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Tasmanian Forest Agreement: a new model for conservation outcomes

After decades of friction between forestry industry and conservation groups, a real path forward for Tassie’s beautiful and controversial native forests was finally realised.

Despite challenges thrown down by Tasmania's Upper House, the legislation was passed in early 2013 and will deliver formal protection for new national parks and reserves in Tasmania in an area covering over 500,000 hectares.

The prospect of protecting this full half a million hectares of native forests is well and truly alive. We’re already seeing real outcomes, like when the World Heritage Area inscription for the Styx, Weld, and Upper Florentine Valleys was passed in June 2013 by the World Heritage Committee. This added a further 170,000 hectares to the existing Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Meanwhile, workers and communities are supported through the restructure of the industry, with the legislation reducing the sawlog industry to less than half of its previous size.

Despite numerous challenges, we’ve been determined to keep the Forest Agreement alive for the real opportunities it presents to protect vast areas of native forest in Tasmania.

It’s clear that this legislation remains the best way to deliver new reserves for our irreplaceable native forests. Additionally, it delivered a much-needed restructuring package of $200 million to the forestry industry while at the same time providing the best opportunity to resolve one the longest-running environmental conflicts in Australia’s history.

What’s more, this historic moment proved that traditional rivals can work together to achieve favourable outcomes for nature. More and more, we’re discovering that the old paradigms of protesting and opposing until you get your own way is losing its efficacy in a modern world. What does work is talking, negotiating and finding pathways forward to reach common ground.

Compromises are, by nature, imperfect. However, throughout the negotiation process we maintained that it was incumbent on anyone opposed to this legislation to articulate a better plan to save Tasmania’s forests.

We saw nothing that came close to presenting a better path towards formal forest reservation outcomes and industry restructure than what this legislation provides - not from activists in the environment movement, nor from detractors in the forestry industry.

The Tasmanian Forest Agreement is the most comprehensive and positive result for Tassie’s nature since the creation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area over 30 years ago. We’re proud to have been the driving force behind this process by securing a bright future for the environment in this spectacular corner of the world.