1887 - Notes and Suggestions on Forest Conservancy in Victoria

F d'A Vincent

Sir Frederick d'Abernon Vincent was born on 12 February 1852, and by 1887 he was the Deputy Conservator of Forests (within the Indian Forest Service) with the Government of Madras. So, at the age of 25, he was asked to provide his views on forest management in the Colony of Victoria. He did so in what could only be called "frank and fearless" terms. His report was so scathing that, at least at that time, it was not tabled in Parliament, and although it was referenced by subsequent reviews it was never generally made available. While he was scathing in his view of the way our forests were being managed at that time, he did look to the future and suggest a number of ways forward. Some of those suggestions were to help set the scene for the way our forests would be managed well into the twentieth century.

The Report by Vincent is now available (see Transcript and a Copy of the Original ), and the quotes below will give you an early flavour of the document.

From what I have said above it will be understood that I am very unfavourably impressed with the present state of the forests. Wherever I went they told me the same story of neglect and waste, and I feel sure that no one could help arriving at any conclusion other than that mismanagement has been rampant everywhere, and disastrous in this effects.

In newly settled countries, which are largely covered with forest, one often finds great extravagance and waste. But, as it has long been known that the area of good forest in the Colony was very limited, and that supplies of timber were running short, I am surprised that some effectual measures have not been taken to prevent further waste.

The present arrangements with this view are quite puerile and so ill-conceived that they can scarcely be seriously discussed. In the first place the distinction between State Forest, Timber Reserves, and other Crown Land can only lead to difficulties.

The boundaries of the respective areas have been selected with little regard for the real requirements of the case. Little care, so far as my enquiries go, has been taken to select as State or Reserved Forests the best forest and that most conveniently situated for export. The local officers, or indeed anyone else, could give numerous instances of the best forest being given up to selectors, or kept as Crown Land for splitters to work in, at a minimum charge, that which was more remote being reserved for the State.

The best examples of this are the Cape Otway forest, described above, and the magnificent forest in Buln Buln County, and elsewhere along the Gippsland line. Many other instances will recur to everyone who has been a short time in the Colony; and the one thing about which all agree is the wild way in which large areas are thrown open to selection by the Lands Department long after Mr Ivey and others have drawn attention to the matter.