Behind a growth industry

History tells us that perhaps Australia’s most eminent forester was an ardent conservationist. As a pioneer of forestry management, Charles Lane-Poole left an enduring legacy as the founding father of forestry here in our bush capital.

A driven, energetic, committed man Lane-Poole was an engineer by training. Tragically losing his left hand at 19, a yearning for nature took him on a different life journey. In 1927, at age 42, Lane-Poole arrived on the limestone plains as the Commonwealth’s first Inspector-General of Forests. A role of some stature.

Passionate in imparting knowledge, he established the prestigious Australian Forestry School at Yarralumla.

As a visionary Lane-Poole foresaw the commercial potential of softwood conifer species. The challenge was how best to determine which species would prosper in the harsh Australian conditions. Lane-Poole and his colleagues set about establishing real-life experiments in the mountains to our west; experiments that still endure with Bendora Arboretum the sole surviving arboreta from this innovative era.

Forestry management has been shaped by many who have walked in the footsteps of the revolutionary Lane-Poole. In 1994, local historian Brendan O’Keefe interviewed several pioneering foresters to document the unique, personal insights of those who shaped contemporary forestry practices.

When the 2003 firestorm wiped out more than 60% of pine plantation timber, it destroyed the Stromlo office storing ACT Forest’s historical records and cherished photographs, including Brendan’s interviews.

Thirteen years later, copies were found during a routine clean-up at the Hume weighbridge. It was also discovered that Brendan, believing no other copies existed, had digitised the stories to safely store online with ACT Heritage Library.

This chance reconnection sparked Forest Capital, Brendan’s collation of the interviews. Forest Capital is a snapshot into the colourful world of forestry through firsthand accounts from the men who did the hard yards right through to the upper echelons of forestry management.

Newly minted migrant, Attilio Padovan recounts humble beginnings from Bonegilla Camp to the remote Uriarra Forest, from backbreaking work as a laborer planting and trimming pines, to purchasing a Yarralumla home.

Ian Gordon tells of life at the Forestry School, offering a fascinating account as to the commercial selection of Radiata Pine as our dominant plantation species. Ron Murray speaks of forestry’s close interrelationship with and commitment to bushfire fighting.

Professor Lindsay Pryor recalls how, as a 12-year old, he decided to become a professional forester. Other historic voices include Harold Tuson, Thomas William, Bill Bates, Frank Rosin, Bob Cruttwell, Tony Fearnside and Terry Connolly.

Forest Capital is available from ACT libraries. You can also read an electronic version.

Brett Mac

Brett McNamara - Regional Manager with ACT Parks & Conservation Service

Brett loves our national parks almost as much as the Gang-gang on his uniform. He is prone to using the word 'majestic' when referring to the bush capital. He loves talking. A lot. His favourite animal is the playful platypus.

Article also appeared on 15 May in The Chronicle