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Forest Families

( Originally Published 1922 )

Trees are as queer in picking out places to live and in their habits of growth as are the peoples of the various races which inhabit the world. Some trees do best in the icy northland. They become weak and die when brought to warm climates. Others that are accustomed to tropical weather fail to make further growth when ex-posed to extreme cold. The appearance of Jack Frost means death to most of the trees that come from near the equator. Even on the opposite slopes of the same mountain the types of trees are often very different. Trees that do well on the north side require plenty of moisture and cool weather. Those that prosper on south exposures are equipped to resist late and early frosts as well as very hot sunshine. The moisture needs of different trees are as remarkable as their likes and dislikes for warmth and cold. Some trees attain large size in a swampy country. Trees of the same kind will become stunted in sections where dry weather persists.

In some parts of the United States forestry experts can tell where they are by the local tree growth. For example, in the extreme northern districts the spruce and the balsam fir are native. As one travels farther south these give way to little Jack pine and aspen trees. Next come the stately forests of white and Norway pine. Some-times a few slow-growing hemlock trees appear in the colder sections. If one continues his journey toward the equator he will next pass through forests of broad-leaved trees. They will include oak, maple, beech, chestnut, hickory, and sycamore.

In Kentucky, which is a centre of the broad-leaved belt, there are several hundred different varieties of trees. Farther south, the cone-bearing species prevail. They are followed in the march toward the Gulf of Mexico by the tropical trees of southern Florida. If one journeys west from the Mississippi River across the Great Plains he finally will come to the Rocky Mountains, where evergreen trees predominate. If oak, maple, poplar, or other broad-leaved trees grow in that region, they occur in scattered stands. In the eastern forests the trees are close together. They form a leafy canopy overhead.

In the forests of the Rockies the evergreens stand some distance apart so that their' tops do not touch. As a result, these Western forests do not shade the ground as well as those in the east. This causes the soils of these forests to be much drier, and also increases the danger from fire.

The forests of western Washington and Oregon, unlike most timberlands of the Rocky Mountain Region, are as dense as any forests in the world. Even at midday it is as dark as twilight in these forests. The trees are gigantic. They tower 150 to 300 feet above the ground. Their trunks often are 6 feet or larger in diameter. They make the trees of the eastern forests look stunted. They are excelled in size only by the mammoth redwood trees of northern California and the giant Sequoias of the southern Sierras.

Differences of climate have largely influenced tree growth and types in this country. The distribution of tree families is changing all the time. It shifts just as the climate and other conditions change. Trees constantly strive among them-selves for control of different localities. For a time one species will predominate. Then other varieties will appear and displace the ones al-ready established. The distribution of trees changes very remarkably from one century to another. For example, in some sections, the red and black oaks are replacing the white oaks. Some trees are light-lovers. They require much more sunlight than others that do well under heavy shade. Oak trees require plenty of light; maples or beeches thrive on little light.

The seed of trees requiring little light may be. scattered in a dense forest together with that of trees which need plenty of daylight in order to make normal growth. The seedlings that like shade will develop under such conditions while those that need light will pine away and die. Gradually the shade loving trees will replace the light loving trees in such a forest stand. Even the different trees of the same family often strive with one another for light and moisture. .Each tree differs from every other one in shape and size. Trees will adapt themselves to the light and moisture conditions to which they are exposed. A tree that has access to plenty of moisture and sunlight grows evenly from the ground to its top with a bushy, wide-spreading crown. The same tree, if it grows in the shade, will reach a greater height but will have a small compact crown. Trees run a race in their rapidity of growth. The winners get the desirable places in the sunlight and prosper. The losers develop into stunted trees that often die, due to lack of light exposure. A better quality of lumber results from tall straight trees than that produced by the symmetrical, branching trees. That is why every forester who sets out trees tries to provide conditions which will make them grow tall and with the smallest possible covering of branches on the lower part of the trunks.

Where trees are exposed to strong winds, they develop deep and strong root systems. They produce large and strong trunks that can bend and resist violent winds which sway and twist them in every direction. Such trees are much stronger and sturdier than those that grow in a sheltered forest. The trees that are blown down in the forest provide space for the introduction and growth of new varieties. These activities are constantly changing the type of tree growth in the forest.

Our original forests which bordered the Atlantic coast line when America was first settled, were dense and impenetrable. The colonists feared the forests because they sheltered the hostile Indians who lurked near the white settlements. In time this fear of the forest developed into hatred of the forest. As a result, the colonists cut trees as rapidly as they could. In every way they fought back the wilderness. They and their children's children have worked so effectively that the original wealth of woodlands has been depleted. At present, cleared fields and cutover areas abound in regions that at one time were covered with magnificent stands of timber.

In many sections of the country our forests are now so reduced that they are of little commercial importance. However, these areas are not yet entirely denuded. Predictions have been made frequently that our woodlands would soon disappear. Scientific foresters report that such statements are incorrect. There are only a few districts in the country which probably will never again support much tree growth. Their denuded condition is due largely to the destruction of the neighboring mountain forests and to the activities of erosion. Under ordinary conditions, natural reforestation will maintain a satisfactory tree growth on lands where a practical system of forest protection is practiced. The complete removal of the forest is now accomplished only in fertile farming regions, where the agricultural value of the land is too high to permit it to remain longer in forest cover. Even in the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes belts there are still large areas of forest land. Most of the farms have woodlots which provide fuel, fencing, and some lumber. For the most part, these farm woodlots are abused. They have not been man-aged correctly. Fortunately, a change for the better is now evident. The farm woodlot owners are coming to appreciate the importance of protecting the trees for future use. In some cases, they are even replanting areas that have been cut over. There are large tracts of sandy, rocky and swampy land in these districts that are satisfactory for tree production. In fact, about all these fields are good for is the growing of timber. Campaigns are now under way to increase tree planting and develop the production of lands adapted for forestry which previously have been idle.

The United States of the future will not be a desert, treeless country. However, immediate measures to save our remaining trees must be developed. The greater part of our virgin timber has already been felled. The aftermath forests, which succeed the virgin stand, generally are inferior. Our supplies of ash, black walnut and hickory, once abundant, are now seriously limited. Formerly, these mixed forests covered vast stretches of country which today support only a scant crop of young trees which will not be ready for market for many years. These second-growth stands will never approach in value or quality the original forests. Over large areas, poplar, white birch, and Jack pine trees now predominate on lands which formerly bore dense stands of white pine. In many places, scrubby underbrush and stunted trees occupy lands which heretofore have been heavy producers of marketable timber trees.

Generally speaking, farm lands should riot be used for forestry purposes. On the other hand, some forest lands can be profitably cleared and used for agriculture. For example, settlers are felling trees and fighting stumps in northern Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota. Some of these virgin lands are valuable for farming purposes, others are not. It is preferable that they should produce farm crops instead of tree crops if the land is best adapted to agricultural use. It is an economic necessity that all lands in this country best suited for farming purposes should be tilled. Our ever increasing population demands that every acre of land useful for growing crops should be cleared and devoted to farming. Under such conditions, the settlers should reserve sufficient woodlands for their home needs, care-fully distinguishing between the land that is best for agricultural purposes and the land that is best for forestry purposes, and thus doubling their resources.

Thoughtless lumbermen have pillaged millions of acres of our most productive forests. The early lumbermen wasted our woodland resources. They made the same mistakes as everyone else in the care and protection of our original forests. The greatest blame for the wasting of our lumber resources rests with the State and Federal authorities who permitted the depletion. Many of our lumbermen now appreciate the need of preserving and protecting our forests for future generations. Some of them have changed their policies and are now doing all in their power to aid forest conservation.

The ability of a properly managed forest to produce new crops of trees year after year promises us a future supply of wood sufficient for all our needs if only we will conserve our timber-lands as they deserve. It is our duty to handle the forests in the same way that fertile farming fields are managed. That is to say, they should be so treated that they will yield a profitable money crop every year without reducing their powers of future production. Private owners and farmers are coming slowly to realize the grave importance of preserving and extending our woodlands. The public, the State and the Nation are now solidly behind the movement to improve our forestry and to safe-guard our forests. Several of the States, including New York and Pennsylvania, have purchased large areas of timberlands for State forests. These will be developed as future sources of lumber supply.

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