THINKING 'GREEN' IN 1901
At the start of the 20th century, each State of the Commonwealth (except Tasmania) had established forestry departments. The following extract from the Official Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1901-1907 outlines their objective as follows: "Economic Forestry, aiming at the conservation of forestal wealth by safeguarding forests against inconsiderate destruction, and by the suitable re-afforestation of denuded areas, is essential to the preservation of industries dependent upon an adequate supply of timber, and to the perpetuation of a necessary form of national wealth".
While the concept of conservation was well known a hundred years ago, modern day critics of forestry policy would suggest that the principles of conservation have not been well practised, given the deforestation programs of the last century. However, criticism of the outcomes of past policies is not new; the 1901-1907 Year Book laments: "Though in Australia large areas of virgin forests still remain, the inroads made by timber-getters, by agriculturalists, and by pastoralists-who have destroyed large areas by 'ring-barking'-are considerable; and it is not unlikely that climatological changes are caused hereby".
This reference to climate changes has a strong 1990s 'feel' in its sentiment, if not its language. With supporting evidence, the argument is developed: "For it would appear that variations in climate, and alternating periods of drought and flood, desiccation and erosion of soil, with loss or diminution of fertility, have resulted from forest denudation in countries bordering the Mediterranean. In many of the States of America, diminished rainfall is said to have followed the destruction of large forest areas".
In conclusion, the Year Book of 1901-1907 observes that "...beneficial consequences appear also to have followed on the planting of trees on denuded lands, or along encroaching coasts, and it is obvious that a forest covering tends to beneficially regulate the effects of rainfall".