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Australians rally to save World Heritage Site from chopping block

Yesterday, nearly 2,000 people held a rally to show support for a Tasmanian forest that the Australian government wants stripped of its UNESCO World Heritage Sites and logged. The government, headed by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, has proposed to cut out 74,000 hectares of forest in Tasmania’s Upper Florentine valley from World Heritage status in order allow industrial logging back in.

“Today’s outstanding turn out in the Upper Florentine forests clearly shows that Australians are very proud of their World Heritage forests,” said Jenny Weber, the campaign manager with the Bob Brown Foundation which organized the rally. “We are sending a strong message to UNESCO that we love our spectacular forests of outstanding universal value, and the Australian community will stand up to defend them.”

The forest in question was part of a landmark agreement in Tasmanian between logging companies and environmentalists, which saw 170,000 hectares added to the existing World Heritage Site. But the Abbot government, which has also proposed a moratorium on any new protected areas, now wants to open up 43 percent of the forest in question. The government claims that much of the targeted area is degraded, but local conservationists, including former Green Party head Bob Brown, have disputed that.

Since 2000, Australia has lost 6 million hectares of forest cover according to Global Forest Watch, largely in Victoria, Western Australia, and Tasmania.

Since its election last year, the Tony Abbott government has made a number of controversial decision on the environment, including a shark cull, dumping dredged soil from a coal mine into the Great Barrier Reef, and moving to strike down the country’s carbon tax.

Rally in the forests of the Upper Florentine Valley. Photo by: Matthew Newton.

Rally in the forests of the Upper Florentine Valley. Photo by: Matthew Newton.

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