Wombat Forest stands its best chance yet for national park status thanks to a state government investigation into public land, a long term advocate for its conservation said.
The Victorian Environment Assessment Council (VEAC) will review the management and conservation of Central West public land including Wombat, Wellsford, Mount Cole and Pyrenees Range State Forests.
Conservation advocates have long fought against logging and mining in the 70,000 hectare state forest, which stretches from Creswick to Mount Macedon.
At the moment it’s a state forest so it can be logged and mined so we believe the forest should be better protected.Wombat Forestcare convenor Gayle Osborne
Wombat Forestcare convenor Gayle Osborne said the forest needed the protection of national park status.
“At the moment it’s a state forest so it can be logged and mined so we believe the forest should be better protected and that would happen if it was made a national park,” she said.
Wombat Forest has 350 native plant species and 290 native animal species. Those include 25 threatened plant species and 15 threatened animal species.
Two mining licenses have been granted within the bounds of the forest, including a license for a four hectare open cut goldmine near Bullarto and a ten-year licence at Shepherds Flat. Both came up against planning hurdles and to date neither have gone ahead.
Industrial logging ceased in 2006 but the forest is still thinned for firewood, Ms Osborne said.
Hepburn Shire Mayor Sebastian Klein said the council had no formal stance on the review.
"We are conducting our own Biodiversity Strategy and hope that the two efforts may be complementary. Hepburn Shire is keenly aware of the value of the Wombat Forest to communities across the shire.”
A spokesperson for Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on whether Wombat Forest deserved national park status prior to the review’s completion. Ms D’Ambrosio said in a statement the Wombat Forest was an “important sanctuary”.