Our National Forests
( Originally Published 1922 )
Our National Forests include 147 distinct and separate bodies of timber in twenty-seven different states and in Alaska and Porto Rico. They cover more than 156,000,000 acres. If they could be massed together in one huge area like the state of Texas, it would make easier the task of hand-ling the forests and fighting fires. The United States Forest Service, which has charge of their management and protection, is one of the largest and most efficient organizations of its kind in the world. It employs expert foresters, scientists, rangers and clerks.
The business of running the forest is centred in eight district offices located in different parts of the country with a general headquarters at Washington, D. C. These districts are in charge of district foresters and their assistants.
The district headquarters and the States that they look after are :
No. 1. Northern District, Missoula, Montana. (Montana, northeastern Washington, northern Idaho, and northwestern South Dakota.)
No. 2. Rocky Mountain District, Denver, Colorado. (Colorado, Wyoming, the remain-der of South Dakota, Nebraska, northern Michigan, and northern Minnesota.)
No. 3. Southwestern District, Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Most of Arizona and New Mexico.)
No. 4. Intermountain District, Ogden, Utah. (Utah, southern Idaho, western Wyoming, eastern and central Nevada, and northwestern Arizona.)
No. 5. California District, San Francisco, California. (California and southwestern Nevada.)
No. 6. North Pacific District, Portland, Oregon. (Washington and Oregon.)
No. 7. Eastern District, Washington, D. C. (Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Maine, and Porto Rico.)
No. 8. Alaska District, Juneau, Alaska. (Alaska.)
Each of the National Forests is under the direct supervision of a forest supervisor and is split up into from 5 to 10 or more ranger districts. Each ranger district is in charge of a forest ranger who has an area of from 100,000 to 200,000 acres in his charge.
The National Forests are, for the most part, located in the mountainous region of the West, with small scattered areas in the Lake States, and the White Mountains, Southern Appalachians and Ozarks of the Eastern and Southern States. Many of them are a wilderness of dense timber. It is a huge task to protect these forests against the ravages of fire. Fire fighting takes precedence over all other work in the National Forests. Lookout stations are established on high points to watch for signs of fire. Airplanes are used on fire patrol over great areas of forest. Where railroads pass through the National Forests, rangers operate motor cars and hand-cars over the tracks in their patrol work. Launches are used in Alaska and on some of the forests where there are large lakes, to enable the fire fighters and forest guardians to cover their beats quickly. Every year the National Forests are being improved and made more accessible by the building of permanent roads, trails and telephone lines. Special trails are built to and in the fire protection areas of remote sections. A network of good roads is constructed in every forest to improve fire fighting activities as well as to afford better means of communication between towns, settlements and farms. The road and trail plan followed in the National Forests is mapped out years in advance. In the more remote sections, trails are first constructed. Later, these trails may be developed into wagon or motor roads. Congress annually appropriates large sums of money for the building of roads in the National Forests. Over 25,000 miles of roads and 35,000 miles of trails have already been constructed in these forests.
Communication throughout the National Forests is had by the use of the telephone and the radio or wireless telephone. Signalling by means. of the heliograph is practiced on bright days in regions that have no telephones. Arrangements made with private telephone companies permit the forest officers to use their lines. The efficient communication systems aid in the administration of the forests and speeds the work of gathering fire fighters quickly at the points where smoke is detected.
Agricultural and forestry experts have surveyed the lands in the National Forests. Thus they have prevented the use of lands for forestry purposes which are better adapted for farming. Since 1910, more than 26,500,000 acres of lands have been excluded from the forests. These lands were more useful for farming or grazing than for forestry. Practically all lands within the National Forests have now been examined and classified. At intervals Congress has combined several areas of forest lands into single tracts. Government lands outside the National Forests have also been traded for state or private lands within their boundaries. Thus the forests have been lined-up in more compact bodies. Careful surveys are made before such trades are closed to make sure that the land given to Uncle Sam is valuable for timber production and the protection of stream flow, and that the Government receives full value for the land that is exchanged.
The National Forests contain nearly five hundred billion board feet of merchantable timber. This is 23 per cent. of the remaining timber in the country. Whenever the trees in the forest reach maturity they are sold and put to use. All green trees to be cut are selected by qualified forest officers and blazed and marked with a "U.S." This marking is done carefully so as to protect the forest and insure a future crop of trees on the area. Timber is furnished at low rates to local farmers, settlers, and stockmen for use in making improvements. Much fire wood and dead and down timber also is given away. The removal of such material lessens the fire danger in the forest.
Over a billion feet of timber, valued at more than $3,000,000, is sold annually from the National Forests.
One generally does not think of meat, leather and wool as forest crops. Nevertheless, the National Forests play an important part in the western livestock industry. Experts report that over one-fifth of the cattle and one-half of the sheep of the western states are grazed in the National Forests. These livestock are estimated to be worth nearly one quarter billion dollars. More than 9,500,000 head of livestock are pastured annually under permit in the Federal forests. In addition, some 4,000,000 to 6,000,000 calves and lambs are grazed free of charge.
The ranges suitable for stock grazing are used to pasture sheep, cattle, horses, hogs and goats.
The Secretary of Agriculture decides what number and what kind of animals shall graze on each forest. Ile regulates the grazing and prevents injury to the ranges from being overstocked with too many cattle and sheep. The forest ranges are divided into grazing units. Generally, the cattle and horses are grazed in the valleys and on the lower slopes of the mountain. The sheep and goats are pastured on the high mountain sides and in the grassy meadows at or above timberline.
Preferences to graze live stock on the forest ranges are for the most part granted to stockmen who own improved ranch property and live in or near one of the National Forests. The fee for grazing on forest ranges is based on a yearlong rate of $1.20 a head of cattle, $1.50 for horses, $.90 for hogs and $.30 a head for sheep.
At times it is necessary, for short periods, to prohibit grazing on the Government forest ranges. For example, when mature timber has been cut from certain areas, it is essential that sheep be kept off such tracts until the young growth has made a good start in natural reforestation. Camping grounds needed for recreation purposes by the public are excluded from the grazing range. If a shortage of the water supply of a neighboring town or city threatens, or if floods or erosion become serious due to fire or overgrazing of the land, the range is closed to live-stock and allowed to recuperate. Where artificial planting is practiced, grazing is often forbidden until the young trees get a good start.
The total receipts which Uncle Sam collects from the 30,000 or more stockmen who graze their cattle and sheep on the National Forests amount to nearly $2,500,000 annually. As a result of the teachings of the Forest Service, the stockmen are now raising better livestock. Improved breeding animals are kept in the herds and flocks. Many of the fat stock now go directly from the range to the market. Formerly, most of the animals had to be fed on corn and grain in some of the Middle Western States to flesh them for market. Experiments have been carried on which have shown the advantages of new feeding and herding methods. The ranchers have banded together in livestock associations, which cooperate with the Forest Service in man-aging the forest ranges.
It costs about $ 5 to sow one acre of ground to tree seed, and approximately $10 an acre to set out seedling trees. The seed is obtained from the same locality where it is to be planted. In many instances, cones are purchased from settlers who make a business of gathering them. The Federal foresters dry these cones in the sun and thresh out the seed, which they then fan and clean. If it is desired to store supplies of tree seed from year to year it is kept in sacks or jars, in a cool, dry place, protected from rats and mice. Where seed is sown directly on the ground, poison bait must be scattered over the area in order to destroy the gophers, mice and chipmunks which otherwise would eat the seed. Sowing seed broadcast on unprepared land has usually failed unless the soil and weather conditions were just right. For the most part, setting out nursery seedlings has given better results than direct seeding. Two men can set out between five hundred and one thousand trees a day.
The National Forests contain about one million acres of denuded forest lands. Much of this was cut-over and so severely burned before the creation of the forests that it bears no tree growth. Some of these lands will reseed them-selves naturally while other areas have to be seeded or planted by hand. In this way the lands that will produce profitable trees are fitted to support forest cover. Because the soils and climate of our National Forests are different, special experiments have been carried on in different places to decide the best practices to follow. Two method of reforestation are commonly practiced. In some places, the tree seed is sown directly upon the ground and, thereafter, may or may not be cultivated. This method is limited to the localities where the soil and moisture conditions are favorable for rapid growth. Under the other plan, the seedlings are grown in nurseries for several years under favorable conditions. They are then moved to the field and set out in permanent plantations.