Australian government abandons campaign to log World Heritage forest

File photo of a man riding a windsurfer on a lake located on the outskirts of Hobart, in Tasmania December 21, 2012. REUTERS/David Gray

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Australian government ended its push to log World Heritage-listed forests on the southern island state of Tasmania on Sunday, after the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO issued a report calling for the area to remain protected from logging.

Australia’s government in 2014 sought unsuccessfully to have parts of the Tasmanian wilderness, some one million hectares (2.47 million acres) or a fifth of the island, removed from UNESCO’s World Heritage listing to enable logging.

A United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation report issued on Saturday said the whole area “should be off-limits to commercial logging in its entirety” and that it “does not consider a World Heritage property recognized for its outstanding cultural and natural values the place to experiment with commercial logging of any kind”.

On Sunday both Australia’s national and Tasmanian state governments adhered to the UNESCO request.

“We accept the recommendation ... that special species timber harvesting should not be allowed anywhere in the world heritage area,” Tasmania’s environment minister Matthew Groom said in a joint statement with national environment minister Greg Hunt.

The statement said no commercial forestry will be permitted in the World Heritage-listed area.

The Tasmanian forest, added to the World Heritage list in 1982, “constitutes one of the last expanses of temperate rainforest in the world”, according to UNESCO.

Conservation groups welcomed the UNESCO report and government commitment not to log the Tasmanian wilderness.

Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Michael Perry