Andrew Darby, Hobart
The Age (article), October 20, 2010
THE Greens are pressing the Tasmanian government to begin rolling out a ban on logging in the island's old-growth forests, amid signs protection could still be some time away.
The moratorium is a cornerstone of the landmark forests peace plan unveiled yesterday, which is hoped to end a generation of conflict.
A statement of principles, negotiated in secret by industry and green groups over five months, includes a transition from native forest logging, and support for timber processing, including a pulp mill.
About 200,000 hectares of public forests eventually could be covered by the high-conservation-value ban, the Tasmanian Greens' forests spokesman, Kim Booth, said yesterday. But he said coupes about to be logged could be spared if the state agency Forestry Tasmania was prepared to reschedule its work.
''We are very strongly of the view that high-conservation-value forests are being deliberately targeted and they should be immediately withdrawn,'' Mr Booth said.
The deal between industry and environmentalists provides for ''immediate'' protection of high-conservation-value native forests, and outlines a means for a moratorium, commencing in 30 days and completed over three months.
But Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett said he believed the 30-day period had not yet started, and he might need to reach agreement first with Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
''We will be moving as rapidly as possible to start that clock ticking,'' he said.
The deal, described by Mr Bartlett as a ''fragile foundation'', holds the promise of ending decades of bitter conflict in Tasmania, and restructuring a troubled industry.
Apart from protecting the state's ancient tall eucalypts, and other forests with high conservation value, it provides for a transition by ''commodity'' logging such as woodchipping out of another 450,000 hectares of public native forests.
Federal funding is being sought for the revamp, and Mr Bartlett said the Gillard government's help would be needed to vary the state's Regional Forests Agreement.
The industry will contest some of the green groups' demands for protection.
''Just because a forest is nominated doesn't by itself make it a high-conservation-value forest,'' said Terry Edwards, chief executive of the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania.
He said it could take 30 years to complete the transition out of some native forests. But Forestry Tasmania is confident that it would be able to meet demands for sawlogs while introducing a moratorium on high-conservation-value trees.