10 March, 2012

Fears for Tasmanian forest deal's effect on species

Matthew Denholm, Tasmania Correspondent
The Australian, 10 March 2012

A CONSERVATION group fears the Tasmanian forest peace deal will be perversely "devastating" for key threatened species, potentially hastening extinctions.

The Tasmanian Conservation Trust is worried about a push to maximise the scale of new forest reserves by relaxing logging practices in the remaining production forests.

This trade-off would result in production forests being harvested more intensely, with a weakening of rules in the Forest Practices Code about the retention of forest fragments for threatened species.

By increasing the wood volumes from production forests, this would enhance the ability to protect the forests sought by green groups while still honouring timber contracts.

The Tasmanian government has suspended planned improvements to the code to allow this trade-off to be on the table at the peace talks between green groups and industry.

The TCT, which is not at that table, supports more reserves but not at the expense of weakening the code.

TCT director Peter McGlone told The Weekend Australian it would be a "devastating sell-out" if vital protections for threatened species were weakened under the forest deal. This was particularly so given that "very little" threatened species habitat was found in the areas being sought for reservation, while most were found in forests where the code was their only protection.

"Masked owl and swift parrot are nationally endangered, old-growth-dependant forest species which will gain very little out of these reserves," Mr McGlone said.

This meant the forest deal -- if it reduced the code -- could perversely make things worse for threatened species and drive the swift parrot to extinction.

"There will be a big gain for certain values, such as world heritage area and wilderness values, which we totally support, but a massive assault on biodiversity values," Mr McGlone said.

"We not just talking about an increasing loss of threatened species habitat, but there will also be massive impacts on water catchments and waterways, with the more intense logging regime."

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