Why The United States Should Practice Forestry
( Originally Published 1922 )
Of late years the demand for lumber by the world trade has been very great. Most of the countries which have extensive forests are taking steps to protect their supplies. They limit cutting and restrict exports of timber. Both New Zealand and Switzerland have passed laws of this kind. Sweden exports much lumber, but by law forbids the cutting of timber in excess of the annual growth. Norway regulates private cutting. England is planning to plant 1,770,000 acres of new forest reserve. This body of timber when ready for cutting, would be sufficient to supply her home needs in time of emergency for at least three years. France is enlarging her forest nurseries and protecting her timber in every possible way. Even Russia, a country with huge forest tracts, is beginning to practice conservation. Russia now requires that all timber cut under concession shall be replaced by plantings of trees,
For many years, the United States and China were the greatest wasters of forest resources under the sun. Now this country has begun to practice scientific forestry on a large scale so that China now has the worst-managed forests in the world. Japan, on the other hand, handles her forests efficiently and has established a national forestry school. Austria, Norway, Sweden and Italy have devoted much time, labor and money to the development of practical systems of forestry. Turkey, Greece, Spain and Portugal, all follow sane and sensible forestry practices. Even Russia takes care of her national timberlands and annually draws enormous incomes from their maintenance. France and Germany both have highly successful forestry systems. Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand are using their forests in a practical manner and saving sufficient supplies of wood for posterity.
History tells us that the forests first were protected as the homes of wild game. Little attention was paid to the trees in those days. The forests were places to hunt and abodes devoted to wild animals. Scientific forestry was first studied and practised widely in the nineteenth century. Its development and expansion have been rapid. Germany still leads as one of the most prominent countries that practices efficient forestry. German forests are now said to be worth more than $5,000,000,000. France has over 2,750,000 acres of fine publicly owned forests, in addition to private forests, which yield a net income of more than $2 an acre a year to the government. The French have led in extending reforestation on denuded mountain sides. British India has well managed forests which cover over 200,000 square miles of area. These timberlands return a net income of from $3,000,000 to $4,000,000 a year. India now protects more than 35,000 square miles of forest against fire at an annual cost of less than half a cent an acre.
Forest experts say that the United States, which produces more than one-half of all the sawed timber in the world, should pay more attention to the export lumber business. Such trade must be built up on the basis of a permanent supply of timber. This means the practice of careful conservation and the replacement of forests that have been destroyed. We can not export timber from such meagre reserves as the pine forests of the South, which will not supply even the domestic needs of the region for much more than ten or fifteen years longer. Many of our timber men desire to develop extensive export trade. Our sawmills are large enough and numerous enough to cut much more timber annually than we need in this country. However, the danger is that we shall only abuse our forests the more and further deplete the timber reserves of future generations as a result of extensive export trade. If such trade is developed on a large scale, a conservative, practical national forestry policy must be worked out, endorsed and lived up to by every producing exporter.
The U. S. Forest Service reports that before the world war, we were exporting annually 3,000,000,000 board feet of lumber and sawlogs, not including ties, staves and similar material. This material consisted of Southern yellow pine, Douglas fir, white oak, redwood, white pine, yellow poplar, cypress, walnut, hickory, ash, bass-wood and similar kinds of wood. The exports were made up of 79 per cent. softwoods and 21 per cent. hardwoods. The export trade consumed about 8 1/2 percent. of our annual lumber cut. Southern yellow pine was the most popular timber shipped abroad. One-half of the total export was of this material.
During the four years before the war our imports of lumber from foreign countries amounted to about 1,200,000,000 board feet of lumber and logs. In 1918, imports exceeded ex-ports by 100,000,000 board feet. In addition to this lumber, we also shipped in, largely from Canada, 1,370,000 cords of pulp wood, 596,000 tons of wood pulp, 516,000 tons of paper, and close to a billion shingles. Some of the material, such as wood pulp and paper, also came from Sweden, Norway, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
As a result of the war, European countries for several years can use 7,000,000,000 feet of lumber a year above their normal requirements. For housing construction, England needs 2,000,000,-000 feet a year more than normally; France, 1,500,000,000 feet; Italy, 1,750,000,000 feet; Belgium and Spain 750,000,000 feet apiece. Even before the war, there was a great deficiency of timber in parts of Europe. It amounted to 16,000,000,000 board feet a year and was supplied by Russia, the United States, Canada, Sweden, Austria-Hungary and a few other countries of western Europe. If we can regulate cutting and replenish our forests as they deserve, there is a remarkable opportunity for us to build up a large and permanent export trade.
The Central and South American countries now have to depend on Canada, the United States and Sweden for most of their softwoods. Unless they develop home forests by the practice of mod-ern forestry, they will always be dependent on imported timber of this type. South Africa and Egypt are both heavy importers of lumber. Africa has large tropical forests but the timber is hard to get at and move. China produces but little lumber and needs much. She is developing into a heavy importing country. Japan grows only about enough timber to supply her home needs. Australia imports softwoods from the United States and Canada. New Zealand is in the market for Douglas fir and hardwoods.
In the past, our export lumber business has been second only to that of Russia in total amount. The value of the timber that we ex-ported was larger than that of Russia because much of our timber that was sent abroad consisted of the best grades of material grown in this country. In the future, we shall have to compete in the softwood export business with Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway and the various states of southeastern Europe which sell lumber. In the hardwood business, we have only a limited number of rivals. With the exception of a small section of eastern Europe, our hardwood forests are the finest in the Temperate Zone. We export hickory, black walnut, yellow poplar, white and red oak even to Russia and Sweden, countries that are our keenest rivals in the softwood export business.
Europe wants export lumber from our eastern states because the transportation costs on such material are low. She does not like to pay heavy costs of hauling timber from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic seaboard and then have it reshipped by water.
Our eastern forests are practically exhausted. Our supplies of export lumber except Douglas fir are declining. Most of the kinds of export timber that Europe wants we need right at home. We have only about 258,000,000,000 feet of southern yellow pine left, yet this material composes one-half of our annual shipments abroad. We are cutting this material at the rate of 16,000,-000,000 board feet a year. Some authorities believe that our reserves will last only sixteen years unless measures to protect them are put in-to effect at once. At the present rate of cutting long-leaf pine trees, our outputs of naval stores including turpentine and rosin are dwindling. We cannot afford to increase our export of south-ern yellow pine unless reforestation is started on all land suitable for that purpose. Our pine lands of the southern states must be restocked and made permanently productive. Then they could maintain the turpentine industry, provide all the lumber of this kind we need for home use, and supply a larger surplus for export.
Although our supplies of Douglas fir, western white pine, sugar pine and western yellow pine are still large, they will have to bear an extra burden when all the southern pine is gone. This indicates that the large supplies of these woods will not last as long as we would wish. To pre-vent overtaxing their production, it is essential that part of the load be passed to the southern pine cut-over lands. By proper protection and renewal of our forests, we can increase our production of lumber and still have a permanent supply. The Forest Service estimates that by protecting our cut-over and waste lands from fire and practicing care to secure reproduction after logging on our remaining virgin forest land, we can produce annually at least 27,750,000,000 cubic feet of wood, including 70,000,000,000 board feet of sawtimber. Such a production would meet indefinitely the needs of our growing population, and still leave an amount of timber available for export.
Our hardwoods need protection as well as our softwoods. Ten per cent. of our yearly cut of valuable white oak is shipped overseas. In addition we annually waste much of our best oak in the preparation of split staves for export. At the present rate of cutting, the supply, it is said, will not last more than twenty-five years. We ship abroad about seven per cent. of our poplar lumber. Our supplies of this material will be exhausted in about twenty years if the present rate of cutting continues. We sell to foreign countries at least one-half of our cut of black walnut which will be exhausted in ten to twelve years unless present methods are reformed. Our supplies of hickory, ash and basswood will be used up in twenty to thirty years. We need all this hardwood lumber for future domestic purposes. However, the furniture factories of France, Spain and Italy are behind on orders. They need hardwood and much of our valuable hardwood timber is being shipped to Europe.
Experience has proved that correct systems of handling the private forests can not be se-cured by mere suggestions or education. No ordinary method of public cooperation has been worked out which produces the desired results. It is necessary that suitable measures be adopted to induce private owners to preserve and protect their woodlands. The timberlands must be protected against forest fires. Timber must be cut so as to aid natural reproduction of forest. Cut-over lands must be reforested. If such methods were practiced, and national, state and municipal forests were established and ex-tended, our lumber problem would largely solve itself. We not only should produce a large permanent supply of timber for domestic use, but also should have great reserves available for export. Under such conditions, the United States would become the greatest supply source in the world for lumber.