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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment

Australian Forest Policy Praised by World Wide Fund for Nature


24 June 1997
(72/97)

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has called for urgent action to protect the world's forests through conservation and sustainable use at the launch of a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Forests Campaign in New York today.

Australia is a key supporter of the WWF Forest Campaign which asks countries to pledge to conserve at least 10 per cent of each of their forest types in ecologically representative parks and reserves by the year 2000.

Senator Hill welcomed the praise given by Dr Claude Martine, Director General of the WWF - International, who said Australia's policy for the conservation of forest biodiversity in protected areas significantly exceeded the WWF's minimum goal.

The WWF has estimated that only six per cent of the world's forests are protected.

Australia's policy is to seek to include in the national forest reserve system a minimum of 15 per cent of the distribution of each forest ecosystem that existed prior to European settlement.

The Australian figure, Senator Hill said, will actually translate into around 20 per cent to 25 per cent for rare forest types. Australia aims also to protect at least 60 per cent of remaining old growth, 60 per cent of rare forest types and 90 per cent or better of forest wilderness in reserves.

The Minister told a UN Summit in New York that Australia also recognised the importance of maintaining forest biodiversity in areas available for harvesting outside of reserves through ecologically sustainable forest management practices.

Dr Martine said that WWF was very impressed with Australia's program for conservation and sustainable use of forests.

In a message from the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Annan, Australia along with other countries which had committed to the WWF target, were praised for making a major commitment to forest conservation.

Senator Hill said it was very satisfying that Australia was at the forefront of global efforts to conserve and sustainably manage the world's dwindling stock of forests. "I am proud of the high standards that Australia has adopted."

He argued that practical action to implement the recommendations of the International Forest Panel which has been discussing these issues for two years should have a higher priority than negotiation of more international agreements at this time.

Contact: Julie Marks (Senator Hill's Office) 06 277 7640 or 0419 693 515

24 June 1997
72/97

Commonwealth of Australia