UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has voted to protect all Tasmanian forest from logging — striking down the Australian government’s attempt to withdraw 183,000 acres (74,000 hectares) from the U.N. list of cultural and natural wonders.
Canberra claimed that parts of the forest had already been degraded by the timber industry and should therefore be fair game for further logging. However, U.N. delegates in Doha, Qatar, sided with conservationists who claimed that most of the forest was unscathed and that only 8.6% of the 3.5 million acres (1.4 million hectares) had been damaged.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that he was disappointed with the decision, believing that the untapped Tasmanian logging would aid his nation's already floundering timber industry. "The application that we made to remove from the boundaries of the World Heritage listing — areas of degraded forest, areas of plantation timber — we thought was self-evidently sensible," Abbott said.
The green lobby saw the vote as a sweeping victory for the preservation of the environment and Tasmanian heritage. "This county not only holds magnificent forest, which provides medicine and good spirits for us, it is also the resting place for ancestors," Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre secretary Ruth Langford told ABC.
The U.N. delegation also informed the Australian government that the Great Barrier Reef, another World Heritage site, would be placed on the endangered list if it did not receive better care.