Page images
[ocr errors]

of its primeval forest growth by preparation for and subjection to cultivation; and it is only the inarable mountain lands which have been permitted to produce the forests of which they have been denuded. Even this is not due to the foresight or prudence of the people, but to the poverty of the soil and the obstacles to cultivation presented by a broken surface. Nowhere have the flat, arable lands been left to reproduce the forest growth. The inviting fertility of the soil, the great length of time required for forest reproduction, the avarice of the people, and a rapidly increasing population, have all combined in the appropriation of the land to such uses as promise immediate returns. And such is the policy still prevailing throughout the whole of the lately timbered region.

The absolute waste is less than formerly, but the waste and consumption are far greater than at any former period, and no considerable effort has anywhere been made to produce, nor is any such effort likely to be made until the people meet with actual destitution, and its legitimate accompaniments of sweeping winds, parching droughts, and impoverished or unproductive fields. Fortunately, some of the more advanced settlers on the great plains have already gained this experience, in time, it is hoped, to impress upon the whole country the importance of immediate precaution and action.

It must not be forgotten that, to this time, our forests have met the demands and destruction only of a gradually rising population-from three to thirty-eight millions—which was, for nearly the whole period, driving deeper into an unbroken, primeval supply; whereas the people have now gone through and surrounded this great timber reserve, and already entered on the margin of the vast treeless plains and plateau, with three-fourths of the original store consumed, the demand accelerated, and the number of consumers rapidly rising from 38,000,000 to 50,000,000. Only a simple mathematical calculation is necessary to determine the proportion which the demand and supply will bear to each other at the close, as compared with the commencement of this century.

Extend the time for another 50 years, with the added population, and our forests will be exhausted, the demand for their products quadrupled, and the country and people suffering for the protection which forests would afford.

Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Florida are the only States east of the Mississippi which now export any appreciable quantity of timber more than they import, and the reserve in these States is being rapidly cut away to supply the markets from the Atlantic to the Rocky mountains, and from the great lakes to the gulf. But a few years will elapse before the reserve in these exporting States will be reduced to, or below, the demands of their own people.

The mountain and plateau region, occupying the interior of the continent, has only a moderate sapply in the valleys and gulches, and upon the foot-hills and lower mountain elevations. No supplies can be drawn from this region for the older States, or even for the great plains, without exhausting a reserve which is already below the immediate prospective demand.

In the Pacific States and Territories there is still an adequate supply, but not beyond the early prospective wants of their own people. The States bordering the Mississippi on the west have no surplus, and most of them are at this moinent importing to meet the demands of even their sparce population. What sources are they to draw from when the number of their people shall be doubled, and the forests of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota shall have been exhausted-events which will occur at or about the same time?

Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Dakota, have but a meagre supply, not sufficient for a population as dense as now occupies Ohio, Indiana, or Illinois.

Only the newly acquired Territory of Alaska remains to be considered. Very little is known of its timber resources, but in much the largest portion it is known that its rigorous climate precludes the growth of valuable forests, and it is not too much to presume that the timber in that Territory will be insufficient to meet the demands of the trade now opening with the great populations of China and Japan.

Considering, then, the present and prospective forest products in this country only in the light of their necessity and economy for domestic purposes, is it not time that waste should cease and production begin? But considering forests and their effects as essential to the protection of men, animals, fruits, and grain, and their value in inducing moisture, protecting the soil and tempering the climate, is it not doubly important that every section of the country should retain if it has them, and if it has them not, should immediately engage in their production, at least to the extent of supplying local use and protection ?

Their Preservation.—The growth of forests is a slow process, and promises appreciable returns only at a distant period, but their preservation may be entered upon at once, not only without cost, but with immediate advantage. And this is perhaps all that would be required in the whole of the recently timbered region east of the Mississippi. In all this region wanton destruction should be immediately stopped, and upon all lands not required for cultivation, the spontaneous growth of timber should be permitted and reproduction should be encouraged; and, if need be, commanded by protective statutes. In all the mountain ranges, on abrupt hill-sides, along the borders of streams, lakes, and water-ways, in swamps, surrounding every farm, in every village, around every rural cottage, school-house, and church, on the sides of every highway, and railroad, in every cemetery, and on public parks, squares, and grounds, the growth of forest trees should be promoted by their protection, and by planting where they do not spontaneously spring up.

These precautions alone would save the country from the fearful effects of the absence of forests. They would afford protection from destructive winds and shield crops, animals, and soil from the burning and unbroken rays of the sun, and would, in a brief period, answer a part of the demand for

domestic use, and to that extent relieve the scanty remains of the original reserve from the increasing draught of a growing population.

But one additional measure of preservation and growth might with advantage be adopted, and that is to devote a larger area to the planting or reproduction of forests, and take compensation by the superior cultivation of the diminished surface. There are few cultivators who would not doubly gain by the adoption of such a policy.

The construction of railroads and railroad machinery is a heavy draught on the timber reserve, but this is more than compensated by the ready and economical transit which these roads afford for the products of the coal mines from the interior to the centres of population and mechanical industry. And as an additional means of shielding the timber reserve from exhaustion, the most effective will be the construction of railroads from the densely populated regions to the coal deposits, and operating them upon a principle which shall so cheapen transit as to induce the substitution of coal as fuel, not only in the manufacturing districts, but in the well-peopled agricultural sections. But on the great western plains and plateau, now practically destitute of both forests and people, a system of planting and production must be early commenced, or the advance of population into that region will be materially retarded. It must be shown by experiment that forests will grow and that they will afford the protection, and induce the moisture essential to agricultural prosperity, and this before settlers will incur the discomforts and hazards incident to their absence. And here we are brought to the consideration of the possibility of clothing these naked plains with life-giving and perpetual forests, and the measures which will best and soonest accomplish that desirable and essential end.

Their Growth. In all of the States east of the Mississippi it needs but that the hand of destruction shall be stayed, and that a sufficient area shall be set apart on which forests shall be


permitted, and their growth protected; for on almost every acre the roots or germs necessary to reproduction still exist and where they do not, the ground will be readily seeded from the adjacent forests. The fertility of the soil, and the moisture of the climate, superadded to these local advantages, would, with the simple permission of man, very soon reclothe the waste fields and places with abundant forests, which would prove a source of wealth and comfort to succeeding generations. Why, then, shall this policy not prevail? Why shall it not be embraced by the people, and sanctioned and encouraged by statesmen? Certainly no subject is worthy the attention of both, and no great measure of public economy can be entered upon with so little inconvenience, without cost, and which promises such incalculable advantages in the future.

The Plains and Plateau.—The great treeless plains within the United States and Territories, and between the Mississippi on the east, and the Pacific on the west, present an untimbered surface of 1,400,000 square miles; and even this estimate is deemed too low by the most careful observers. It is upon

the basis that, in that region, skirting the water courses and within the mountain ranges, there are 600,000 square miles not wholly without timber, which is probably true, but it is equally true that at least one-half this surface, 300,000 square miles, can furnish but a very meagre supply, and that of an inferior quality.

It will be seen that the totally destitate surface in the timberless region, exceeds by more than 400,000 square miles the whole of the once heavily timbered section through which our people have passed.

Having considered what may be done in the latter region towards the protection and reproduction of forests, the inquiry as to the timberless section only remains to be answered. Certain it is that it must, to some extent, be supplied with forests, or it cannot be successfully and densely peopled. Is

[ocr errors]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »