Higher status for forests

Greater conservation protection for the Cobaw and Wombat State Forests has been proposed following the completion of an investigation into significant areas of native forest in Victoria by the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council.
Requested by the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change in March 2017, the purpose of the investigation was to identify and evaluate the condition, natural and biodiversity values, and cultural, social and economic values and current uses of the forests.
Most of the public land in this region hasn’t been reviewed by VEAC and its predecessor organisations for 30 years. This means that unlike much of the rest of the state, the area is notable for its poor representation of ecosystems in protected areas (national parks, nature reserves and bushland reserves).
VEAC chair Janine Haddow told the Express the Wombat Forest area contained some of the most intact forest in the state and was supporting about 370 rare and endangered species, but they were declining.
She said the forest was also the source of about five major rivers in the state.
“I don’t think at the time anyone on the study team realised the significance of the forest in terms of headwaters for these rivers but it became more apparent to us and became a major consideration in our thinking,” she said.
“There is a large amount of recreation that occurs in these forests but given that protection is the highest priority it has to be managed in a way to prevent erosion.
“The real challenge in this type of work is to get a balance between the environmental considerations and people’s desire for recreation and resource withdrawal (mining, prospecting or logging), and we get that balance through all the studies and talking with people.
“We’re really proud to have just finished five drop-in sessions around investigations areas and people have gone away with a heightened level of information to make submissions.”
VEAC’s Draft Proposals Paper recommends new national parks, conservation parks, nature reserves and bushland reserves to improve ecological representation of the protected areas.
The recommendations, if adopted, would bring higher status to the Cobaw and Wombat State Forests, as well as to smaller forested areas across the Macedon Ranges.
Submissions in response to the paper are now invited until Wednesday October 31.
To read the report, visit www.veac.vic.gov.au/investigation/central-west-investigation

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