The State Government will change Cobaw State Forest, near Lancefield, to a conservation park, changing the types of activities permitted in the bushland.
The plans were revealed last month, along with the creation of a new 44,700-hectare Wombat-Lerderderg National Park between Daylesford and Bacchus Marsh.
Moving from a state forest to a conservation park will change the permitted activities as state forests have less restrictions and allow most recreations.
Conservation parks and national parks do not permit dogs, hunting or prospecting.
Stock grazing, firewood collection, timber harvesting and mining are also banned in conservation and national parks to protect the flora and fauna.
The changes will add a further 5000 hectares to Victoria’s protected area estate, including almost 3000 hectares to the existing Hepburn Regional Park.
Through its Great Outdoors program, the State Government will also upgrade public facilities throughout the region, including campgrounds, 4WD tracks and walking trails.
Member for Macedon Mary-Anne Thomas said the new Hepburn and Cobaw conservation parks would draw out-of-towners to the less-visited eastern part of the Macedon Ranges.
“This region is obviously very popular and close to Melbourne’s northern and western suburbs and encouraging people from the city to come out and experience nature is something that the Andrews Labor Government’s really committed to,” she said.
“I think after COVID in particular people are really looking for a nature-based experience and it’s also really great news for people’s mental health and wellbeing to go and spend time in the local environment.”
The Wombat-Lerderderg National Park aims to increase protection of the vulnerable native greater glider.
Ms Thomas said the government was committed to providing recreation options, as well as cordoning land for protection.
“We know that it’s great for people on so many levels to connect with the natural environment and so we’re also working with a mix of conservation, regional and national parks to make sure we’ve got the right balance between conservation of nature and recreation activities,” she said.
“We’re investing $1 million into the parks to upgrade trails and campsites as a part of our government’s Great Outdoors package.
“It will attract more people; people are looking to get out, and the government is committed to creating affordable recreation activities for families, including camping experiences.”
The announcement comes after the government released its response to the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council’s (VEAC) Central West Investigation Final Report.
The VEAC report was commissioned in 2017 to evaluate the condition and status of public land in Victoria’s central west and make recommendations to ensure its ongoing management balances the needs of all park users and conserves the regions natural and cultural values.
• The Cobaw State Forest will remain closed until September 30 due to storm damage. Forest Fire Victoria crews are assessing and clearing more than 90 kilometres of forest roads and tracks before the forest can be safely reopened to the public.