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UNESCO agrees World Heritage Area status for Tasmanian forests

UNESCO agrees World Heritage Area status for Tasmanian forests
June 25, 2013

Some of Tasmania's most contentious forests have been given the highest level of environmental protection with a listing by the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

A total of 170,000 hectares of forests will now become part of Tasmania's World Heritage Area.

The listing includes the Southern Forests, the Styx, the Florentine and the Great Western Tiers.

Achieving the listing has been a major goal of environmental groups for decades.

It was also a key conservation outcome sought by environmental groups in the three years leading up to the signing of Tasmania's forest peace deal.

Meeting in Cambodia over the last week, the World Heritage Committee decision was welcomed by Vica Bayley of the Wilderness Society of Tasmania who told the ABC "we're very, very happy and very, very proud that our forests have been recognised as the global treasures that they are.

"I do strongly believe the reason this was finally nominated was because it was part of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement, an important part of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement, and it represents the first tangible conservation outcome from that agreement."

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke has told Parliament it is the first time the forests have been protected as part of an agreement with industry.

Minister Burke stated "the World Heritage Committee have extended in full the boundary extension for Tasmania's forests; the Styx, the Weld, the Upper Florentine, the Great Western Tiers, areas that industry had said should be part of the agreement to be taken out of production."

Australian Greens leader, Senator Christine Milne, says the decision has been a long-time coming and will be celebrated by conservationists, adding "we can all smile broadly knowing that at last these Tasmania's forests of outstanding universal value are now protected for all time.

"I am pleased Labor has committed to investigating and recognising the Tasmanian Aboriginal heritage in the new World Heritage areas to add to global understanding and appreciation of Tasmanian World Heritage Area which is a site listed for both its natural and cultural heritage."

Image courtesy of Rob Blakers.

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