Political agitation for forest conservation: Victoria, 1860-1960

Stephen Legg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Victoria has a remarkably long history of agitation to gain political influence over forest management. With much of the region being forested on the eve of European colonisation in the mid-1830s, more than a century ensued of government support for forest clearance and the exploitation of forest products. From the early 1860s, however, various interest groups engaged in lobbying, petitions, public protest meetings, strategy planning conferences, press campaigns, circularising, and deputations to pressure Victoria’s parliament during, and between, elections to conserve the forests. By international standards, these campaigns came relatively early, were diverse, persistent and well coordinated, but at least initially met with little success. Furthermore, as was the case throughout Australasia and much of the British Empire, most of Victoria’s forests were publicly owned and managed (as
Crown land reserves) for various public purposes, but were predominantly exploited by private industry. The role of key parliamentarians, public servants and institutions governing the development and application of forest legislation is gradually being detailed. However, there is a need to consolidate and develop the varied research that has been done on the contribution of the various non-government organisations and individuals. In particular, the influence of the popular press and the mining lobby has hitherto been seriously understated, while some modern environmentalists have tended to undervalue the long history of struggle, and dismiss its utilitarian emphasis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-33
Number of pages27
JournalInternational Review of Environmental History
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016


  • forest conservation
  • political agitation
  • lobbying
  • gold-mining
  • the press
  • Victoria

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