A win for conservation – National Park recommended for the Wombat Forest

Pictured are some of the people who gathered at Nolans Crossing in the Wombat Forest on Saturday to show their support for the final recommendations released by the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council. With alarming rates of extinction and habitat loss in Victoria, the recommendations, if agreed to by the state government, will go some way towards preventing the extinction of species in the Wombat Forest such as greater gliders and wombat bossiaea (a bush pea).

A Wombat-Lerderderg National Park and Cobaw Conservation Park will be created if the state government accepts recommendations released by the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council on Friday.
Tasked by the state government to conduct a two-year investigation into the forests of central west Victoria, VEAC’s final recommendations aim to restore the health of the forests so they are more resilient to the impacts of climate change, increasing population pressures and habitat deterioration.
Gayle Osborne, convenor of local lobby group Wombat Forestcare, said the group had been campaigning for greater protection of the Wombat State Forest for more than 10 years, and VEAC’s recommendations were due recognition of the very high conservation and catchment values of the forest.
“A United Nations’ recent report warned that an astounding million species are threatened with extinction,” Ms Osborne said.
“This highlights the importance of the creation of these parks, which will provide protected habitat for many species, and in particular greater gliders.”
VEAC has proposed four new or expanded national parks and two new conservation parks to be managed primarily for conservation, although most recreational activities will continue to be allowed.
Six new or expanded regional parks will allow a wider range of recreational activity, and some will also provide for domestic firewood collection for 10 years.
VEAC changed its recommendations as a result of community feedback and some of the area previously recommended as a national park is now recommended as regional park where additional recreational activities including dog walking, prospecting and camping with horses would be allowed.
The VEAC investigation found the Wombat Forest was a ‘stronghold’ for protection of many threatened native species including the greater glider, brush-tailed phascogale and the endemic wombat leafless bossiaea.
VEAC also highlighted the importance of the forest as a water catchment with the headwaters of seven major river systems contained within it, and the value the forest provides in terms of ecosystem services and carbon sequestration.
“The recommended boundaries for the national, conservation and regional parks achieve a balance between protecting conservation yet still permitting recreational opportunities closer to townships such as Trentham and Daylesford,” Ms Osborne said.
“If the recommendations are adopted, sawlog harvesting in the forest will finally cease, and we will see an end to the successive periods of over logging of the forest that have occurred over the last 150 years.”