'Gamble' on opening up forests

GREEN groups say the state government is gambling with accreditation for Tasmanian timber by opening up preserved forests for logging.

Environment groups have raised concerns with Forestry Tasmania about the impact the government's forestry policy could have obtaining Forest Stewardship Council credentials.

Wilderness Society spokesman Vica Bayley said the government had vastly underestimated difficulties associated with achieving FSC certification.

Mr Bayley said the legislation created instability around forest protection quotas needed to meet accreditation targets.

The legislation, which is now before the upper house, aims to unlock 400,000 hectares of protected forest areas for logging in six years' time.

"It is a fundamental tenet of FSC certification that you preserve high value conservation reserves but the government is doing exactly the opposite," Mr Bayley said.

"How can FSC assess conservation targets when the very areas Forestry Tasmania is pointing to in order to demonstrate protection are no longer being protected."

However, Resources Minister Paul Harriss said claims the government's forestry policy threatened FSC certification were wrong.

Mr Harriss said the legislation did not make substantive changes to the management of conservation areas or regional reserves.

He referred back to a letter sent to the government by the Stewardship Council to disprove the environmentalists' claims.

He said the council clearly understood the government was committed to maintaining high conservation values in non-certified forest areas.

But Mr Bayley said the minister was reading the letter through rose-coloured glasses.

He said while the letter acknowledged there was no immediate threat to FSC certification posed by the government's legislation, it did not rule out potential future threats to accreditation should logging take place in high conservation value areas.

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