This week the National Trust made a submission in support of the Victorian Environment Assessment Council (VEAC) Central West Investigation which proposes new protection of public land in Wombat forest, Wellsford forest, Pyrenees Range forest and other smaller public land parcels in the region.
The draft recommendation exhibited made additions of close to 50,000 hectares of new national parks, 18,000 hectares of regional parks, and over 11,000 hectares of new conservation, nature and bushland reserves. The assessment of these areas demonstrates that these landscapes are worthy of this protection, and we strongly supported the implementation of the recommendations in the report.
We did however raise concerns regarding Mount Cole being retained as a State Forest subject to logging, urging VEAC to reconsider protections for this landscape or commit to reviewing this landscape in the next 5-10 years. The values of Mount Cole include geological and geomorphological sites, Montane Plateau and Herb-rich Foothill Forest vegetation type, rare or threatened species including the endangered Mount Cole grevillea, and the headwaters of the Wimmera River. We also note that Mount Cole is a location highly visited for recreational activities, including the Berripmo Walk. The landscape will likely be an important climate change refuge for species movement and survival.
We supported a number of recommendations in the report, particularly with regard to strengthening and recognising of the role, cultural values and aspirations of Traditional Owners in public land use, management and place naming. We also supported draft recommendations regarding implementation and resourcing, especially with regard to financial and staff resources.
Overall the National Trust commended VEAC for undertaking the Central West Investigation and for the recommendations of new protections for public land, with the exception of Mount Cole where we encourage further protection. These new parks will protect Victoria’s biodiversity while providing communities with opportunities to connect and engage with our important natural, cultural and Indigenous heritage.
Image Wombat State Forest by Mattinbgn