Why The Lumberman Should Practice Forestry
( Originally Published 1922 )
The lumber industry of this country can aid reforestation by practicing better methods. It can harvest its annual crop of timber without injuring the future production of the forests. It can limit forest fires by leaving the woods in a safe condition after it has removed the timber. Some private timber owners who make a living out of cutting lumber, have even reached the stage where they are planting trees. They are coming to appreciate the need for replacing trees that they cut down, in order that new growth may develop to furnish future timber crops.
The trouble in this country has been that the lumbermen have harvested the crop of the forests in the shortest possible time instead of spreading out the work over a long period. Most of our privately owned forests have been temporarily ruined by practices of this sort. The aim of the ordinary lumberman is to fell the trees and reduce them to lumber with the least labor possible. He does not exercise special care as to how the tree is cut down. He pays little attention to the protection of young trees and new growth. He cuts the tree to fall in the direction that best serves his purpose, no matter whether this means that the forest giant will crush and seriously cripple many young trees. He wastes large parts of the trunk in cutting. He leaves the tops and chips and branches scattered over the ground to dry out. They develop into a fire trap.
As generally followed, the ordinary method of lumbering is destructive of the forests. It ravages the future production of the timberlands. It pays no heed to the young growth of the forest. It does not provide for the proper growth and development of the future forest. Our vast stretches of desolate and deserted cut-over lands are silent witnesses to the ruin which has been worked by the practice of destructive lumbering. Fortunately, a change for the better is now developing. With the last of our timberland riches in sight on the Pacific Coast, the lumbering industry is coming to see that it must prepare for the future. Consequently, operators are handling the woods better than ever before. They now are trying to increase both the production and permanent value of the remaining forests. They aim to harvest the tree yield more thoroughly and to extend their cuttings over many years. They appreciate that it is necessary to protect and preserve the forest at the same time that profitable tree crops are being removed. They see the need for saving and increasing young growth and for protecting the woodlands against fire. If only these methods of forestry had been observed from the time the early settlers felled the first trees, not only would our forests be producing at present all the lumber we could use, but also the United States would be the greatest lumber-exporting country in the world.
It will never be possible to stop timber cutting entirely in this country, nor would it be desirable to do so. The demands for building material, fuel, wood pulp and the like are too great to permit of such a condition. The Nation would suffer if all forest cutting was suspended. There is a vital need, however, of perpetuating our remaining forests. Wasteful lumbering practices should be stopped. Only trees that are ready for harvest should be felled. They should be cut under conditions which will protect the best interests and production of the timberlands. As a class, our lumbermen are no more selfish or greedy than men in many other branches of business. They have worked under peculiar conditions in the United States. Our population was small as compared with our vast forest resources. Conditions imposed in France and Germany, where the population is so dense that more conservative systems of lumbering are generally practiced, were not always applicable in this country. Furthermore, our lumbermen have known little about scientific forestry. This science is comparatively new in America. All our forestry schools are still in the early stages of their development. As lumbermen learn more about the value of modern forestry they gradually are coming to practice its principles.
The early lumbermen often made mistakes in estimating the timber yields of the forests. They also neglected to provide for the future production of the woodlands after the virgin timber was removed. Those who followed in their steps have learned by these errors what mistakes to avoid. Our lumbermen lead the world in skill and ingenuity. They have worked out most efficient methods of felling and logging the trees. Many foreign countries have long practiced forestry and lumbering, yet their lumbermen cannot compete with the Americans when it comes to a matter of ingenuity in the woods. American woods and methods of logging are peculiar. They would no more fit under European forest conditions than would foreign systems be suitable in this country. American lumbermen are slowly coming to devise and follow a combination method which includes all the good points of foreign forestry revised to apply to our conditions.
We can keep our remaining forests alive and piece out their production over a long period if we practice conservation methods generally throughout the country. Our remaining forests can be lumbered according to the rules of practical forestry without great expense to the owners. In the long run, they will realize much larger returns from handling the woods in this way. This work of saving the forests should be-gin at once. It should be practiced in every state. Our cut-over and idle lands should be put to work. Our forest lands should be handled just like fertile farming lands that produce big crops. The farmer does not attempt to take all the fertility out of the land in the harvest of one bumper crop. He handles the field so that it will produce profitable crops every season. He fertilizes the soil and tills it so as to add to its productive power. Similarly, our forests should be worked so that they will yield successive crops of lumber year after year.
Lumbermen who own forests from which they desire to harvest a timber crop should first of all survey the woods, or have some experienced for-ester do this work, to decide on what trees should be cut and the best methods of logging to follow. The trees to be cut should be selected carefully and marked. The owner should determine how best to protect the young and standing timber during lumbering. He should decide on what plantings he will make to replace the trees that are cut. He should survey and estimate the future yield of the forest. He should study the young trees and decide about when they will be ripe to cut and what they will yield. From this information, he can determine his future income from the forest and the best ways of handling the woodlands.
Under present conditions in this country, only those trees should be cut from our forests which are mature and ready for the ax. This means that the harvest must be made under conditions where there are enough young trees to take the place of the full-grown trees that are removed. Cutting is best done during the winter when the trees are dormant. If the cutting is performed during the spring or summer, the bark, twigs and leaves of the surrounding young growth may be seriously damaged by the falling trees. The trees should be cut as low to the ground as is practicable, as high stumps waste valuable timber. Care should be taken so that they will not break or split in falling. Trees should be dropped so that they will not crush young seedlings and sapling growth as they fall. It is no more difficult or costly to throw a tree so that it will not injure young trees than it is to drop it anywhere without regard for the future of the forest.
Directly after cutting, the fallen timber should be trimmed so as to remove branches that are crushing down any young growth or seedling. In some forests the young growth is so thick that it is impossible to throw trees without falling them on some of these baby trees which will spring back into place again if the heavy branches are removed at once. The top of the tree should be trimmed so that it will lie close to the ground.
Under such conditions it will rot rapidly and be less of a fire menace. The dry tops of trees which lodge above the ground are most dangerous sources of fire as they burn easily and rapidly.
The lumbermen can also aid the future development of the forests by using care in skidding and hauling the logs to the yard or mill. Care should be exercised in the logging operations not to tear or damage the bark of trunks of standing timber. If possible, only the trees of unimportant timber species should be cut for making corduroy roads in the forests. This will be a saving of valuable material.
In lumbering operations as practiced in this country, the logs are usually moved to the saw-mills on sleds or by means of logging railroads. If streams are near by, the logs are run into the water and floated to the mill. If the current is not swift enough, special dams are built. Then when enough logs are gathered for the drive, the dam is opened and the captive waters flood away rapidly and carry the logs to the mill. On larger streams and rivers, the logs are often fastened together in rafts. Expert log drivers who ride on the tipping, rolling logs in the raging river, guide the logs on these drives.
On arrival at the sawmill, the logs are reduced to lumber. Many different kinds of saws are used in this work. One of the most efficient is the circular saw which performs rapid work. It is so wide in bite, however, that it wastes much wood in sawdust. For example, in cutting four boards of one-inch lumber, an ordinary circular saw wastes enough material to make a fifth board, because it cuts an opening that is one-quarter of an inch in width. Band saws, al-though they do not work at such high speed, are replacing circular saws in many mills because they are less wasteful of lumber. Although saw-mills try to prevent waste of wood by converting slabs and short pieces into laths and shingles, large amounts of refuse, such as sawdust, slabs and edgings, are burned each season. As a rule, only about one-third of the tree is finally used for construction purposes, the balance being wasted in one way or another.