The Great Forest National Park (Victorian Central Highlands)
‘A great city like Melbourne needs a great National Park. The Great Forest National Park is a proposal to create a huge parkland to boost tourism and save the forests and wildlife’. GFNP/Facebook
The Victorian Central Highlands extends northeast of Melbourne and takes in Kinglake National Park, Yarra Ranges National Park, Bunyip State Park, Lake Eildon National Park in the north and Baw Baw National Park in the east. It is the traditional land of the Gunnai, Taungurung and Wurundjeri.
The mighty proposal is to encompass all these national parks and extend them to include thousands of hectares of new protected land into one massive national park – The Great Forest National Park.
The region covers 1.1 million hectares of which 710,000 hectares is native vegetation. It supports the largest intact areas of remaining Mountain Ash forests in mainland Australia. These forests have been (and still are) targeted for extensive industrial logging for over 100 years.
It is here that we find the giants – the mighty Mountain Ash which can grow to over 90m. The leaves of the Mountain Ash hang vertically to allow light to penetrate to the forest floor. The Mountain Ash is the tallest flowering plant in the world. The oldest Mountain Ash has been dated at 550 years old. Mountain Ash typically flower between December and May.
The terrain is diverse and ecosystems range from wet eucalypt forests, marshlands, alpine, rocky outcrops, cool temperate rainforests, fern forests, heathland, Snow Gum woodland, gullies and valleys.
Once extensive across eastern Australia, cool temperate rainforests now only occur in remnants in Tasmania, Victoria and NSW. The cool forests are home to Myrtle Beech, tree ferns (which can live up to 1,000 years old) and Sassafras. The older trees are quite often covered in a variety of mosses, fungi liverworts, hornworts and lichens (sometimes several cm thick). In the Central Highlands, cool temperate forests are generally restricted to wet and sheltered areas such as gullies.
Old growth forests generate rain, The high levels of moisture in the air above a forest and become a part of a weather systems moving through an area and then re-precipitated. Support high levels of biodiversity, support nutrient-rich soils, store large amounts of carbon and generate water. Multi- aged forests support a very high diversity of animals. Despite this, many areas remain unprotected such as old-growth Mountain Ash forests, which are scheduled for logging.
Some of the unique animals that call this region home include: Pink Robin, White-throated Tree Creeper, Eastern Whipbird, Eastern Yellow Robin, Flame Robin, King Parrot, Superb Lyrebird, Gang-gang Cockatoo, Spotted Pardalote, Powerful Owl, Boobook Owl, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Mountain Brushtail Possum, Leadbeater’s Possum, Greater Glider, Sugar Glider, Feathertail Glider and the Baw Baw frog (of which there are only 250 individuals left.
There is an urgent need for forest protection from land clearing and logging. In the 1920’s, there were over 240 sawmills in the region. Today, there are six. Clear-felling is a form of logging, and one that is practised today. While highly efficient for the logging company, it causes major damage to the forest ecosystems. All saleable trees are removed and the biomass left behind is burned. Clear-felling affects soils by reducing nutrient loads and of course if erosion also become a major problem. Significant carbon emissions result from clear-felling.
So how can we promote this concept of The Great Forest National Park and protect what we have?
- Email the Premier via Victorian National Parks Association.
- Join the group behind The Great Forest National Park.
- If you are on Facebook, follow The Great Forest NP, and the Knitting Nannas of Toolangi (with links to links to an Age story about Vic Forests running at a loss, even with government sponsorship and why logging actually adds to fire risks).
- On Insta follow Warbuton Environment.
- And go visit the region itself. You’ll find all the information you need at Park Victoria.
Article written by Colleen Filippa. Colleen is the Founder and Director of Fifteen Trees. She has a background in environmental science and education.
Much of this information comes from The Great Forest. The Rare Beauty of the Victorian Central Highlands. David Lindenmayer.