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The Value of Our Forests

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

THE great industries of agriculture, transportation, mining, grazing, and, of course, lumbering, are each one of them vitally and immediately dependent upon wood, water, or grass from the forest. The manufacturing industries, whether or not wood enters directly into their finished products, are scarcely, if at all, less dependent upon the forest than those whose connection with it is obvious and direct. Wood is an indispensable part of the material structure upon which civilization rests; and it is to be remembered always that the immense increase of the use of iron and substitutes for wood in many structures, while it has meant a relative decrease in the amount of wood used, has been accompanied by an absolute increase in the amount of wood used. More wood is used than ever before in our history. Thus, the consumption of wood in shipbuilding is far larger than it was before the discovery of the art of building iron ships, because vastly more ships are built. Larger supplies of building lumber are required, directly or indirectly, for use in the construction of the brick and stone structures of great modern cities than were consumed by the comparatively few and comparatively small wooden buildings in the earlier stages of these same cities. It is as sure as anything can be that we will see in the future a steadily increasing demand for wood in our manufacturing industries. There is one point I want to speak about in addition to the uses of the forest to which I have already alluded. Those of us who have lived on the great plains, who are acquainted with the conditions in parts of Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, and the Dakotas, know that wood forms an immensely powerful element in helping the farmer on these plains battle against his worst enemyŚwind. The use of forests as windbreaks out on the plains, where the tree does not grow unless men help it, is of enormous importance... . When wood, dead or alive, is demanded in so many ways, and when this demand will undoubtedly increase, it is a fair question, then, whether the vast demands of the future upon our forests are likely to be met. You are mighty poor Americans if your care for the well-being of this country is limited to hoping that that well-being will last out your own generation. No man, here or else-where, is entitled to call himself a decent citizen if he does not try to do his part toward seeing that our national policies are shaped for the advantage of our children and our children's children. Our country, we have faith to believe, is only at the beginning of its growth. Unless the forests of the United States can be made ready to meet the vast demands which this growth will inevitably bring, commercial disaster, that means disaster to the whole country, is inevitable. The railroads must have ties, and the general opinion is that no efficient substitute for wood for this purpose has been devised. The miner must have timber or he cannot operate his mine, and in very many cases the profit which mining yields is directly proportionate to the cost of timber supply. The farmer, East and West, must have timber for numberless uses on his farm, and he must be protected, by forest. cover upon the headwaters of the streams he uses, against floods in the East, and the lack of water for irrigation in the West. The stockman must have fence posts, and very often he must have summer range for his stock in the national forest reserves. In a word, both the production of the great staples upon which our prosperity depends and their movement in-commerce throughout the United States are inseparably dependent upon the existence of permanent and suitable supplies from the forest at a reasonable cost.

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