The World Heritage Convention and Tasmania's tall-eucalypt forests: can an international treaty on environmental protection transcend the vicissitudes of domestic politics?
Law, G and Kriwoken, L, The World Heritage Convention and Tasmania's tall-eucalypt forests: can an international treaty on environmental protection transcend the vicissitudes of domestic politics?, International Environmental Agreements, 17, (6) pp. 839-854. ISSN 1567-9764 (2017) [Refereed Article]
Copyright 2016 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht
UNESCO's World Heritage Convention provides for the protection of natural and cultural heritage deemed to be of Outstanding Universal Value. The 1031 sites inscribed on World Heritage List are a source of prestige for the countries where they occur. However, conflicts between protection of Outstanding Universal Value and resource extraction can arise within large-scale natural landscapes. The tall-eucalypt forests of the Australian island of Tasmania have been at the heart of such a conflict for over 30 years. The aim of this paper is to analyse how the processes of the Convention respond to contrasting approaches by a State Party. The paper traces the history of the dispute over Tasmania's tall-eucalypt forests through the Convention's processes of evaluation, inscription and boundary modification. In particular, it considers the processes and outcomes pertaining to two diametrically opposed proposals for minor modification to the boundaries of the Tasmanian Wilderness made by consecutive Australian governments in 2013 and 2014: the first was for the purpose of protecting the forests, and the second for opening them to logging in order to fulfil a domestic election promise. In each case, criteria weighted in favour of long-term heritage protection played a critical role. The application of these criteria, combined with strong domestic concern and the ability of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee to prioritize heritage protection, has resulted in the protection of these forests and the enhancement of the ecological resilience of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The paper concludes that the power of an international treaty can transcend the vicissitudes of domestic politics and provide enduring protection of Outstanding Universal Value, particularly when backed by strong domestic scrutiny and community support.
World Heritage Convention, Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, outstanding universal values, Tasmania, forest, politics