Bill to repeal Tasmania's forest agreement plays 'Russian roulette' with market confidence, FSC certification and environmental protection, say conservationists, claim customers will no longer have confidence in sustainability of Tasmanian timber

CARLTON, U.K. , May 28, 2014 (press release) – The Tasmanian Government’s bill to repeal the Tasmanian Forest Agreement Act, to be debated in state parliament today, will open up forest reserves for logging and dramatically increase uncertainty for the forestry industry.

Analysis by environment groups has identified fatal flaws in the legislation.

The bill undermines the progress Tasmania has made in moving on from logging conflict since the Tasmanian Forest Agreement Act was passed in May 2013.

The environment group signatories to the forest agreement have urged Premier Will Hodgman to drop the bill and back the forest agreement that is already delivering certainty for the industry and conservation outcomes.

“The repeal bill plays Russian roulette with market confidence, FSC certification and environmental protection,” said Vica Bayley, spokesperson for The Wilderness Society.

“It undermines the stability provided by the forest agreement - security for wood supply, conservation, markets, and workers.

“By preventing the protection of forests agreed under the TFA, this legislation sends a clear signal that customers of Tasmanian wood can no longer have confidence that Tasmania’s forests have the protection they need to guarantee environmental sustainability.”

“While the bill suggests putting a moratorium on logging for six years in order to navigate Forest Stewardship Council certification, in reality it allows intensive clearfell-type logging, such as aggregated retention, in agreed reserve areas,” said Phill Pullinger, spokesperson for Environment Tasmania.

“The bill also allows the government to swap areas out of the potential production zone, raising the prospect of old growth forests being opened for logging and taking us back to the bad old days.

“Proposals such as opening up existing conservation reserves for logging will clearly cause concern to customers and hurdles to FSC certification.

“A strength of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement Act is the world-first specification of FSC certification in the legislation. The Tasmanian Government’s proposed legislation replaces this with a generic reference to certification. The bill further threatens FSC certification through potential logging of agreed reserves, removing the permanent protection needed to meets FSC requirements.”

“We urge the Tasmanian government to give the forests peace agreement a chance to work, not take Tasmania back to the old, failed forestry policies of the past," said Jess Abrahams, spokesperson for the Australian Conservation Foundation.

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