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Solving Our Forestry Problems

( Originally Published 1922 )

A system of forestry which will provide sufficient lumber for the needs of our country and keep our forest land productive must be built on the extension of our public forests. Our National Forests are, at present, the one bright feature of future lumbering. Their tree crops will never be cut faster than they can be grown. A balance between production and consumption will always be maintained. Our needs for more timber, the necessity for protecting the head-waters of streams, the demands for saving wild life, and the playground possibilities of our forests justify their extension. Approximately eighty per cent. of the American forests are now privately owned. The chances are that most of these wooded tracts will always remain in the hands of private owners. It is important that the production of these forests be kept up with-out injuring their future value. We must pre-pare for the lumber demands of many years from now.

Some method must be worked out of harnessing our idle forest lands and putting them to work growing timber. Any regulations that are imposed on the private owners of woodlands must be reasonable. Changes in our present methods of taxing timberlands must be made to encourage reforestation. The public must aid the private individuals in fighting forest fires, the greatest menace that modern forestry has to face. A national policy is needed which will permit the private owner to grow trees which will give him fair and reasonable profit when sold.

The farmers of this country use about one-half of all the lumber consumed annually. They own approximately 191,000,000 acres of timber in their farm woodlots. If farmers would devote a little time and labor to the permanent upkeep and improvement of their timber, they would aid in decreasing the danger of a future lumber famine. If they would but keep track of the acreage production of their woodlands as closely as they do of their corn and wheat crops, American forestry would benefit greatly.

Between 1908 and 1913, the U. S. Forest Service established two forest experiment stations in California and one each in Washington, Idaho, Colorado, and Arizona. They devote the same degree of science and skill to the solution of tree growing and lumbering problems as the agricultural experiment stations give to questions of farm and crop management. Despite the fact that these forestry stations did fine work for the sections that they served, recently a number of them had to close, due to lack of funds. Congress does not yet realize the importance of this work.

More forest experiment stations are needed throughout the country. Such problems as what kinds of trees are best to grow, must be solved. Of the 495 species of trees in this country, 125 are important commercially. They all differ in their histories, characteristics and requirements. Research and study should be made of these trees in the sections where they grow best. Our knowledge regarding tree planting and the peculiarities of the different species is, as yet, very meagre. We must discover the best methods of cutting trees and of disposing of the slash. We must investigate rates of growth, yields and other problems of forest management. We must study the effect of climate on forest fires. We must continue experiments in order to develop better systems of fire protection.

We need more forest experiment stations to promote the production of more timber. Twenty of our leading industries utilize lumber as their most important raw material. Fifty-five different industries use specialized grades and quality of lumber in the manufacture of many products. This use of lumber includes general mill work and planing mill products, such as building crates and boxes, vehicles, railroad cars, furniture, agricultural implements and wooden ware.

Our manufacturers make and use more than two hundred and seventy-five different kinds of paper, including newsprint, boxboard, building papers, book papers and many kinds of specialty papers. The forest experiment stations would help solve the practical problems of these many industries. They could work out methods by which to maintain our forests and still turn out the thirty-five to forty billion board feet of lumber used each year. They are needed to determine methods of increasing our annual cut for pulp and paper. They are necessary so that we can increase our annual out-put of poles, pilings, cooperage and veneer.

A forest experiment station is needed in the southern pine belt. The large pine forests of Dixieland have been shaved down from 130,000,000 acres to 23,500,000 acres. In that region there are more than 30,000,000 acres of waste forest lands which should be reclaimed and de-voted to the growing of trees. Eastern and middle western manufacturing and lumbering centres are interested in the restoring of the southern pine forests. During the last score of years, they have used two-thirds of the annual output of those forests. 'In another ten to fifteen years home demand will use most of the pine cut in the South. The East and Middle West will then have to rely mostly on the Pacific Coast forests for their pine lumber.

The Lake States need a forest experiment station to work out methods by which the white pine, hemlock, spruce, beech, birch and maple forests of that section can be renewed. The Lake States are now producing only one-ninth as much white pine as they were thirty years ago. These states now cut only 3,500,000,000 feet of all kinds of lumber annually. Their output is growing smaller each year. Wisconsin led the United States in lumber production in 1900. Now she cuts less than the second-growth yield of Maine. Michigan, which led in lumber production before Wisconsin, now harvests a crop of white pine that is 50 per cent. smaller than that of Massachusetts. Experts believe that a forest experiment station in the Lake States would stimulate production so that enough lumber could be produced to satisfy the local demands.

Not least in importance among the forest regions requiring an experiment station are the New England States and northern and eastern New York. In that section there are approximately 25,000,000 acres of forest lands. Five and one-half million acres consist of waste and idle land. Eight million acres grow nothing but fuel-wood. The rest of the timber tracts are not producing anywhere near their capacity. New England produces 30 per cent. and New York 50 per cent. of our newsprint. Maine is the leading state in pulp production. New England imports 50 per cent. of her lumber, while New York cuts less than one half the timber she annually consumes.

Another experiment station should be provided to study the forestry problems of Pennsylvania, southern and western New York, Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware. At one time this region was the most important lumber centre of the United States. Pennsylvania spends $100,000,000 a year in importing lumber which should be grown at home. The denuded and waste lands at the headwaters of the Allegheny River now extend over one-half million acres. New Jersey is using more than twenty times as much lumber as is produced in the state. Ohio is a centre for wood manufacturing industries, yet her timber producing possibilities are neglected, as are those of other states needing wood for similar purposes.

European nations have spent large sums of money in investigating forestry problems to make timber producing economically feasible, and have found that it paid. In this country, our forest experiment stations will have to deal with a timbered area twice that of all Europe, exclusive of Russia. That is why we shall need many of these stations to help solve the many questions of national welfare which are so de-pendent upon our forests.

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