May 27, 2014
The 74,000 hectares in question were just added to the World Heritage site last year as a part of a landmark agreement between environmentalists and logging companies, which saw a total of 170,000 hectares added to the World Heritage Site. However, Australia's new government, under Prime Minister Tony Abbott, has pledged to undo the agreement by cutting out 43 percent of the new forest and opening it up for logging.
The government has claimed that the bulk of the area was logged or degraded, a point disputed by activists and researchers.
In fact, the IUCN says various analyses show that the 74,000 hectares in question is made up of 85 percent natural forest, including 45 percent old-growth forest.
"Only 10 percent of the area is regenerating from logging since 1960 and only circa 4 percent of the area is regarded as having been heavily disturbed," reads the report, noting that these areas were "explicitly identified for restoration" last year.
The Tasmanian devil is found in the forests in question. This species is currently listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Photo by: JJ Harrison/Creative Commons 3.0.
The government has classified its proposal as a "Minor Boundary Modification" to the World Heritage body, butt the IUCN counters that this designation is wrong since the proposal clearly undercuts the site's Outstanding Universal Value.
"The present proposal is clearly inappropriate for consideration as a minor boundary modification, and should not be approved by the World Heritage Committee," reads the report.
Furthermore the IUCN report says that the Abbott administration's proposal "contains no detailed justifications or explanations of the impact," adding that the proposal to add the forests last year contained far more detail.
The region is made up of temperate rainforest, including a variety of endemic and endangered species, such as the tiger quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) and the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii). Some even believe the thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, still prowls these forests.
The Australian Senate has already passed a motion calling on the World Heritage Committee to reject the proposal to de-list the 74,000 hectares. The World Heritage Committee, which will take into account the IUCN report, is set to make its decision in June.
A recent rally to save the 74,000 hectares in the forests of the Upper Florentine Valley attracted around 2,000 people. Photo by: Matthew Newton.
|AUTHOR: Jeremy Hance joined Mongabay full-time in 2009. He currently serves as senior writer and editor. He has also authored a book.|
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