World Heritage Centre has extended heritage listed boundary by more than 170,000 hectares
- guardian.co.uk, Sunday 23 June 2013 20.56 EDT
Almost 200,000 hectares of Tasmania’s old growth forest have been world heritage listed, bringing hope that a three-decade fight between environmentalists, politicians and loggers is over.
The World Heritage Committee has extended the heritage listed boundary of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area by more than 170,000 hectares after accepting a proposal from the Australian government which will give the areas the highest level of environmental protection in the world.
The old growth forest areas now added to the heritage listing are in the Upper Florentine as well as within the Styx, Huon, Picton and Counsel River Valley.
Logging will continue in the forest in areas Environment Minister Tony Burke described as “less contentious”.
The proposal the government put to the World Heritage Committee was the work of people within the forestry industry as well as environmentalists, including Miranda Gibson who famously spent 457 days living in a tree in the old growth forest in a campaign for extended environmental protection.
Speaking from Hobart where she had watched a livestream of the World Heritage Committee handing down the decision, Gibson said she was thrilled and had contemplated returning to the tree if she was unhappy with the decision.
“It’s good to know I don’t have to go back to the tree unless I want to visit,” she said.
“The hardest part [of living in the tree] was not knowing how long I would be up there or if the loggers would come and log around me.
“It was obviously also very isolating.”
Gibson started living at the top of the 60 metre eucalypt tree in December 2011 and was driven out by bushfires in March this year. By then the proposed extended areas for world heritage listing had been granted temporary protection.
She decided to campaign from the ground until the committee handed down their official decision.