Reforesting - Overview
Brian Fry (bio)
Article being developed.
The second progress report of a Royal Commission on Foreign Industries and Forests, in the colony of Victoria in 1872, included a recommendation for the establishment of a State nursery near Macedon railway station “with the object of raising useful timber trees for distribution to selectors, and for the planting of reserves denuded of indigenous timber”. Accordingly, the Macedon State Nursery, the first in the colony, was established in that year.
Finding that the one nursery could not keep pace with the constantly increasing demand for trees, the Creswick State Nursery was established early in 1888 at Sawpit Gully under John La Gerche, the local forester. At the same time Inspector Blackburne started the Havelock State Nursery (Carisbrook) and a small local nursery was operating in the You Yangs.
In 1890 the Tintarra State Nursery was started on Gunbower Island where it was intended to grow hundreds of thousands of Sugar Gum ("for the arid dry plains of the Avoca and Loddon, and the dry sandy mallee wastes of the north-west and northern portions of the colony") and Blue Gum for the mines.
Serviced by the Creswick State Nursery, Victoria's first reforestation projects were undertaken by John La Gerche in Sawpit Gully in the 1880s, on land that had been severely degraded during the Gold Rush. These included plantings of Pinus radiata, one of the original trees of which was still standing in 2018 in the Sawpit Gully Historic Reserve. In later years larger areas around Creswick were planted to pines, and trial plots of hardwoods established.
Besides Sawpit Gully, by 1890, plantations had been established at Havelock, You Yangs and Mount Macedon.
Other works were carried out in areas degraded by gold mining (are we still in the 1880's?) around Ballarat and Bright, and P. radiata was proving to be a very successful choice in the higher rainfall areas of the State.
More nurseries were set up by the Forests Commission (FCV) at Broadford, Wail, Olsens Bridge, Loch Valley and Mildura. (Dates of nursery establishment?)
Reforestation works using Callitris species were carried out in the Kulkyne and Yarrara Forests in the Hattah mallee area, to combat the soil erosion that resulted from the excessive clearing of mallee woodland when this area was opened up for establishment of farms. However this work was severely hampered by the extant large rabbit population and the vagaries of the weather.
The 1937-38 FCV Annual Report states ”Certain experiments in connexion with the encouragement of natural regeneration of Cypress Pine (Callitris) in the north-west part of the State have been carried out during the past two years, and in view of the successful results secured to date under what have been unfavorable climatic conditions, it is proposed to extend this work considerably during the coming year”.
Many attempts were made to increase this work but weather conditions suitable for regeneration of Callitris were not forthcoming. In “1969-70 In Kulkyne Forest, Mildura forest district, further operational trials with direct seeding of Murray [Cypress] pine were carried out. Regeneration of previously eroding areas, by planting in stabilized dunes, was also carried out on 20 acres in co-operation with the Soil Conservation Authority and the Department of Crown Lands and Survey.” (FCV Annual Report)
The focus was also on establishing plantations on degraded farmland in the Otway Ranges (Aire Valley in the early 1930s) and on purchased derelict farmland in South Gippsland, such as at Allambee (1947-49), Childers (1946-48), Halls Rd (Boolarra) 1949, and in the Loch Valley (date?)
By far the most significant was the South Gippsland Reforestation Project, centred on the eastern portion of the Strzelecki Ranges, which had been opened up to settlement in the 1880s, and later for Soldier Settlers following World War I. This is well described in W.S. Noble's book: The Strzelecki's – A New Future for the Heartbreak Hills (1975).
While these major projects were underway, smaller projects were undertaken in other Forest Districts like Powelltown, where in the 1960s District Forester Jack Gillespie oversaw the re-establishment of eucalypt forests on areas where repeated fires had turned productive forest into wattle scrub. Some of these areas are now (2018) being harvested and the logs milled at Heyfield.