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Mystery around locations of native forestry plan

Ethan James -

The location of native forest parcels slated to be logged in Tasmania under a Liberal government election pledge may not be made public during the campaign.

Details about which Tasmanian native forests would be logged under a Liberal expansion plan could remain under wraps during the state election campaign.

Premier Jeremy Rockliff on Thursday announced 40,000 hectares of previously protected forest would be "unlocked" if his party was re-elected at the March 23 poll.

The move was criticised by a peak Tasmanian forestry industry body, state Labor, the Greens and conservation groups.

The Liberals said 27 parcels, mostly in the northwest and northeast, would be opened to logging to meet "increasing global demand" and capitalise on native forestry shutdowns in Victoria and Western Australia.

Resources Minister Felix Ellis wouldn't confirm whether the Liberals would publicly release the locations of the parcels before the election.

"We'll continue to work through, around that," he said on Friday.

"These are parcels that are heavily focused on regrowth timber and areas where there is opportunity for active landscape management, for fire, carbon and recreational access.

"I can assure Tasmanians these parcels have been particularly chosen because they will not impact our timber certification … or comprehensive and adequate reserve system, which is important for our regional forest agreement with the Commonwealth."

The 40,000ha is part of 356,000ha protected under a 2012 deal struck with industry and conservation groups.

The state Liberals in 2014 designated the land as a future potential production forest (FPPF), a move Mr Rockliff described as setting it aside for a now-arrived "rainy day".

Environmentalists have called for the locations of the 27 parcels to be released, saying the 356,000ha had been assessed as having extremely high conservation values.

They say the land is home to endangered species, including wedge-tailed eagles, critically endangered swift parrots and giant freshwater lobsters.

Tasmanian Forest Products Association chief executive Nick Steel said he was disappointed the Liberals had used the industry as a political football.

"The (association) has been talking to the government for a long time about active management of FPPF land, and what has been released is nothing like our plan," he said.

The association has called for a full examination of FPPF land with input from forestry, Aboriginal and environmental groups and others.

Brett McKay, general manager of McKay Timber, a national and international supplier, said he agreed with Mr Steel's position.

Mr McKay stood alongside Mr Ellis on Friday at an announcement the Liberals would extend existing native wood supply contracts for 14 Tasmanian sawmillers from 2027 to 2040.

Mr McKay welcomed the contract promise but also he said he didn't want the industry to go back to the "old days".

Labor is expected to release its forestry policy in coming days.

Ethan James - AAP


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