Last week in Qatar confirmed the ultimate ratification for the eastern boundaries of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Not without the feeble and unconvincing challenges from our visionless State and Federal Liberal Governments, our high conservation eucalypt forests are now protected for posterity free from senseless and uneconomical exploitation that has ravaged them over the past four decades.
For thirty years the conservation movement had been claiming that these magnificent world-class forests are of greater value standing to Tasmanians and the rest of the world rather than being pulverized into chips. Although the World Heritage Committee recommended more than 20 years ago that these forests should be amended to the WHA, it was the catalyst, being the collapse of the Tasmanian woodchip export industry that initiated the protection of these forests. Ironically it was the State labor government’s invidious political position lured by buckets load of federal funding that secured this overdue measure.
Looking beyond this, the Tasmanian World Heritage Area is bountiful in its intrinsic values, which fulfills all four IUCN criteria for natural properties, and three of the ICOMOS cultural criteria. Encompassing far more than trees, the Tasmanian WHA protects one of the last true wilderness areas on earth, and given careful management, the future looks much brighter for the grander WHA and the protection of its inherent values.
Tasmanians should now be looking at the future. An unabridged world-class park with its optimal boundaries secured. A goal that should attract innumerable people to visit the state, admiring the natural and cultural treasures and boosting the economy in a sustainable direction far beyond the short-term mindset of heavily subsidized resource extraction.
In addition many regions identified to have WHA properties still remain unprotected. Most notable are the West Coast Ranges, The wild country south of Macquarie Harbour, and the western extension of the Cradle Mt Reserve.
The Tarkine wilderness has also been assessed to fulfill the World Heritage criteria for its natural and cultural values. Although the Tarkine region stands alone as an isolated WHA, it is most likely to be inscribed as an extension to the existing WHA, which could be linked through topography west from the Cradle Mt./Vale of Belvoir region.
The Tarkine conservation area bounded by the Arthur and Pieman rivers expanse is around 450,000 hectares. Complete with the regions mentioned above there is approximately 800,000 hectares that should be included into the existing reserve. The enclosed map depicts the potential expanded WHA.
A world- class wilderness park indeed, which would encompass these superlative natural and cultural features within a vast 2,500,000+ hectare sanctuary. Impressive? - That is one third of the state’s land-mass in a single reserve.
With emphatic prediction, the exploitative resource extraction industries won’t relinquish their political influence over these areas easily. But if the forests can be protected then so can the lofty mountain wilderness, the windswept coastline, the rainforested grandeur and the wild river catchments of the far west.
The destiny for the inclusion of these regions is inevitable. The only question remains is when will Tasmanians awaken to this reality?