Bjarne Dahl.

The creation of the State Forest Department (SFD) in 1907 represented the most significant institutional reform in Victoria’s history of forest and bushfire management up to that point.

The fledgling department had only 66 staff and faced formidable challenges, including protecting ecosystems about which little was scientifically understood, and responsibility for vast areas of rugged, remote and inaccessible forests about which very little was known.

The Forests Commission Victoria (FCV) was formed later in 1918.

One of the fathers of modern forestry, Sir Wilhelm Schlich, pointed out in his summary of British Empire Forest policy in 1922 that Australia lacked many of the skills to undertake inventory needed to prepare proper working plans.

The Chairman of the Forest Commission, A.V. Galbraith made concerted efforts in 1927-28 to recruit trained foresters from Norway.

They included Bernhard Johannessen, Kristian Drangsholt and Bjarne Dahl who formed the nucleus of a new Forest Assessment Branch.

For the Norwegians base and contour maps of the remote eastern ranges did not exist so they made their own. They established a large cartography section to produce inch-to-the-mile or 1:63,360 scale topographic maps, many of which are still in use today.

In the early 1940s Bjarne became Chief Forest Assessor for the FCV and, by early 1945, he had established an Assessment School at Kalatha Creek, near Toolangi.

In the latter part of 1948, Bjarne left the Forests Commission to take up a new position with APM.

As part of a new supply strategy, APM decided it wanted to establish an additional, and more secure timber resource from other than State forest, and this was to be Bjarne’s key role.

As part of Dahl’s plan, a subsidiary company APM Forests (APMF) was formed in 1951 with the primary aim of supplying pulpwood to the Maryvale Mill through the establishment of plantations and co-ordination of harvesting and transport.

While working with APM he applied his business acumen to make some canny forestry and land investments and accumulated significant personal wealth.

Bjarne retired in 1961, his final task being to plant a Mountain Ash seedling that signified the 30 millionth tree planted by APMF.

During Dahl’s long career, he probably saw more of Victoria than most foresters ever did.

And when he died in October 1993, aged 95, Bjarne Dahl left his entire estate, a sizable sum, to the Forests Commission in gratitude for the opportunities it had given him.

In 2007, an independent Bjarne K Dahl Trust was established and since October 2016, the Trust operates as Eucalypt Australia.

Norwegian foresters, Bernhard Johannessen, Bjarne Dahl and Kristian Drangsholt in Australia in 1927-28. From: Man of the Forest. Source: FCRPA collection

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