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4/2/03... loggers cause fire in Tasmania says Wilderness Society

Date: Tue, 4 Feb 2003 23:06:19 -0800

Media Release

Report to International World Heritage Committee Slams Forestry Fires and Logging

The Tasmanian World Heritage Area is in danger from bushfire caused by spark from Picton logging machinery.
The Wilderness Society has prepared a report to the international World Heritage Committee condemning the damage and threats to Tasmania's World Heritage Area from logging and associated wildfires.

The preparation of the report follows the escape last week of a fire in the Picton valley that was caused by a spark from logging machinery. Sensitive alpine vegetation in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) is in danger of being incinerated by the fire, according to the Wilderness Society.

The report will be considered as part of the official five-yearly review of the World Heritage Area carried out by Unesco's World Heritage Centre on behalf of the World Heritage Committee.

The Society's Campaign Coordinator, Geoff Law, has called for a halt to logging operations on fire-warning days.
"The Picton fire is within 400 metres of the boundary of the World Heritage Area, in steep forested country," he said. "Sensitive alpine vegetation in the Hartz Mountains National Park is literally right in the firing line."
"In the early 1990s, Government experts and consultants warned about the fire risk associated with forestry operations in the East Picton. These reports were ignored and the logging has gone ahead."

In 1994, Professor Jamie Kirkpatrick, in an official report to the Federal Government, warned "these (East Picton) coupes present a hazard to the values of the TWWHA through fire escape from regeneration burning, because of their position downslope, and to the northwest of, remnants of fire-sensitive vegetation in the Hartz Mountains important under (World Heritage) criteria."

The Picton burn follows the Mt Saddleback bushfire of two weeks ago, in which a spark from logging machinery ignited a blaze that incinerated over 600 hectares of country in the state's north-east.

While Forestry Tasmania appears to be referring to that fire as the "Saddleback Plantation fire", it actually burnt mostly native forest. It started in a logging operation taking place in native forests.

"On days of high fire danger, the loggers should simply down tools," Mr Law said. "Forestry prescriptions have clearly been inadequate to prevent the outbreak of wildfires on days of horrendous fire danger."

Further information: Geoff Law (03) ...., 0409 944891. 


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