Tourists visiting the Australian World Heritage site are facing restrictions after a controversial act

Visitors to Australia could be restricted from entering a popular UNESCO World Heritage site after authorities controversially set the neighboring country on fire on Wednesday. Locals fear the morning’s clear blue skies will soon be choked with smoke across regions of Tasmania after the state government’s logging agency began its annual burning program.

While logging company Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT) says the practice promotes “natural regeneration” and is critical to “reducing fuel loads” on the cleared land, conservationists are calling the practice “firebombing” and warning it is killing endangered species , including the state’s iconic Tasmanian devils. One was found dead in a den after a burn in 2023.

Jenny Weber of the Bob Brown Foundation told Yahoo News that STT had applied to the edge of an access road to the Hartz Mountains National Park, about a 60km drive from the capital Hobart. “It is obscene that people going to a World Heritage Site to visit beautiful wild Tasmania will be affected by forest burning in Tasmania. It’s just not acceptable.”

Three large plumes of smoke above Dover in Tasmania.Three large plumes of smoke above Dover in Tasmania.

Forest near Dover was burned as part of a planned burning program in Tasmania. Source: Bob Brown Foundation

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The burning program began in April in selected national forests in the north and south of the state. STT says it only lights fires when weather conditions are favorable and that it tries to minimize the impact of smoke on its neighbors.

In a Facebook post, STT warned visitors that it is considering carrying out planned burns on Hartz Road, Geeveston, located near the World Heritage Site. “This period of limited access will be in effect in the interest of public safety,” the report said.

Why the forest was burned

  • Planned burns are lit by STT, a state government-owned company

  • These are usually carried out using helicopters

  • They are lit after an area of ​​forest has been cleared

  • The fires are lit to remove debris and allow regeneration through aerial seeding

What does the ‘firebombing’ look like?

Photos shared by the Foundation with Yahoo News highlight the scale of the program. They show land where carbon-rich forests once burned close to the coastal town of Dover, sending huge plumes of orange smoke into the atmosphere. The video below shows black clouds dominating the sky as a helicopter hovers above the flames.

When asked if she thought tourists visiting Tasmania would be interested in seeing the state’s logged forest and burning program, Weber’s answer was simply “no”.

The clouds of smoke come up from a distance.  Forested hill and cleared land in the foreground in Tasmania.The clouds of smoke come up from a distance.  Forested hill and cleared land in the foreground in Tasmania.

STT says the fires are important in reducing fuel loads. Source: Bob Brown Foundation

Are giant fires what tourists to Tasmania want to see?

Tourism Australia sells Tasmania to the world by highlighting its ‘captivating’ environment and ‘diverse’ cultural experiences. But Weber worries that clearing forests near famous tourist attractions will undermine the state’s reputation.

“Wild places and forests are the main reason people come to Tasmania,” she said.

“But today you drive past smoldering logging areas that emit huge clouds of smoke. It is shocking and unpleasant behavior.”

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