A forester of the Empire
Charles Lane Poole first worked as a forester for the Commonwealth Government in 1922 when he was sent to survey the forests of Papua and New Guinea. His education and early career had taken him around the world, from his birthplace of England to the French National Forestry School at Nancy, to the forests of South Africa and Sierra Leone and then Western Australia.
Newspaper cuttings from the Melbourne Herald and the Sydney Sun, 29 March 1927
NAA: A3080, 1, p.121
He held strong opinions on forestry issues. For example, he regarded a national policy as essential, and believed that forests should be managed by a professional and scientific elite. He also advocated for the long-term conservation of natural forests.
Since the 1850s, Australian botanists and public figures had recognised that some forests needed to be conserved, rather than cleared for agriculture, and that waste must be reduced. In the 1880s and 1890s eminent foresters from India were invited to advise the Victorian Government on forest policies. In 1914 the Government of Western Australia invited another eminent Empire forester, DE Hutchins – Charles Lane Poole's old mentor in South Africa – to advise on its forest policy.
The states passed forest legislation (between 1909 in New South Wales and 1920 in Tasmania) based on an imperial model. It involved permanently dedicating areas as state forests and setting up distinct administrations (variously departments, sub-departments or commissions) to manage them. Agricultural interests and state lands departments frequently opposed the reservation of land for state forests. A few overseas-trained foresters – such as Charles Lane Poole – were appointed to run the new forest services. Most of their field staff had practical training in supervising logging on Crown Lands. The forest services sought to manage the forests to sustain the supply of timber in perpetuity protect them from fire and other damage.
British Empire Forestry Conference delegates at Australian Forestry School, Banks Street, Yarralumla, 1928
NAA: A3560, 4669
The heads of the state forest services met every few years at interstate forest conferences from 1911 and recommended national coordination to train foresters professionally in Australia. The heads of forest services across the Empire also met every few years to discuss forest policies and technical matters. Charles Lane Poole attended the first Empire Forestry Conference held in London in 1920. At the conference, he collaborated with Lord Novar (formerly Sir Ronald Munro-Ferguson, Governor-General of Australia 1914–20) in founding the Empire Forestry Association. Charles Lane Poole and his small staff in Canberra provided the central organisation for the third Empire Forestry Conference that was held in Australia and New Zealand in 1928. The conference held sessions and inspected forests over two months as it toured from state to state, before moving to New Zealand.
Charles Lane Poole invoked resolutions of interstate and Empire forestry conferences to support arguments he put to government. He believed that the Empire forestry conference was the supreme authority on forest policy and that its resolutions expressed the view of 'the Empire's best foresters'.
Extract from the Commonwealth Forest Policy by CE Lane Poole, c. 1932
NAA: AA1975/198, 4, p. 10