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Friends of Loving Earth: Sarah Rees from the Great Forest National Park

The Boobook Chocolate Eggs hold a special place in the hearts of the Loving Earth crew. It's LE's original Chocolate Egg. 10 little plant-based chocolate eggs made with a creamy caramel inner and a delicious cashew mylk outer, wrapped in compostable film and nestled in a beautifully illustrated box; featuring a Boobook owl and a baby Leadbeater possum. It's pretty sweet.

But there's more to it than that. Through this product, we have the opportunity to support the Great Forest National Park Campaign.

Now, you might be asking yourself, what exactly is the Great Forest National Park Campaign.

That's why we sat down with Sarah Rees, Creative and Business Director of the Great Forest National Park to tell us a bit more about it.

You’ve must have said this a thousand times but… what exactly is the GFNP?

Great Forest National Park - a beautiful collaboration for conservation led by community and scientists to protect the critically endangered Mountain Ash forests of the Central Highlands of Victoria. There are more than 30 federal and state listed threatened species in these forests and the region contains 98% of Melbourne’s drinking water. The proposed park is 500,000 hectares, adding 335,000 hectares to the existing 165,000 hectares and the gateway is just 60 km north east of Melbourne. The parks towns include Kinglake, Marysville, Lake Moutntain, Healesville, Eildon, Warburton, Noojee and Mt Baw Baw.

What’s your personal favourite part of the GFNP to visit and in what season and time of day?

The most incredible geological feature of this park is the Cerberean caldera, a 30 kilometre wide volcanic crater (near Buxton and Marysville) that imploded 370 million years ago and changed the worlds weather patterns, it’s huge. Some of the famous hikes and climbs around this caldera are the Sugarloaf peak trail and Mt Torbrek hike, both great in the late afternoon, but be cautious in your descent. Until The Grampians became the place to climb in the 1950’s, The Cathedral Ranges, parts of the caldera, were Melbourne’s climbing hub.

The most incredible forest experience would probably be Mt Erica Gippsland, because it has all types of forest in one place; rainforest, old growth Mountain Ash and snow gum on the peak. At night you can hear Yellow-bellied Gliders and Sooty Owls there. There are trails into the forests and up through a magnificent rock formation called Mushroom rocks, a meeting and trade place for aboriginal clans over tens of thousands of years. Any time is a good time for these walks, easy access for all but beware in mid winter, you’ll be snow hiking.

Murrindindi Cascades and Snobbs Creek falls are easy access water falls for a picnic or swim. Again these sites are stunning during all seasons and all times but be cautious after the wet as the falls can become slippery.

There are some pretty amazing international athletes supporting the campaign. How did you get them involved and what do they think about Victoria’s forests?

The program for their support grew from the universal understanding that nature is good for us. Athletes, especially adventure athletes, understand this intrinsically as many trail runners, mountain bikers and climbers do these sports in nature because it brings they love the outdoors. For them to support a vision that celebrates recreation, wellness and connection to nature, with a conservation underpinning, didn’t require a lot of arm twisting. When US champion glider pilot Jeff Shapiro stood beneath a giant Mountain Ash for the first time he shook his head and said, “jeez, these trees are like our Redwoods, they’re incredible!”

Loving Earth products also fit that vision. The products provide healthy, sustained energy, are plant-based and the packaging is compostable. It’s the perfect partnership. Health, outdoors, nature connection and sustainable living. The volunteers in team GFNP are really proud of our project together and we constantly receive positive feedback about the Loving Earth Boobook chocolate partnership.

What do the Traditional Owners of this area think of the campaign and are they involved at all?

The GFNP developed out of the Black Saturday bushfires in consultation with the Kulin Nation; Wurundjeri, Taungurung and Gunnai Kurnai. The conversations are ongoing but it’s been suggested by First Nations leaders that they name the park it’s official name. We will be advocating for their will and wishes and hope to be part of a #PayTheRent plan where employment and revenue is guaranteed for First Nations whose land the park occupies. This dialogue is powerful and ongoing.

How’s the campaign going? Biggest win so far?

Last year we were ushered into meetings and presented the first stage of the ‘immediate protected areas (IPA)’ conservation plans, the base areas of the new park, but they are insufficient to call home just yet. They are the first of the ‘trade-in forests' that the logging industry agreed to. There are many more conversations that we need to share with leaders from business to the halls of parliament. We are having regular stalls to share the initiative with community, and there are programs run with groups such as Victoria National Parks Association and The Wilderness Society that involve education and touring the park. We have a program also running with Victorian schools both in the fields of Geography and Outdoor Education and hope to have a book about the park and its beauty in the stores by Christmas.

What’s the one message you wish everyone know about GFNP and how can people get involved?

The proposed park belongs to everyone and they should go and visit it. The GFNP is just 60 kilometre from our great city of Melbourne and houses some of the most remarkable plants and animals on Earth, marvel at the heights of the mighty Mountain Ash, listen for the calls of the Lyre birds and watch for the flight of Gliders at the twilight. Go to the website www. For me, the forests are the most powerful places we can visit and spend time in and heal any woes without fail. They are sanctuaries that must be protected for our wellbeing and for future generations to use and enjoy.

If people want to get pro-active, write to your local member of Parliament and ask them how they are helping to make this happen. Write to the Premier Daniel Andrews and ask him to declare the park. It is your water, your air, your land and your place to enjoy. We should be supporting these carbon banks standing, not chopping them down for pulp, we have plenty of plantation timber in Victoria to replace the need to cut native forests for cardboard and paper.

For more information, head to the Great Forest National Park website: 

And if you haven't already, try out the Boobook Chocolate Eggs for yourself!

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