VEAC chairperson Janine Haddow

THE independent commission making recommendations on the status and accessibility of Wellsford Forest said it was a misconception that recreational users would be locked out under proposed changes.

As members of the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council visited Bendigo to get feedback from users last Friday, chairwoman Janine Haddow said groups should also not conclude the proposed changes were set in stone.

VEAC has recommended adding 3950 hectares to the Bendigo Regional Park incorporating the western areas of the Wellsford Forest most intensively used.

But the commission wants to reserve 3160 hectares of the eastern and northern parts of the forest as nature reserve which would restrict dogs and horses on the land, as well as car rallies, prospecting, collecting firewood, hunting and timber harvesting.

The reserve is intended to protect native animals and birds, and the remaining large trees in that block of forest.

The commission describes the move to include the land as a protected area as the addition of one of the biggest and best condition box-ironbark forests in Victoria.

But groups including prospectors say they should be able to maintain their right to use all of the Wellsford.

Bush user groups have held rallies in Bendigo in the past month protesting the proposed changes.

Ms Haddow said the current round of consultation was to hear again from user groups and to drill down to the detail of locating proposed boundaries.

The VEAC is taking submissions on the draft plans until Wednesday, October 31.