Forget all the diet articles and ads on news sites, instructing us to eat or avoid eating grains, meat, round fruit, purple vegetables, cooked or solid food. Want to lose weight? Just read the actual news. If you care about the environment you’re guaranteed to lose your appetite or indeed spray green smoothie half way across the room in daily fits of apoplectic disbelief and appal.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority approves dredging (choke). New South Wales conservation reserves open for logging (gag). Government gives the go-ahead for Australia’s biggest ever coal mine seven times the size of Sydney Harbour (spray). Queensland’s Wild Rivers Act repealed (stomach churning).

And our beloved Victorian bush, already logged, mined and grazed is now facing the newly drafted Greater Alpine Parks Management Plan. Sounds harmless, but according to the Victoria National Parks Association (VNPA), “there has never been a park management plan in Victoria that so clearly deviates from the prime objective of park management: the protection of nature”.

The draft plan proposes an ongoing formal arrangement with the Mountain Cattlemen to ensure that cows can tip toe unhindered through the delicate alpine daisies and mingle with endangered wildlife of the mossy fens. It opens up new areas for tourism development, largely ignores scientific advice and fails to deal firmly with pest plants and animals.

The plan covers around a third of Victoria’s park estate in one slim volume: the Alpine, Baw Baw, Errinundra, Mount Buffalo and Snowy River national parks, the Avon Wilderness Park, Tara Range Park and historic areas at Walhalla, Howqua Hills, Grant, Mount Wills and Mount Murphy.

There’s still time to have your say about the draft plan (submissions close on Monday 25 August). VNPA makes it easy with an online submissions form, or you can GO CRAZY and write your own submission for the greatest impact with the help of their submission guide.

Looking at the bigger picture, what do you do in the midst of such disregard for our environmental heritage and the demise of its hard fought protection? When the people in charge prefer the sound of cha-ching to the lyrebirds call? When they look at montane wilderness and see a cow paddock. When they laugh in the face of global science and tell UN officials to eat their accessories? Do you give up? Do you cry? Do you negotiate for scraps? No. If you’re the Australian environment movement you ask for a brand new Great Forest National Park. It’s that kind of outrageous spunk that keeps the cockles warm in such cockle unfriendly times.

A grand coalition of scientific associations, forest and environment groups have come together to call for the protection of 355,000 hectares of forest to add to 170,000 already protected in Victoria’s Central Highlands to form one big delectable Great Forest National Park. The park would protect the last 1.2% of ancient old growth trees that remain in the area, providing crucial habitat for some of our state’s most endangered species including the Leadbeater’s Possum, Sooty and Powerful Owls.

The park proposal is the icing atop a decades’ long campaign to save this mist gathering fern gullied paradise from the Maryvale chippers that pulp paradise into Reflex copy paper. The consumer campaign against Nippon Paper’s Reflex brand – including the Ethical Paper Pledge for workplaces, a DIY action kit that anyone can use to convince their local retailer not to stock the stuff, and pickets outside Officeworks stores – has not convinced the company to move out of old growth forests, but has compelled Officeworks to jazz up their sustainability policy with ideas about stocking only sustainably sourced copy paper (they are, however, yet to “action” these ideas).

Last year the campaign really hotted up with a community blockade at Sylvia Creek in Toolangi, followed by a court case initiated by community group MyEnvironment against VicForests logging operations. While MyEnvironment lost the trial, they gained concessions from VicForests that saved vital habitat where Leadbeater’s had been found and publicly demonstrated the inadequacy of the legislation that’s supposed to protect our endangered species.

The trial Judge, Justice Robert Osborne, concluded at the trial’s end, “MyEnvironment has demonstrated a strong case for the overall review of the adequacy of the reserve system intended to protect Leadbeater’s Possum habitat within the Central Highlands Forest Management Area . . . there is, on the evidence, an urgent need to review it”.

And so the campaign continues as the extinction clock ticks closer to midnight for our endemic species. Every Friday, forest lovers protest ongoing logging outside Melbourne’s GPO. The Wilderness Society, the Knitting Nannas of Toolangi and other local groups take tours to areas proposed for the Park. The Nannas hold knit-ins in logging coups, bringing along their 150 metre woolly scarf, conceived in defiance of laws excluding them 150 metres from logging operations (more defiant, perhaps, is the way they entangle themselves in its extravagant length while cosying up to bulldozers).

 

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There’s a smorgasbord of choice for those wishing to join in and protect our precious bush, and who wouldn’t want to do that, bushwalkers? Pledge your support for the Great Forest National Park, send a message to Premier Napthine and make it an election issue, check the Eco-shout calendar for activities in the forest, take part in wildlife surveys with the Fauna and Flora Research Collective, join MyEnvironment or contact The Wilderness Society to help make The Great Forest National Park a reality.

 

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