Partner Message – Great Forest National Park
Less than 90 minutes drive east of Melbourne, the Mountain Ash forests of the Central Highlands are the key source of the city’s drinking water and the home of the tallest flowering trees in the world. A park proposed for the region has Melbourne buzzing with new investment ideas in tourism, boosting regional jobs while conserving an incredible landscape and its wildlife.
The signature tree of the proposed Great Forest National Park is the Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans). The tallest plant ever measured, at over 140 metres, was “The Ferguson Tree”, found near Healesville in 1872. The Mountain Ash forests provide habitat for a range of wildlife, threatened by decades of fire and logging. At least 40 of these animals need tree hollows to live and breed in. It takes around 200 years to create such habitat trees. The critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum, Victoria’s faunal emblem, and the Baw Baw Frog are from this region and occur nowhere else.
A history of landscape-scale logging and fire has meant old trees are being lost and not replaced, becoming ever more scarce. Less than 1.2% of old growth, unburnt and unlogged Mountain Ash forest now remains. The Mountain Ash ecosystem of the Victorian Central Highlands has been scientifically assessed ‘critically endangered’ under IUCN criteria. This underlines the need for a new park to protect and restore these forests.
The geological centre-piece of the proposed Great Forest National Park is an ancient 30 kilometre wide volcano, the Cerberean Caldera. Its eroded rim is marked by waterfalls and rugged ranges that define the skyline, creating some of the region’s most dramatically picturesque outlooks. The Cathedral Range between Marysville and Alexandra is one of the grandest examples of these sheer jagged outcrops. Mt Torbreck’s waterfalls, in the north east of the cauldron, are little-known hidden gems. Further east the austere rocky peaks gently give way to Alpine heathland and snow gum forests of the Australian Alps.
The Great Forest National Park, so close to Melbourne, will be a great community asset; a playground for the people – the perfect place for city folk wanting to escape the daily grind. It will generate new, long-term jobs while protecting threatened species, ecosystems, carbon storage, and water supplies. It will revitalise peri-urban and rural communities, some still recovering from the Black Saturday fires in 2009. The time is right to create a new Great Forest National Park. The time is now!