SUPPORT to keep the Cobboboonee as a community forest has reached new heights with the launch of an online petition.

People from all over Victoria are supporting calls to stop the Bracks Government  turning the forest, near Portland, into a national park.

The State Government said before last year's election it planned to make Cobboboonee a national park, an extension of the Lower Glenelg National Park. But many locals are upset by the plan, which would halt many recreational activities
in the bushland.

Cobboboonee Community Forest Group member Kelly Gannon said a petition had circulated and there was now an online version.

``There has been a lot of interest involved and we are hoping the online petition will give an indication of how the country feels,'' she said.``We had a lady sit outside of the Heywood post office about two weeks ago and she received over 100 signatures in half an hour.''

The online petition, at, has received 173 signatures  in just over two weeks and was listed as one of the most active petitions for the Australian section of the internet site.

Many people registered on the petition  indicated their concern at the Government's lack of community discussion and consultation.

``The forest is detrimental to the local community and if it was changed to a national park it would have a major impact on the community,'' Mrs Gannon said.

National parks restrict the use of the bushland in order to preserve the area but Mrs Gannon said horseriding, motorbike riding, walking dogs and collecting firewood caused minimal damage to the environment.

``Most activities cause no more damage than a walking track . . . Biodiversity is always a priority for our management plan of the forest,'' she said.

Source:  MONIQUE CRAPPER, Warrnambool Standard