The journey of growing Gone Bush Adventures over the past three years has taken us to so many places of immense natural beauty and shone the light on a number of very interesting people and stories along the way.
One story that's captured our attention recently is the case of the proposed Great Forest National Park in Victoria.
The Great Forest National Park is a proposed National Park in Victoria's Central Highlands region, within an easy two hour drive from the hustle and bustle of an ever expanding Melbourne. The proposed Great Forest National Park would join together existing State Forests and National Parks in the region and add 355,000 hectares of protected forests to the existing 170,000 hectares of parks and protected areas in the Central Highlands - a hugely ambitious and environmentally important plan.
When we first set foot in the Central Highlands region in Victoria, we were blown away with its expansiveness and beauty. Endless rolling mountains heavily forested with towering eucalyptus, including the giant Mountain Ash, the largest flowering tree on the planet. Lush gullies and valleys revealing clean, cool, fern-lined creeks and supporting an abundance of wildlife and plant diversity.
On our second visit to the region, we began noticing logging trucks carrying large Eucalypt trunks out of the forest. We thought this was very strange and had assumed commercial logging of the native forests in the region was a thing of the past... but unfortunately, we were wrong. Very wrong.
As it turns out, commercial logging of native forest is still occurring extensively in the Central Highlands region of Victoria and threatening local wildlife and the strength of ecosystems in the area. Combined with repeated major fires over the past decades including the devastating Black Saturday fires of 2009, the disconnected patches of old growth forest that are left throughout the region are now in a vulnerable position.
We learned about all of this thanks to a chance meeting in the bush (where else!) with a number of the Great Forest National Park campaigners including the founding member of the GFNP working group, Sarah Rees, who has been a public proponent of the Park's formation for many years.
Sarah explained that the proposed Great Forest National Park would be a boon not only in terms of environmental outcomes but also for society, economy and culture at large into the future:
"For too long the jewel in Melbourne’s biodiversity crown, the Mountain Ash Forests, have been ripped up and turned into paper. Trees that have grown for a century are logged, hauled great distances and converted into paper for a shelf life of about 3 months before becoming landfill. This is what happens to 80% of trees logged and it’s not only whittling away our forests, causing extinction and losing money but it’s destroying our towns and future regional economy for our children.
Our towns don’t rely on logging anymore, they rely on tourism, it’s time government got out of the past and supported this project which we know will generate many more jobs, stem the flow of job-seekers to Melbourne because they can’t find work up here and celebrate places of immense heritage value to all Victorians. The Great Forest National Park is to Melbourne what the Blue Mountains is to Sydney and we need more places to recreate in Melbourne, not less”
In the video below, Ecologist Prof. David Lindenmayer from Australian National University presents his case for creating the Great Forest National Park.
The Great Forest National Park campaign is supported by 30 environmental and scientific groups including the Royal Society of Victoria, Australian Conservation Foundation and The Wilderness Society. It's also supported by the vast majority of Victorian's (one opinion poll suggesting 89% were in favor of the creation of a new National Park in the area).
Opponents of the park include the Victorian Association of Forest Industries who oppose the expansion of the National Parks and believe it's critical to keep the 1000-odd native forestry jobs alive in the Central Highlands region for the sake of the $12 million per year they contribute in industry 'Value Added' value to state's economy each year.
To find our more about the Great Forest National Park - visit:
Our two cents (for what it's worth) - it just doesn't seem a fair deal for Australia (or the world!) to trade away our biologically diverse and sensitive native ecosystems in exchange for sawdust, wood chips and throw-away junk paper. Left in-tact, our native forests can provide an abundance of life, wealth and nourishment for all who seek it. But not if they are fragmented out of existence.
Other helpful resources:
> Forest & Wood Products Australia 'Socio-economic impacts of the forest industry' report from March 2018: https://www.fwpa.com.au/images/OtherReports/Vic_Report_FINAL.pdf
> Article detailing the cost of each native forestry job in Victoria: https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/is-victorias-native-forestry-industry-worth-it-at-5-million-a-job-20160623-gpqcui.html
What's your view?
We'd love to hear your comments and views on the Great Forest National Park, what do you think?