Environment Minister Tony Burke has rejected National Heritage listing for Tasmania's contentious Tarkine wilderness on natural heritage grounds
A region of rainforest, moorland and remote coastline in the island's north-west, the Tarkine is also the focus of increased mineral exploration.
Despite a 2010 Australian Heritage Commission recommendation for the listing of 433,000 hectares of the Tarkine, Mr Burke said on Friday he would only recognise its Aboriginal heritage.
The move drew praise from a local MP, but sparked an angry response from Greens leader Christine Milne, who said the Minister had ''abandoned the Tarkine to the mining and timber industries''.
Mr Burke said he had tried to find a boundary that would incorporate the natural values without delivering unacceptable social and economic outcomes.
''I simply haven't been able to find a way to recognise the natural heritage values with a boundary that will find a balance,'' he said.
''For this reason I have decided to only put the indigenous values on the national heritage list.''
Mr Burke said he acknowledged that his decision was not the outcome for the Tarkine that many groups were seeking.
He said part of the Tarkine's coastline would be entered on the National Heritage List as the Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape.
''The sites include some of the best evidence of the lifestyle of Aboriginal people in the area, with groups moving seasonally up and down the west coast of Tasmania, and the economic development of the communities,'' he said in a statement.
''This is a little known part of part of Australia's Aboriginal heritage and the listing will help tell it to the wider public.''
The decision was warmly backed by the local MHR and parliamentary secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Sid Sidebottom.
''Minister Burke has listened carefully to my representations on behalf of our region, and to the delegations of union members – particularly from the Australian Workers Unions – and of my local mayors,'' Mr Sidebottom said.
The AWU under secretary Paul Howes mounted an ''Our Tarkine – Our Future'' campaign promoting job opportunities in the region.
But Ms Milne said she was ''devastated'': ''If anyone has any doubt as to who is running the environment portfolio in Australia the answer is very clear: the mining industry.
''I have been campaigning for the Tarkine for a very long time . . . Tony Burke has completely sold out the environment for logging and mining.''
She called on Mr Burke to release the heritage council's latest recommendations, made in a report to the government last December.
with Jonathan Swan
More to come