of forests after 11 years of campaigning for the globally significant forests of the Weld, Middle Huon and wild forests in the Esperance and Far South. “We have achieved an awesome milestone here as an environmental NGO,” she notes.

“This is truly the people’s achievement. For decades people have struggled to protect these particular forests and finally we can say, despite shortsighted and wasteful governments, inept land resource management and failed efforts to undermine and marginalise conservationists, we did it!” Weber said.

Vica Bayley, spokesperson for The Wilderness Society (WS) also welcomes the decision and congratulates “each and every person who has participated in the campaign to see these areas protected over the decades of struggle and advocacy.”

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Styx Valley, Tasmania (Photo: Supplied)

The eNGOs acknowledged the work of the Australian and Tasmanian Governments and the signatories to the Tasmanian Forest Agreement, Bayley said.

Dr Phill Pullinger of the WS also said the decision delivers a critical element of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement and a durable and tangible conservation outcome on the ground adding, “The support and follow through by all parties involved in the Forest Agreement has been very welcome and critical in the success of this nomination. It demonstrates the Agreement can work and is a viable way to protect forests.”

Tree Activists Miranda Gibson became an instant celebrity when she climbed a tree in December 2011 and vowed not to come down until the threatened forest is protected.

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Miranda Gibson grabs media spotlight for her tree vigil. (Photo: Bob Brown)

Today, Gibson celebrates the victory.

“On December 14th 2011 I climbed to the top of a tree in a threatened forest and said I would stay until the forest was protected. That forest is now World Heritage. It is thanks to the support from people right around the world that the forest is still standing and is now protected.”

“For 14 months I watched over the forest every day with the hope that we, as a community, could defend those trees for future generations. Today, for that forest, we have achieved that” said Gibson.

Read more of Gibson’s statement here.