A contentious issue from the earliest days, and the intention in this article will be to describe the arguments for and against forest grazing.
While the article is being developed you may find the Royal Commission Report of 1946 by Stretton of interest.
In 1943, in its submission to the Rural Reconstruction Commission the attitude of the FCV to forest grazing was summarised as shown below:
"There are considerable areas in almost all natural forests which are suitable for grazing and which, under multiple purpose forestry, should be grazed. In the alpine country of this State, there are areas known as high plains which are particularly suited to the cattle industry. Properly controlled grazing is therefore a legitimate feature of forest utilization."
"A policy which allows extensive areas of forest country to fall into the hands of a small number of men at a peppercorn rental, which exercises practically no control over their activities within their licensed areas, and which confers upon them virtually unchallenged rights of tenure, has been more fruitful in the devastation of the remote mountain and poorer coastal areas than any other single feature. This has arisen out of the practice of firing the forests to improve grazing conditions."
"In the south-western coastal districts and in the Grampians, sheep are grazed in forest country where subsistence is provided not by grass but by the young shoots on the heaths and scrub which follow firing. Graziers in these areas openly admit that, without burning, grazing in these areas is not a proposition. As a result, the forests over most of the country are so malformed as to be commercially valueless."
"It is contended that forest grazing should be restricted to genuine grazing areas, i.e., high plains, River Red Gum forests, and such of the Messmate-Stringybark-Gum forests as normally provide good natural forage. Wherever grazing is permitted within forest lands, it should be under strict regulation by the forest authorities. Such control should provide for —
- stock to be accepted on an agistment basis only;
- stocking to be regulated to accord with the carrying capacity of the area;
- grazing interests not to conflict with silvicultural development of the forest, ie.natural regeneration;
- no forest firing to be permitted for any objective other than in the direct interests of fire protection (which latter should fulfil the dual purpose of fire and grazing)."