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.
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.
Read the Complete Report
In 1895, B Rippentrop, then Inspector-General of Forests to the Government of India, was requested by The Hon RW Best, Minister of Lands, Victoria, to prepare this Report. It is reasonable to surmise that this, and previous reports by Perrin in 1890 and Vincent in 1887, reflected the ongoing and increasing concern about the poor condition, regulation and management of many areas of Victorian forest on Crown Land, despite attempts to initiate strong management, arising from:
This 1897 Report is one of the earliest recommendations for specific areas, totalling approximately 4,066,600 acres across Victoria, to be permanently reserved for forest purposes in Victoria. The terminology "permanently reserved for forest purposes" is presumably the forerunner of what eventually became known in subsequent legislation as "State Forest" being Reserved Forests and Protected Forests.
It is interesting to note the following rationale and driving forces mentioned in the Report underpinning the Report's recommendations and the nexus with Victoria's early mining era and subsequent settlement.
"In the course of our inspections and inquiries we have throughout kept in view the desirability of interfering as little as possible with future settlement, whilst giving due consideration to the interests of the mining community by making provision, as far as possible, for an adequate supply of timber for the various mining centres, providing for the likelihood of a large export trade in hardwoods taking place as facilities for transport are afforded, and for meeting the requirements of the Railway and Public Works Departments, and the general public ....... Thus we have been careful to exclude from the proposed reserves any extensive areas fit for agriculture, or specially adapted for grazing, although we have in some instances, included in them river flats and other tracts suitable for cultivation of redgum."
Another interesting comment is the reference to Gippsland.
"It is probable that in some of the least known parts of Gippsland areas may be discovered suitable for forest purposes. These might be added to those indicated on the maps."
"Let us regard the forest as an inheritance, not to be destroyed or devastated, but to be wisely used, reverently honoured and carefully maintained. Let us regard the forest as a gift, entrusted to any of us only for transient care, to be surrendered to posterity as an unimpaired property, increased in riches and augmented in blessings, to pass as a sacred patrimony from generation to generation."
Baron Ferdinand von Mueller - Suggestions on the Maintenance, Creation and Enrichment of Forests (1879)