Large expanses of forest and parkland will be the focus of a community forum in Bendigo this week, the first phase of a two-year investigation into public land use in the state’s central and western regions.
The state government this year ordered the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council to report on the wellbeing of land in the vicinity of the Wellsford, Wombat, Mount Cole and Pyrenees Range forests.
The authority is also tasked with making recommendations for “the balanced used and appropriate management arrangements to conserve and enhance the natural and cultural values”.
It is believed to be the first time in more than 30 years that an investigation has ordered into the use of some sections of the land.
“Land values and uses do change throughout time, so it's time for an update,” VEAC acting project manager Kathy Preece said.
She expected community organisations that used the land for recreation - like trail bikers, field naturalists, bushwalkers – would be among the most vocal contributors to the consultation process, which begins at Bendigo Library from 3pm on Tuesday.
There were also small commercial enterprises, including beekeeping and forestry, operating on public land around Bendigo that were entitled to have their say as part of the investigation, Ms Preece said.
Written submissions could also be submitted to VEAC before August 21.
At the time of the investigation’s announcement, environment minister Lily D’Ambrosio said: “We recognise the passion and care Victorians have for our forests, that’s why their input is going to be so crucial to this investigation.”
The areas earmarked for investigation are important sanctuaries for native animals and plant life. The Wombat State Forest alone is home to more than 350 species of native plants and 290 different native animals, 15 of which are considered threatened.
It is also a breeding habitat for the prized powerful owl and greater glider.