D-Day on forests

ENVIRONMENTAL protesters have vowed to risk tough new penalties and stand in front of chainsaws and bulldozers if the federal  government succeeds in delisting parts of Tasmania's World Heritage Area.

Environment Tasmania spokesman Phill Pullinger

Environment Tasmania spokesman Phill Pullinger

As  The Examiner  went to press last night, Tasmanian environmentalists in Doha to lobby the World Heritage Committee to reject Canberra's bid to remove 74,000 hectares  were expecting a decision to be handed down within hours.  

While environmentalists were nervously awaiting the outcome, the state government yesterday announced plans to introduce legislation  when Parliament resumes this week to crack down on illegal anti-logging protests. 

New penalties target protesters who  disrupt logging coupes or timber mills with $2000 on-the-spot fines, while  $100,000 penalties are planned for groups that encourage such  activity.  

Speaking from Doha, the Huon Valley Environment Centre's Jenny Weber said the draconian and anti-democratic move would not stop protesters.

``If the World Heritage areas are removed, they will be on the front line, and we  are prepared to be arrested if there's a need to stand up to the bulldozers and chainsaws,'' Ms Weber said. 

This time last year environmentalists were celebrating at the World Heritage Committee's meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, after 120,000 hectares of forests were added to Tasmania's World Heritage Area. 

It was the biggest tangible conservation gain out of the forestry peace agreement. 

The Liberal Party went to the state and federal elections promising to repeal the peace deal  and to try to reverse the World Heritage Area extension, arguing that much of the additional forest area was  degraded. 

Environment Tasmania spokesman Phill Pullinger said the federal government's unusual attempt to request that an area be struck off was embarrassing, as other countries campaigned hard to have their places recognised by the World Heritage Committee. 

Two reports prepared for the committee last month recommended that  the 2013 decision be upheld. 

``We're certainly not picking up much support for the  Australian government's position -  there have been some people shaking their heads,'' Dr Pullinger said yesterday. 

A decision was expected last week, but delays due to complicated and controversial proposals have slowed down proceedings. 


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