Abbott government to cut 74,000 ha of forest from World Heritage zone

The federal government will ask UNESCO's World Heritage Committee to strip the Tasmanian World Heritage Wilderness Area of 74,000 hectares of highly contentious forest.

The area, believed to be up to 117 parcels, was part of a 170,000 hectare extension to the World Heritage Area by the committee last June.

It was nominated through an exhaustively argued Tasmanian forest peace deal.

The first large-scale wind-back of World Heritage ever sought by an Australian government, it fulfils an election promise by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

It is the latest in a series of contentious federal environmental moves, from carbon tax repeal to a go-ahead for Great Barrier Reef Marine Park dredging.

The Tasmanian Senator Richard Colbeck, Parliamentary Secretary to the Agriculture Minister, delivered the news by statement on Friday.

Senator Colbeck said it would deliver additional economic and social outcomes, while maintaining the values of the wilderness.

"This minor boundary modification will restore value to the original Wilderness World Heritage Area listing by removing areas that have been impacted by forestry operations and devalue the existing Outstanding Universal Value," he said.

"In total we are seeking the removal of about 74,000 hectares or just 4.7 per cent of the entire property."

He said high value tall forests and giant trees in the Weld-Snowy Range, Huon-Picton, the Great Western Tiers and the Styx-Tyenna regions would be retained.

It was not immediately clear whether the most bitterly fought forests in the Florentine, Butler's Gorge and upper Styx and upper Weld would be re-opened to logging.

"The minor boundary modification includes removal of a number of areas containing pine and exotic eucalypt plantations as well as areas that have previously have been impacted by forestry operations and other infrastructure," Senator Colbeck said.

The Tasmanian Greens leader, Nick McKim, said the decision would plunge the state back into conflict by seeking to open up World Heritage areas for logging.

The federal government's proposed change has to be lodged with the World Heritage Committee by February 1 in order to go forward at its next meeting in June, in Doha, Qatar.

Until the proposed boundary modification is agreed to by the World Heritage Committee the current boundary for the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Areas remains in place and continues to be protected under national environment law and is subject to its current legal protection and management practices.

This story Abbott government to cut 74,000 ha of forest from World Heritage zone first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.