UPDATE, Sunday afternoon
Wellsford Forest Conservation Alliance representative Wendy Radford said the half of the Wellsford forest recommended for the regional park would still allow for many activities including prospecting.
"(If it's accepted) just under half the (Wellsford block) will be national park which is the highest level of protection it can get," she said. "Then there is still half of the Wellsford that would be regional park and people can do activities that go with that. National parks are usually very well used by tourists and people with their own recreation interested still have plenty of room around the region."
Ms Radford said the conservation that would come with the accepted recommendations was important.
"It's not too much to say humans really owe it to protect high value forests as much as possible," she said.
"In our submission we wrote about the history of the Wellsford and looked at floral values, fauna values and had bird surveys done.
"We have been working for 18 years to get this great level of protection. I don't see a downside.
"(This could) really make Bendigo a city in a forest. We would be privileged to be ringed by regional and national parks if it passes parliament."
UPDATE, Saturday afternoon
Bush Users Group United founder Bill Schultz said making parts of the Wellsford a national park will restrict people who use the bush for recreational activities.
He said a petition titled "Inquiry in to Public Land Management" was submitted to the Legislative Council this week with are going around to be looked at by the state government with Nationals member Melina Bath sponsoring it.
It currently has 806 signatures.
"It came up at Legislative Council last week when Tim Quilty put it forward," Mr Schulz said. "We want to have our say and be heard. Not have our say and be ignored."
Mr Schulz said prospectors, horse riders, four-wheel drivers and people who collect firewood from the Wellsford area would be most affected.
The area recommended to become part of the Greater Bendigo National Park was originally recommended to become a nature reserve in VEAC's original draft.
VEAC decided to recommend it as land for a national park following community consultation and concerns over the loss of recreational areas.
But Mr Schultz, said the potential restrictions - including being unable to prospect in a national park - will still hit hard.
"In some nature reserves, there are some areas we are able to prospect. We've lost that," he said.
"They bring those rules in now and will slowly but surely change them. People are noticing a lot of (national) parks have gates on tracks because it's easier to shut them than maintain them."
VEAC said the decision to recommend the land as a national park was to conserve the wildlife that lives in it.
Mr Schulz said users of the public land helped ensure that wildlife wasn't affected.
"We've been going into that area more than 100 years, if it was affecting wildlife, it wouldn't be there today," he said. "That proves humans are protecting it for future generations now.
"Putting tag on it will not change it. It just limits people's access to it. It's the people's bush, it is bush for the people of Victoria. We should be able to have access to it and enjoy it for people to use for recreational activities.
"As long as they don't abuse it, should be able to use it."
The state government has until February 2020, to consider VEAC's report. Mr Schulz said he hoped politicians would vote with their conscience.
"For the politicians voting on this, we don't want them to vote through party beliefs. Each poltiican should vote with their own consciences," he said.
"This has to be voted as an individual, not as party policy. If (politicians) need to cross the floor to vote with their (conscience) then do it."
EARLIER, Saturday morning
Recommendations from a two-year investigations into central west Victoria's forest will limit some recreational activities for users Bendigo's Wellsford forest area.
The Victorian Environmental Assessment Council released its final report into the Central West Investigation yesterday with recommendations including land being added to the Bendigo Regional and Greater Bendgo National parks.
The investigation area consisted of 403,815 hectares made up of three blocks including the Wellsford block east of Bendigo, the Mount Cole- Pyranees block near Avoca and Beaufort, and the Wombat-Macedon blockthat extends west from Hepburn Springs to Mount Macedon and Long Forest near Melton.
The investigation began in April 2017 with draft proposals released for public comment in August, 2018.
Across Victoria it was recommended almost 60,000 hectares of land be placed into protected areas such as national parks, conservation parks, nature reserves and bushland reserves.
The 60,000 hectares is equivalent to around 38 per cent of the total public land located in the central west area.
VEAC chair Janine Haddow said while many people wanted things to stay the same, others had been clear that increased visitors and competing recreational activities were placing pressure on forests.
"Victoria's population growth means more residents and visitors using the forests and decisions need to be taken now to protect the forests from over use," she said.
"There are also the impacts of climate change affecting water production and increasing bushfire risk. We're also seeing habitat deteriorating putting pressure on a significant number of rare and endangered species.
"Looking after our public land is one of the most effective strategies to protect nature."
Areas that were previously recommended to become nature reserves within the Wellsford block surrounded Huntly, Goorong, Axedale and Bendigo, will now be added to the Greater Bendigo National Parks.
It is expected the 3152 hectares listed along Huntly-Fosterville Road and Epsom-Barnadown Road as well as Box Road (in the Wellsford forest) and the existing Mount Sugarloaf Nature Reserve will help protect threatened species including the brush-tailed phascogale and the swift parrot.
The area also features one of the largest and best condition box-ironbark forests in Victoria.
VEAC executive officer Joan Phillips said the area is the same size as previously recommended for a nature reserve.
Community consultation lead to the recommendation that the public land join the Greater Bendigo National Park rather than become a nature reserve.
"Both are aimed at nature conservation but a nature reserve can have a more strict set of uses," Ms Phillips said. "National parks (can be used) for nature-based recreation that is compatible.
"That change means we are responding to concerns about people want to continue horse riding.
"The recreation that can't take place is prospecting. But that is not particularly popular in that area compared to others."
Bendigo Regional Park will expand by 3949 hectares with the addition of remain forest in the Wellsford block.
It is bordered by Quinns Road, Norman Road and Popes Road on the western side, runs close to the McIvor Highway on the southern side and adjoins to the area recommended to become national park on the eastern side (along Box Road).
On the northern side, Huntly-Fosterville Road is where the recommended area for the regional park stops.
VEAC noted the area marked to join the Bendigo Regional Park was most intensively used for recreation including trail bike riding and dog walking.
If the recommendations are taken on it will mean recreational hunting and timber harvesting will no longer be allowed in the both areas.
Recreational activities affected by forest becoming part of the Greater Bendigo National Park including car rallies, prospecting and dog walking.
Dog walking and car rallies would continue under certain conditions. Dogs may be allowed to be kept on leads in visitor areas and along certain track specified by management.
Competitive sections for car rallies are generally not allowed in national parks but could be allowed subject event policy and procedure.
Prospecting would be allowed to continue in regional park areas but not in national park areas.
Domestic firewood collection will be allowed over a 10-year phase out period for the land recommended to join Bendigo Regional Park and only where it would improve ecological conditions.
Firewood collection would no longer be allowed in the area set to become part of the national park.
Ms Phillips said it had been challenging investigation the three different forest block areas but that the recommendations were a good plan for the medium and long terms.
"The are quite different and have a difference in stakeholders," she said.
"Because of the proximity to major regional areas like Bendigo, and even Melbourne for the Wombat-Macedon block, there has been increasing visitation and visitor pressure.
"But we are confident we have addressed the issues in the best way we can by addressing natural and cultural values."
The state government has until late February, 2020, to consider the recommendations of the Central West Investigation Final Report.
To access the Central West Investigation Final Report and the summary of public submissions please visit www.veac.vic.gov.au
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