In a joint media release yesterday, Federal Environment Minister, Senator Ian Campbell and Member for Braddon, Mr Mark Baker, launched the Forest Conservation Fund (FCF), under the $250 million Tasmanian Community Forestry Agreement.
The stated objective of the FCF is to protect up to 45,600 hectares of forested private land, targeting old growth forest and under-reserved forest communities, of which there will be a minimum of 25,000 hectares of old growth forest and up to 2,400 hectares of forest in the Mole Creek area.
Private landholders have been invited to tender for support for the long term protection of old-growth and under-reserved (under-represented on publicly-owned) forests on their lands, through mechanisms that include covenants and conservation management plans.
An additional $3 million boost for Tasmania’s ecotourism industry was also announced, with $1million earmarked to develop bushwalking and related infrastructure in the Tarkine area and $2 million for forest-based tourism infrastructure, including for forest reserves created under the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement.
Tourism grants in the range from $100,000 to $500,000, are open to application from groups including tourism operators, local councils, land managers and conservation groups, as well as from private individuals.
Tasmanian conservationists have congratulated the Federal Government for its funding of eco-tourism in the Tarkine forest but are also urging the Government to consider the Tarkine for World Heritage listing.
The Minister agreed that the area is of high conservation value and advised that it is being assessed for National Heritage listing, with the assessment verdict due in another six to 12 months. World Heritage listing would be considered once the Tarkine is on the national heritage list.
Cinders, a regular contributor to this weblog, offers the following local perspective:
The Federal Minister for the Environment, Ian Campbell visited north west Tasmania on Wednesday 10 January to make two announcements that confirmed promises made in the 2004 Federal Election to provide a ‘final balance between reservation and production of Tasmania’s native forest.
This is yet another chapter in a long running dispute created by the green movement with the help of successive Federal Governments. A story started by a grant to the Tasmanian Conservation Trust by the Australian Heritage Commission (AHC) in the 1980s to document the National Estate Values of Tasmania’s north west Forests. Peg Putt, now parliamentary leader of the Tasmanian Greens was the TCT Director that received the grant. Many other prominent greens were associated with the project, including Sean Cadman who was a co author of the chapter Botany, in Harries, D.N., (Ed.), 1992; Forgotten Wilderness: North West Tasmania. Sean who is now with the Wilderness Society, was also the consultant engaged by the AHC to assess the merits of the application for listing of the area as worthy of the National Estate.
Sean was also the one who advised the AHC to rename the area the Tarkine. A word which was a truncation of the English word Tarkinener that approximated for the name of the Aboriginal Group that lived near Sandy Cape. The AHC many months later sought the concurrence of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre.
As part of the Liberal Federal Election promise massive reserves were added to the substantial existing reserves that surround the Savage River open cut mine. The most contentious was the pipeline corridor for the iron ore slurry running northwards from the mine to the North West Coast. This area had been planned for long rotation selective harvesting for deep red myrtle a highly priced specialty timber used for craft and furniture making.
The area is numbered 25 on the above map.
For the last 25 years the green movement has claimed that tourism not forestry is the answer, the Federal Government by allocating up to three million dollars for the bush walk and other tourism infrastructure, has challenged the advocates of forest reservation to now “put up or shut up”
The challenge is can the ‘Tarkine’ be a wilderness tourist haven, can the green movement build on the tourist business that already exists based upon the Arthur and Pieman rivers, the Savage River Mine and the many old mining and timber towns that are scattered through the area. Can it be integrated with the Dismal Swamp that is already a draw card? Will we see log truck drivers re-employed as tourist bus drivers, harvesting crews as tour guides etc?
In the WWF plan for tourism presented to the Federal Government prior to the 2004 election, the WWF planned to use the “road to nowhere” a coastal road running between the Arthur and Pieman rivers to drop off and collect tourists. It would be ironical if this road was used as it was the scene of protest where both Greens leader Bob Brown and the Executive Director of the Australian Conservation Foundation were arrested trying to stop its construction.
It is interesting how the green movement has reacted to the challenge of creating a viable tourism business; it seems their first reaction is to demand more reservation (450,000 ha in lieu of about 350,000 ha) and National Heritage listing followed by World Heritage Listing. Perhaps this is part of the marketing plan. However getting “bums on seats” business planning might be just as beneficial, rather than a detailed administrative process that may take a couple of years.
Something needs to be done as the Savage River National park created by the 1997 Regional Forest Agreement due to it “being the single largest area of unburnt and unfragmented rainforest remaining in Tasmania” has visitor numbers so low that they are not even recorded.
A detailed baseline and monitoring system as well as a management plan for the area needs to be established before public money is handed over in the hope that “we will all have jobs in Tourism”