National Forests Of Alaska
( Originally Published 1922 )
There are two great National Forests in Alaska. They cover 20,579,740 acres or about 5 1/2 percent. of the total area of Alaska. The larger of these woodlands, the Tongass National Forest, is estimated to contain 70,000,000,000 board feet of timber ripe for marketing. Stands of 100,000 board feet per acre are not infrequent. This is the Alaskan forest that will some day be shipping large amounts of timber to the States. It has over 12,000 miles of shore line and ninety per cent. of the usable timber is within two miles of tidewater. This makes it easy to log the timber and load the lumber directly from the forests to the steamers. This forest is 1500 miles closer to the mainland markets than is the other Alaskan National Forest.
In most of the National Forests the rangers ride around their beats on horseback. The foresters in the Tongass use motor boats. They travel in couples ; two men to a 35 foot boat, which is provided with comfortable eating and sleeping quarters. The rangers live on the boat all the time. During the summer they work sixteen to twenty hours daily. The days are long and the nights short, and they must travel long distances between points of work. On such runs one man steers the boat and watches the forested shore-line for three or four hours at a time, while his mate reads or sleeps ; then they change off. In this way, they are able to make the most efficient use of the long periods of daylight.
The other big timberland in Alaska is the Chugach National Forest. It is a smaller edition of the Tongass Forest. Its trees are not so large and the stand of timber only about one half as heavy as in the Tongass. Experts estimate that it contains 7,000,000,000 board feet of lumber. Western hemlock predominates. There is also much spruce, poplar and birch. Stands of 40,000 to 50,000 feet of lumber an acre are not unusual. In the future, the lumber of the Chugach National Forest will play an important part in the industrial life of Alaska. Even now, it is used by the fishing, mining, railroad and agricultural interests. On account of its great distance from the markets of the Pacific Northwest it will be a long time before lumber from this forest will be exported.
The timber in the Tongass National Forest runs 60 percent. western hemlock and 20 percent. Sitka spruce. The other 20 percent. consists of western red cedar, yellow cypress, lodge-.pole pine, cottonwood and white fir. The yellow cypress is very valuable for cabinet making. All these species except the cedar are suitable for pulp manufacture. Peculiarly enough, considerable of the lumber used in Alaska for box shooks in the canneries and in building work is imported from the United States. The local residents do not think their native timber is as good as that which they import.
Alaska will probably develop into one of the principal paper sources of the United States. Our National Forests in Alaska contain approximately 100,000,000 cords of timber suitable for paper manufacture. Experts report that these forests could produce 2,000,000 cords of pulp-wood annually for centuries without 'depletion. About 6,000,000 tons of pulpwood annually are now required to keep us supplied with enough paper. The Tongass National Forest could easily supply one third of this amount indefinitely.
This forest is also rich in water power. It would take more than 250,000 horses to produce as much power as that which the streams and rivers of southern Alaska supply.
The western hemlock and Sitka spruce are the best for paper making. The spruce trees are generally sound and of good quality. The hem-lock trees are not so good, being subject to decay at the butts. This often causes fluted trunks. The butt logs from such trees usually are inferior. This defect in the hemlock reduces its market value to about one-half that of the spruce for paper making. Some of the paper mills in British Columbia are now using these species of pulpwood and report that they make high-grade paper.
The pulp logs are floated down to the paper mill. In the mill the bark is removed from the logs. Special knives remove all the knots and cut the logs into pieces twelve inches long and six inches thick. These sticks then pass into a powerful grinding machine which tears them into small chips. The chips are cooked in special steamers until they are soft. The softened chips are beaten to pieces in large vats until they form a pasty pulp. The pulp is spread over an endless belt of woven wire cloth of small mesh. The water runs off and leaves a sheet of wet pulp which then is run between a large number of heated and polished steel cylinders which press and dry the pulp into sheets of paper. Finally, it is wound into large rolls ready for commercial use.
If a pulp and paper industry is built up in Alaska, it will be of great benefit to that northern country. It will increase the population by creating a demand for more labor. It will aid the farming operations by making a home market for their products. It will improve transportation and develop all kinds of business.
Altogether 420,000,000 feet of lumber have been cut and sold from the national forests of Alaska in the past ten years. This material has been made into such products as piling, saw logs and shingle bolts. All this lumber has been used in Alaska and none of it has been exported. Much of the timber was cut so that it would fall almost into tide-water. Then the logs were fastened together in rafts and towed to the sawmills. One typical raft of logs contained more than 1,500,000 feet of lumber. It is not unusual for spruce trees in Alaska to attain a diameter of from six to nine feet and to contain 10,000 or 15,000 feet of lumber.
Southeastern Alaska has many deep-water harbors which are open the year round. Practically all the timber in that section is controlled by the Government and is within the Tongass National Forest. This means that this important crop will be handled properly. No waste of material will occur. Cutting will be permitted only where the good of the forest justifies such work.