Australia abandons logging plans for World Heritage forest, on U.N. advice

Spectacular Cradle Mountain is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Story highlights

  • Australia won't log Tasmanian Wilderness, on advice from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
  • The World Heritage forest spans over 1.5 million hectares and is home to rare plants and animals

(CNN)One of the world's largest temperate rainforests has been spared from logging, following a United Nations report.

Australia's Tasmanian state government has dropped plans to selectively log its World Heritage-listed wilderness -- an area covering over 1.5 million hectares (3.7 million acres) -- after a UNESCO report advised against it.
    The Tasmanian government had previously proposed logging special species of timber within the forest, such as blackwood, silver wattle and Huon pine. But UNESCO urged the government to "ensure that commercial logging and mining are not permitted within the entire property," following a mission to the wilderness in November.
    "While the mission considers the demand (for special species timber harvesting) legitimate per se, it does not consider a World Heritage property recognized for its outstanding cultural and natural values the place to experiment with commercial logging of any kind," UNESCO said.
    The Tasmanian government accepted the recommendation Sunday, though it was under no legal obligation to do so.
    "It was important that the mission experts had the opportunity to hear all sides of the debate, and having done so, their clear advice to the World Heritage Committee is that there should (be) no timber harvesting in the World Heritage Area including for specialty timbers," Matthew Groom, Tasmania's minister for environment, parks and heritage, said in a statement.
    He also acknowledged that some people within the special species timber industry "will be disappointed by this outcome."
    "However, we ensured they were able to put their case directly to the mission," he added.
    A special species timber industry representative was not immediately available for comment.
    Spanning a quarter of Tasmania -- Australia's southernmost island state -- the wilderness is home to a diverse array of plants and animals often found nowhere else in the world.
    Don't let the cute pose deceive you. The carnivorous Tasmanian devil, found only in Tasmania, can be feisty.
    In 2014, the federal government, led by then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott, unsuccessfully tried to remove parts of the Tasmanian Wilderness from the UNESCO World Heritage list, in a bid to enable logging of special timbers.
    As part of its report, UNESCO also recommended that tourism in the area be carefully managed to ensure its future for generations to come.