|Economics of forestry; a reference book for students of political economy and professional and lay students of forestry, by Bernhard E. Fernow|
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Economics of forestry; a reference book for students of political economy and professional and lay students of forestry, by Bernhard E. Fernow
CHAPTER XI. FOREST CONDITIONS OF THE UNITED STATES.
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If considered simultaneously from botanical, geographical, and economic points of view, the forests of North America are unique in the world.
The forests of the tropics are richer in species; there are contiguous forest areas of greater extent in other parts of the world, and other countries possess forests of as high economic value. But it may be fairly truthfully claimed, that in no part of the world is to be found in combination under the ownership of one nation, a forest area of so large extent, of so high economic value, furnishing such a large number of species of such varied usefulness and in such accessible form and condition.
Geographically and botanically we must differentiate the country into two absolutely unlike types, namely the Atlantic and the Pacific type.
Practically the entire surface on the Atlantic side--west to a meandering line, which follows more or less closely the Mississippi Valley and runs nowhere beyond the ninety-ninth degree of longitude--was originally a vast continuous forest comprising somewhat over one million square miles, or
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about 700 million acres,1 of which less than 40 per cent, or less than 300 million acres, have been turned into farm lands, and an unknown acreage has been culled of its valuable stores of timber, ravaged by fire, or turned into useless brush lands.
[Note 1: 1 The figures used in this chapter lay no claim to statistical accuracy but are merely rough approximations, sufficient to give a general idea of relationships, such as the economist needs. There are no accurate data at hand; when not even the areas of the different states are accurately known, official authorities differing widely, it is useless to attempt anything but rounded-off figures.]
The area to the west, almost twice as large,--1200 million acres,--is mainly a forestless, often treeless area into which stretch like narrow peninsulas of varying width from the north the forested mountain ranges of the Rockies, not exceeding 100 million acres of woodlands and the forest of the Sierras and coast ranges of the Pacific with nearly the same acreage.
The Atlantic forest occupying the humid regions of the United States and covering both valleys and mountains, composed of a large variety of broad-leaved species with conifers intermixed, gradually changes to the westward into the prairie country, practically forestless, although not treeless, where trees and forests of an inferior character are capable of growing, but where the grasses are able to compete successfully with the arborescent flora.
To the west of the prairie belt lie the plains and semi-arid regions, including deserts, irrigable
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valleys, forestless plateaus, and mountains, where tree growth is entirely absent or stunted, unless artificially fostered. It is into this type of country that the Rocky Mountain forest protrudes, of coniferous composition, for the most part of inferior development, except in the more northern portion; and similarly, paralleling the coast from north to south, extends the Pacific forest along the mountain slopes of the Cascades, Sierra Nevada, and Coast Range, practically almost wholly composed of conifers, often of most magnificent development, with only few broad-leaved species.
For the purposes of this volume it is not necessary to consider the forest conditions of the newly acquired outlying dependencies and of the far-removed Alaskan territory, except to state that the interior of Alaska, being in the main an arid country with a short season of vegetation, is forested in the manner of such countries, the tree growth mostly stunted and open, while the Alaska Coast forest partakes of the character of the Pacific Coast forest, with fewer species of conifers (mostly only hemlock and spruce) of inferior development
The distribution then of forest country and open country is most uneven; three-fourths of the woodlands being concentrated on one side of the continent, the remaining fourth being collocated in two parcels on the two great mountain systems of the other side of the continent.
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This distribution is, of course, mainly due to climatic conditions; low relative humidity of the air and deficiency of water supplies in the soil having much to do with the absence of forest cover over the larger part of our domain.
The economic significance of this condition comes with the realization that the bulk of the best agricultural soils of the United States lies within the forestless region, and also that eventually the irrigable portion of the arid regions is destined to be the richest, dependent on a rational management of water supplies, i.e. of the forest cover. On the other hand, while undoubtedly the productive timber area of this region may be artificially extended in a small degree, the main timber production of the country will have to be secured where nature originally placed it, namely on the east side of the continent, where climate favors forest growth, and diversity of surface conditions differentiates farm and forest soils. Here, where the centre of population lies, and with it the bulk of consumption, the problems of forestry and of timber production need foremost attention.
So far, of the vast domain of the United States (1,900,800,000 acres) not one-fourth is occupied by farms; in most sections of the forest country the farm area 1 falls below 50 per cent and in no state does it exceed 84 per cent. A vast area, therefore,
[Note 1: 1 The Census of 1900 gives the farm area as 84,201,000 acres, of which, however, only 49.3 per cent are reported as improved.]
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is not yet appropriated to any particular use, being wild lands, waste, or under forest.
The acreage given above would indicate a forested area of not exceeding 650 million acres, namely, the 900 million acres as given above, less the improved farm area in the forest country, which amounts to about 250 million acres; but it should be well understood that this represents merely woodlands, areas covered with woody growth, which must be very considerably reduced if we apply the economic point of view and include only areas that contain or can without human aid produce timber useful for the arts,--if we discuss, in other words, the forest area not as a natural condition, but as a national resource.
Not only are large areas, especially in the western country, occupied by trees incapable of growing to valuable size or quality, but in the eastern forest country there are large areas from which all valuable growth has been removed by axe and fire. These are sometimes turned into actual barrens or are occupied by useless brush growth, which effectually prevents the reëstablishment of valuable forest growth without human aid, and hence they are for the present withdrawn from useful production.
Trustworthy statistics of the actually productive forest area are not in existence, although figures have been presented as such by statisticians without capacity to interpret their meaning.
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We can only attempt rough approximations, applying to the data at hand personal knowledge and impressions gathered in the field with professional insight. We can readily admit that these figures are often far from correct, yet not so far but that they give a true conception of the general condition of things.
Applying proper economic considerations, we may at once halve the figures given for both the Rocky Mountain and the Pacific forest, and reduce that of the Atlantic forest, after deducting the actually enumerated farm area by only 10 per cent, a small allowance to make for actual waste lands.1 We thus arrive at an area of round 500 million acres as representing the real forest resources of the country, a near enough approximation
[Note 1: 1 Some basis for such reductions may be found in
information of the following kind:--
The nearest approach to a statistical statement for one of the Pacific Coast states, Washington, is made in the Twentieth Report of the U.S. Geol, Survey, 1900, Part V, from which it appears, that while the area reported as forest by the chief geographer is 47,700 square miles, only half that acreage is found to contain merchantable timber, of which two-thirds is located in the western one-third of the state. Here, of 15,858 square miles, formerly covered with merchantable timber, 20 per cent are reported cut and nearly 23 per cent destroyed by fire.
For the state of Oregon the same report upon rather insufficient data reduces the reported woodland area of 54,300 square miles to 45,441 of timbered, i.e. economically valuable area.
A similar survey of one of the Atlantic forest states, Wisconsin, described in Bulletin 15, Forestry Division, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 1898, reduces the woodland, reported by the census of 1880, from 31,750 square miles to about 26,904, of which nearly 50 per cent is "cut over, largely burned over and waste brush lands, and one-half of this as nearly desert as it can become in the climate of Wisconsin."
From such statements it will appear that the method of arriving at the forest acreage, used by Mr. Gannett, chief geographer, in the Nineteenth Report of the U.S. Geol. Survey, namely to deduct the farm area of twenty years ago from the total land area, leads to no useful result for purposes of the economist.]
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for all practical purposes of the economist.
The larger portion of this area of 500 million acres is, however, not to be conceived as filled with standing timber ready for the axe, but consists of "culled" forest, which means that the merchantable timber of the better kinds has been removed more or less closely.
How nearly this assertion must be true we may learn from the simple contemplation of the fact, that the constantly increasing population of the United States has drawn its wood supplies from this area originally of less than 700 million acres, without systematic attention to reproduction. If we assume that the consumption per capita has not been quite as large as it is now (350 cubic feet), although there is not much reason for such assumption, and add up the population annually calling for such supplies since the year 1780 only, we find that not less than 2,500 million people have had their annual requirements satisfied; that means a total of not less than 600 to 700 billion cubic feet.
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Taking into consideration the wasteful use of timber,--the log-rolling fires in clearing for farm use, owing to the lack of market,--we many assume that less than half of this consumption was secured from these farm areas, the other part necessitating the culling of certainly 300 million acres, so that hardly 200 million acres containing merchantable timber may remain, even if we make allowance for aftergrowth. Comparing this probability calculation with the amount of standing timber, given on page 52, as an extravagant estimate, this area would have to contain an average of 10,000 feet B.M., or 2000 cubic feet of such wood as we use, which is not likely to be the case, or at least questionable.
This area, moreover, is continually reduced by fire and by clearing for farm purposes, as the change of improved farm areas in the forested states from census year to census year shows, namely, an increase of about 25 million acres each decade in round figures. Some abandoned farms in New England, and in the South, to be sure, are gradually returning to forest growth, but these additions are small in proportion to the farm increase. Nevertheless, taking the forested area actually grown or growing to timber, in good, bad, or indifferent condition, it represents in the forest country of the Atlantic side still 40 to 45 per cent of the total land area, while about 20 to 25 per cent may be set down as waste lands.
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The productive forest area of the western country may be stated as not exceeding 14 per cent. For the whole country the woodland area according to the United States Chief Geographer, whose discussions on these questions contain many misstatements and misconceptions, represents 37 per cent; according to the writer's conception of what may be considered forest area, it is not much over 26 per cent. This acreage of round 500 million acres under proper management would barely be capable of supplying continuously the present annual wood consumption of the people of the United States, which, as we have seen on page 51, amounts to about 25,000 million cubic feet; while we estimated that the virgin supplies still standing may be able to satisfy the present consumption for perhaps 40 to 50 years.
The immediate inauguration of conservative treatment, of recuperative measures, and of proper economies in the use of wood may, therefore, be able to avert serious discomforts to be expected from a shortage in wood supplies, provided there be no increase in consumption, or perhaps even a proportionate reduction, as the population increases, which as we have seen in Chapter II. is possible. So far the census statistics record an increase of wood consumption, in values at least, of a round 30 per cent for every decade, and hence the economies, as well as the conservative and recuperative treatment, should be begun now.
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The ownership of the forest area will largely determine how far such conservative treatment may be expected.
Governments, which are logically conservative managers of their properties, own in the United States as yet only an insignificant acreage. Thanks to the forest reservation policy, inaugurated in 1891, the federal government has reserved and continues to reserve and exclude from sale or other disposal some of the public domain, which still comprises over 500,000,000 acres.
It is uncertain how much of this acreage is forest covered. There are somewhat over
10,000,000 acres still held in the Eastern states, largely swamp lands and forest, while
for the Western states, Mr. F.H. Newell, a few years ago,1
estimated the public lands open for entry as follows:--
[Note 1: 1 U.S. Geol. Survey, Ann. Rep. 1894.]
Since under the existing construction of the land laws, the timber lands on the Pacific coast may be entered as agricultural lands, and since the lumber business of that region in the last few years has been greatly extended, it is fair to assume that by such entries the timber forest area of the public domain has been considerably reduced from that estimate.
The forest reservations made by the federal
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government to July 1, 1902, comprise an acreage of nearly 60 million acres, hardly more than 1 per cent of the public domain, but it is well known that a considerable portion of these reservations is not timber land; they include brush lands, grazing lands, and desert.
In fact the examinations by agents of the United States Geological Survey indicate that of about 12 million acres examined, not more than 30 per cent contains merchantable timber, and the amount of such timber is estimated at not to exceed 24 billion feet B.M. In other words. on this vast area cannot be found one year's requirement for the whole United States, or six years' supply for the mills now operating in the Western states. There is no reason to suppose that the rest of the federal reserves are much better timbered, for the examined portions seem to represent fairly well average conditions; hence, the forest reservation policy of the government, as far as the supply question for the country at large is concerned, has not, and indeed cannot, alleviate matters very much. Even if all the timber lands now in possession of the federal government were withdrawn from entry,--and it is a short-sighted policy not to have done so long ago,--such reservation would bear on local conditions of supply only. But, indeed, for the welfare of the Western states, the inauguration of the forest reservation policy is of the utmost importance; not only from the timber supply point of view, but especially with
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regard to the question of water supply. The valleys of the West being, for the use of their almost inexhaustible fertility, dependent upon irrigation waters, the water conserving capacity of a well-kept forest cover is indispensable, and in this direction even the brush lands are of value.
It would be only rational that the extensive plans for the development of irrigation systems in the West should include the rapid withdrawal from entry of all the mountain forest and brush lands, and their rational treatment with the main object of preserving the soil cover.
In the Eastern states, the single state governments alone may carry out a similar reservation policy, and indeed the beginnings have been made here and there.
The state of New York owns nearly one and one-quarter million acres with the avowed purpose of increasing the acreage of state forest; the state of Pennsylvania has entered upon the policy of acquiring state forest, and several other states are at least discussing the propriety of such ownership. But the majority of the states have not yet waked up to their obligation in this respect, and communities, like villages, towns, cities, counties, which so often in Europe derive acceptable income from forest properties, have not yet considered such a policy, hence the forest areas are nearly entirely in private hands.
As to the character of this private ownership and
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the distribution among different classes of owners, we are without data. The census of 1880 gave a statement of the ownership by farmers of 200 million acres in wood lots. This would mostly represent a conservative ownership, although farmers do not always treat their timber lots as intelligently as they might; but it is quite certain that much of this acreage has since passed into the hands of lumbermen and wood-working establishments.1
[Note 1: 1 The value of wood products, cut on farmers' wood lots, was found by the census of 1900 to amount to less than 120 million dollars.]
Among these we must discern between the jobbers, who merely buy stumpage, i.e. the timber without the land, who, therefore, take no interest in the future of either, and hence are least conservative in their treatment of the forest, and the land-owning class, who are apt to take more thought of what my become of their holdings. It is, however, only very lately that this interest extends in the direction of conservative lumbering and of keeping the forest as such productive; in most cases the policy of "skinning" is still the usual one, that means culling out the merchantable material, with a very variable result as regards the condition in which the forest is left. Sometimes, as when the spruce or pine is cut out from the mixed hardwood forest, its absence may be hardly noticed by the layman, the forest cover is little interrupted, and the scattered débris sooner or
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later decomposes, but the composition is surely altered in the old timber as well as in the young aftergrowth. Where the soft woods, which are the most valuable and the most easily removed by water transportation, had occupied a larger portion of the mixed forest, or were found in pure stands, or where hardwoods are lumbered, the case is less hopeful for the future, the accumulation of débris prevents largely a reproduction of valuable species, and the succession is of inferior kinds and shrubs, especially as the valuable seed trees have been either entirely removed or greatly reduced. Sooner or later fires run through the slashing, and if repeated may destroy not only all the struggling aftergrowth, but the humus, the soil itself, and so render the land practically useless for generations.
Sometimes a fire at the right time may, however, have done good by reducing the slash, and, if seed trees were left uncut in the neighborhood, a desirable aftergrowth may have established itself, which but for a repetition of the fire would grow into desirable timber.
In late years the severity of the culling process has greatly increased, since with improved means of transportation and reduced supplies smaller sizes have become marketable; as a result the chances of a valuable aftergrowth are greatly diminished, and most of the logged areas of to-day, differing from those of twenty or thirty
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years ago, are doomed to non-productive condition for generations.
The owners of expensive permanent mill establishment, relying on timber supply, are naturally more interested in a continuity of local supplies than those who can readily change their location when the supplies in one locality are exhausted.
Hence such manufactures as the paper-pulp industry will become or are already interested in more conservative use of their holdings.
Lately, as in all commercial enterprises, a tendency has developed in the lumber industry to consolidate forest properties and form trusts, which own many thousands or even millions of acres of forest land.
Such trusts may be and probably are mostly formed for the immediate financial advantages accruing from combination, but they could, and, if they consulted their true interests, would, practise a more conservative treatment of their timber and introduce forestry methods, which would prove in the end the wisest continual financial policy.
Trusts, therefore, properly organized for continuous business, may prove next to governments the most hopeful agencies for practising forestry, since they can control large areas under uniform and continuous policy.
Another class of conservative owners of forest property is coming to the fore, namely, wealthy capitalists, who can see the financial advantages of
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the future in forest properties, and are able to hold such properties until developments surrounding them will make their conservative use under forestry methods possible.
Others, including sporting associations, are owning forest properties for other than economic purposes. These, too, are naturally conservative, and when forestry practice is established in this country, will probably learn that their pleasure need not suffer by applying such practice to their properties and deriving financial benefits from them as well.
As we have seen in previous chapters, forestry is profitable only in the long run and on large areas; it is a business which contemplates continuity for a long period, hence the more our forest resources pass into the hands of perpetual corporations and wealthy owners, the more hopeful is their fate.
For a thorough understanding and discussion of the economic aspects of our forest areas, we ought to know, not only the extent of forest cover, and the character and condition of the forest growth, but its distribution over the different soils and topographic conditions, when it may be determined what areas are naturally to be kept in forest, and what areas must by necessity be turned into farm lands; where the protective feature requires greater care in their management, or where they may be left to their fate.
It will have appeared that in speaking of the
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forest areas from the supply point of view, we keep in mind that not only the old crop, the virgin timber ready for the axe, but also the young crop, the aftergrowth of valuable kinds, should be considered as timber-producing area, and even the bare soil itself, if it is only in condition to recuperate, and to reproduce naturally valuable species in a reasonable time.
As far as mere soil cover is concerned, the valueless species and even the brush lands may suffice to furnish protection and perform the functions, at least in part, of the timber forest; yet even here, in order to make the best use of the soil in the household of a nation, it becomes necessary to eradicate the weeds and favor the useful species.
As we have intimated before, there are weeds among trees as well as among the lower vegetation. Indeed, of the 500 species of arborescent growth of which we can boast in our woods, there are hardly more than 70 which deserve the forester's attention, although we may expand the number of useful ones to 100 or more, since in the absence of some better material, even the poor Lodge-pole Pine of the West, covering thousands of square miles, the Black Jack of the barrens, and the Scrub Pines of the sandy coast become valuable, at least for firewood.
In the markets, where the finer botanical distinctions into species are neglected, it would be difficult to find as many as fifty native woods quoted.
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Some of these, which we now use simply because they can be had, since nature grew them without counting the cost or considering that a better material might have been grown with as much ease, will be discarded by the forester. They will not be grown again consciously by man's aid. Nevertheless, with all these eliminations, there remains a large number of highly valuable species for which the chances of perpetuation are to be prepared by the forester.
The most important furnishers of timber are the conifers: pines, spruces, firs, hemlocks, cedars, larch, and cypress, usually in commerce called soft woods in contradistinction to be broad-leaved trees, designated as hardwoods,1 although both groups contain both hard and soft woods.
[Note 1: 1 This distinction has received sanction in the courts.]
Our flora excels especially in a great variety of pines, those most useful trees of the temperate zone, of which we can boast at least ten timber-producing species, three softwooded white pines and seven hardwooded yellow pines, besides not less than twenty-five scrub-pines, useful to occupy the least favorable dry soils.
Of other conifers the Red and Black Spruce of the Northeast, the Bald Cypress of the South, and the Douglas or Red Fir, Redwood, and Sugar Pine of the West are the most prominent staples, the others being of minor importance.
Among the hardwoods the oaks are perhaps the
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most useful, and here again we can boast of a great variety, classified botanically and according to their wood in two groups, the white oaks and black oaks, of which not less than a dozen are large-sized timber trees, and some twenty or thirty perform similar service as the pines in covering barrens. Next in importance may be placed the ashes, two important species, the hickories with five interchangeable timber species, the maples with four marketable species, and the Tulip Tree or Whitewood, the giant tree of the East, besides Chestnut, Red Gum, Basswood, elms, birches, and the rarer Walnut and Cherry for ornamental woodwork, with a number of others.
The relative importance of these woods, and hence of the forest regions in which they
are found, may be learned from the estimated distribution of the annual cut as it appeared
in the census year 1890.1
This total annual cut, including all material requiring bolt or log size, estimated at
round 40,000 million feet B.M.,1
was approximately made up of the following kinds and quantities:--
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or altogether 30,000 million feet of coniferous material, leaving for all the hardwoods 10,000 million feet, of which the oaks furnished 3000 million feet.
[Note 11: 1 These figures are not census statistics, which are always short of the truth, but estimates based upon census data and other information, rounded off to include unenumerated amounts; they approximate relative conditions averaged for a series of years. The present actual cut must be somewhat larger than this approximation, since the Census of 1900 places the sawed product alone at 35,000 million feet B.M.]
The largest part of the cut was furnished by the Southern states and the Lake Region, each with 13,000 million feet, New England and the North Atlantic states furnishing 6000 million, the hardwood region of the Central states 5000 million, the Pacific states 4000 million, the rest, of 2000 million feet, coming from scattered localities.
Since that time the general relation of the different regions has remained the same, but the relative amounts have changed, the White Pine cut of the Lake Region has been considerably reduced owing to waning supplies, the Southern and Pacific coast cut has been increased. (For further statistics, see Appendix.)
Our principal and most important supplies, then, are found in the White Pine of the lake states and the yellow pines of the Gulf and South Atlantic states.
The Atlantic forest, as we have stated, is essentially a forest of deciduous-leaved trees, in which the conifers occur mixed of in small bodies. Only
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where the soil becomes sandy, the drainage being rapid, are to be found extensive pineries composed of these frugal species to the exclusion of the more fastidious hardwoods. In the rich loamy soils of the central agricultural states--Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri--the conifers are of less importance or mostly entirely absent, the hardwoods in greatest variety and most excellent development occupying the ground exclusively. The North Atlantic forest, north and east of this purely hardwood region, originally contained everywhere the valuable White Pine among the oaks and maples, Beech, and Basswood, to which farther north the Yellow Birch, replacing the oaks, is associated. But now the merchantable pine areas of importance are confined to the northern part of Wisconsin and Minnesota, with a remnant in Michigan, although some scattered pine, especially young growth, is found in all the other Northeastern states, and small bodies of old timber on the Alleghanies even as far south as North Carolina. Similarly, hemlock is distributed over the whole area, but the large bodies are mainly confined to western New York and Pennsylvania, soon to be exhausted, while the spruce, so much prized for paper-pulp, is found in quantities mainly in the northern New England states and the Adirondacks of northern New York.
The northern parts of this white pine region furnish also a valuable yellow pine, the so-called Red or Norway Pine, which is often included in the
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estimates of White Pine, although its quality is quite different.
So important a part does the White Pine play in our timber supply that speculations as to the amount available has occupied the mind of the lumber world for many years. The census of 1880 attempted to secure an estimate of timber standing at that time; the estimates then published indicating twenty years' supply at once showed their influence upon price for stumpage and upon standards of merchantable material.
By reduction of this standard, by increase of means of transportation, by more careful cutting, sawing, grading, and handling, and partly by new growth, the supplies have been considerably lengthened, so that in 1897 the writer, compiling later estimates,1 could still find in the three main white-pine-producing states nearly 40,000 million feet, which with a greatly reduced cut will last a few years longer, when the king of the woods will have been reduced to an inferior rank.
[Note 1: 1 See Senate Document, No. 40, 55th Congress, 1st session, 1897, "White Pine Timber Supplies."]
In the same document the supplies of all coniferous interchangeable material, standing ready for the axe in the Northern states, was estimated at a round 100,000 million feet, while the annual cut at that time was placed at round 18,000 million feet. Since then the conception of what is merchantable timber has greatly changed, small-sized
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logs and small-sized trees have become salable, the cut, at least of White Pine, has been considerably diminished, and hence supplies will last still for years to come. In addition, on the areas which in earlier years had been culled less severely, the trees that were left have put on growth sufficient to become marketable (second growth!); and occasionally also natural volunteer reproduction has come, furnishing new supplies.
Nevertheless, even if the estimates were doubled and quadrupled, the time of practical exhaustion of this resource will be upon us before recuperative measures have been fairly started.
The Southern forest, although showing greater variety and number of species, does not add many hardwood species of economic value, which are not represented in the Northern forest. But in coniferous species it furnishes invaluable supplies by a group of hardwooded yellow pines, the Bald Cypress, and to a lesser extent the Pencil Cedar or juniper.
The sandy soils in which in which the Southern states along the Atlantic and Gulf coast abound are occupied by vast pineries, in which for hundreds and thousands of square miles the hardwood species are almost absent except in the loamy hummocks and river-bottoms. The most important and valuable of these pines is the Longleaf or Georgia Pine, which predominates over the largest area in a belt paralleling the coast from North Carolina to eastern
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Texas, varying in width from 60 to 150 miles. In its southern range it is joined by the Cuban Pine, of equal or even greater value, although in the market not differentiated, and by the Loblolly Pine; in its northern range it extends into the mixed forest which covers a belt of 20 to 60 miles more, in which the Longleaf Pine is associated with Shortleaf Pine, in the market called North Carolina Pine, with Loblolly or Oldfield Pine (called Virginia Pine), and with hardwoods.
North of this belt of mixed forest the pine area is increased by the Shortleaf Pine, occasionally associated with the Loblolly, occupying the sandy soils. Although the Longleaf and Cuban pines are superior in quality, the other two have not much less value and application in the arts, being often substituted; and hence we can consider the whole pine belt as a unity, an area of about 150,000,000 acres, within which these pines do or did occur in merchantable quantities. Deducting the farm area and making allowance for hardwood areas interspersed between the pineries, the pine-producing area is probably not quite two-thirds of the area of distribution, or round 90,000,000 acres. The available supplies of standing timber were estimated by the writer seven years ago at between 200,000 and 300,000 million feet. At that time the annual cut exceeded 7,000 million feet, and as it has constantly and rapidly increased, the waning white-pine supplies stimulating the Southern lumber industry,
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it is probably safe to reduce this stand by at least 70,000 million, so that at best, less than the lower estimate is remaining to satisfy a demand of now over 10,000 million feet annually.
We must again and again accentuate that these figurings are neither mathematics nor statistics in the sense of the enumerator, but are calculations of possibilities or probabilities sufficiently close to give an insight into the general situation. By changing standards, by cutting more closely, by avoiding waste in logging and sawing, by avoiding extravagance in the use of the materials, we may lengthen the time during which these stores may last, but unless they are replaced by reproduction, they must give out within much less time than it takes to grow a log tree, for the timber which we now cut is mostly 150 to 300 years and more old, and none of these pines make suitable sawlogs in less than 60 to 120 years.
What under prevailing practices the chance for spontaneous natural reproduction and the condition of the cut-over areas are, may be learned from reading the excellent monograph on "The Southern Pines," by Dr. Charles Mohr.1 The practice of annual firing of the woods, to improve the grazing, has in most places effectually prevented renewal of the pines.
[Note 1: 1 "The Timber Pines of the Southern United States," Bulletin No. 13, Division of Forestry, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 1896.]
One of the forest industries using a by-product,
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which is derived from bleeding the Longleaf Pine, the naval store industry, producing now values to the amount of $20,000,000 per annum, has also done much to reduce supplies and reproduction. While it might have been carried on, as it is in France, without injury to timber or young growth, the crude methods employed have destroyed much timber before the saw miller was ready to use it, and much more has fallen a prey to the destructive fires which have followed the turpentine gatherer.
Besides the pines there is found in the swamps of the Southern states another valuable conifer, the Bald Cypress. The area occupied by this species is naturally small, and with an annual cut which may now be much more than 5,000,000 feet, it can be soon exhausted, and the reproduction, which is naturally less ready on lands under water for several months in the year, may be counted as nil.
Of hardwoods we have large areas throughout the entire Atlantic forest, and as our consumption is relatively small, and the hardwoods reproduce readily, their future is easily provided for. In the more settled parts of the New England and North Atlantic states and on the northern Appalachians of Pennsylvania and New York, the timber forest of hardwoods has mostly been supplanted by the coppice, producing only firewood and small dimensions, but it will be an easy task to change it back into timber forest.
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It is in the coniferous materials that we are most concerned, for they form three-fourths of our consumption, and their reproduction in competition with the hardwoods and the fires is not promising.
Some ignorant people--ignorant both as to requirements of the wood industries and as to the condition and character of our forest resources--have claimed that the natural growth of young trees, without any attention, following the operations of lumbermen, would suffice to replace that which is removed and would continue to furnish the required material.
The observant student, not to speak of the professional forester, can readily see that culling the valuable kinds and leaving the inferior tree weeds in possession of the soil almost entirely prevents in many cases reproduction of the valuable species. In other cases where the production of valuable kinds does take place, as, for instance, with the Southern pines, whenever the young growth is not killed by fires, the development is so unsatisfactory, that where with proper attention a new crop might be available in seventy to a hundred years, twice the time will be required to make clear timber of quality. In most cases recurring fires retard this natural re-growth still further or prevent it altogether.
Of the character and conditions of the Western forests we have almost more detailed information than of the Atlantic forest, thanks to the various
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government surveys and railroad-land cruisings, and the examinations of the federal forest reservations by agents of the United States Geological Survey.
These forests are all coniferous, the broad-leaved trees playing an insignificant part, although the Pacific Coast forests contain some valuable oak, ash, and maple. The Western forests are mainly confined to the mountain slopes, varying in character with latitude and altitude, i.e. with the variation in moisture and temperature conditions. We have seen that probably 50 per cent of the woodland area may be ruled out from consideration as timber producing, so that roughly only round 100,000,000 acres remain for that purpose, one-half on the Rocky Mountains, the other half on the Pacific coast. If this were all untouched, we might have found for the Rocky Mountain forest a stand of not exceeding 200,000 million and for the Pacific coast forest 1,000,000 million feet, but from these stores during our occupation of these territories at least 200,000,000 people have drawn their annual requirement of probably not less than 500 feet, and that in a wasteful manner; a large amount of material has been exported to neighboring states and across the sea, and a still larger amount has been destroyed by fire, so that, gathering indications from the reports of the Geological Survey, the amount of standing timber, according to present standards and under present methods of utilization, will probably be less than
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700,000 million feet. It must be understood, that especially on the Pacific coast, where lumbering is carried on not merely to supply local wants but for export, the most wasteful use of the timber is forced upon the lumberman by the destructive competition, the distance from market, with high freight rates, reducing the material actually marketable by 50 to 80 per cent and more below Eastern standards, the merchantable diameter limit in the Puget Sound regions being at present twenty-two inches. Even in the Blank Hills, in lumbering the pine of the forest reserve, mostly for local use, it has been estimated that 50 per cent of each tree cut for lumber is left in the woods, fully one and one-half cord for every thousand feet utilized.
Throughout the Rocky Mountain forest the hard-wooded Yellow or Bull Pine is the most important tree, often occurring in pure stands as on the plateau forest of Arizona. To this are joined the Douglas or Red Fir, becoming more prevalent and better developed toward the north, the Engelman Spruce and several other inferior spruces and firs, and occasionally a hemlock.
Toward the north, in Idaho, where the timber improves in development and the forest in density, a white pine, the Silver Pine, and a larch of prodigious dimensions, form most valuable stands, together with the Giant Cedar. Thousands of square miles are covered with the Lodge-pole Pine in pure stands almost entirely useless for timber,
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although furnishing fire wood and small dimension material. Thousands of square miles of the high elevations are occupied by the Subalpine Fir and scrubby pines of no commercial value; in addition fire has only damaged but destroyed thousands of square miles.
The following figures abstracted from the United States Geological Report cited are illustrative. In the Priest Forest Reserve, which comprises about 1000 square miles, which 850 were found timber-producing, at least 70 per cent of the timber once standing is estimated as destroyed by fires during the last thirty years, a loss in value of over $100,000,000. "Excepting a small area of about 1600 acres along the Lower West Fork, there is no body of timber of 1000 acres or even 500 acres extent not scorched by fire. In the lower zones there are over 200,000 acres on which the destruction is practically complete. In the subalpine zone at least 40,000 of the 60,000 acres have been more or less injured by fire."
In the Bitterroot Reserve, which contains over 4,000,000 acres, of 1,000,000 acres examined only 60 per cent was found wooded, half with the comparatively valueless Lodge-pole Pine, 20 per cent with inferior Red Fir, and only 30 per cent with the valuable Yellow Pine, over 20 per cent of the original stand having been destroyed by fire in the last forty years.
On the east slopes of the Cascades and Sierras
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and throughout the Interior Basin arid conditions prevail, and hence wherever forest areas occur, the trees stand open and are stunted, and generally of no commercial value. Yet the open pine forest of the Blue Mountains, of the slopes and plateau of eastern Oregon, made up of Bull Pine, furnishes al least a welcome local timber supply; and the northern part of Washington, where moisture condition improve, shows the effect in permitting an extension of the Rocky Mountain forest type of northern Idaho, with Bull Pine and Silver Pine of Commercial value accompanying the comparatively valueless Lodge-pole Pine.
The Pacific coast forest presents four types. The northern type, covering the west slope of the Cascade and the Coast ranges through Washington and Oregon, derives its value mainly from the Douglas or Red Fir, and is characterized both by density of stand and individual development and by dense undergrowth in response to the great humidity of the climate. Associated with the fir is found a hemlock of not much inferior development, but at present left unused, and the Giant Cedar. In the higher elevations some excellent true firs, Silver Pine, Engelman, and other spruces add variety, and along the seashore the Sitka Spruce and Port Orford Cedar of limited distribution, while Yellow or Bull Pine occupies the sandy flats and drier slopes. In its extension over the Coast Range of California the type changes somewhat, although
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the same species are present and the density is alike, but the Redwood, congener to the Big Tree, is added, and, in its narrow, long belt of distribution from Oregon to the Santa Cruz Mountains, replaces in importance the Douglas Fir, which seems to lose in value in its more southern range.
The extension of the Cascade forest over the Sierra Nevada shows a much greater change, although the same species continue in the composition with the same magnificent development, but the Sugar Pine, a congener of the Michigan White Pine, of Ponderous development, is added and becomes the main and most valuable timber tree, and the forest grows open, the undergrowth more scanty. Here the giant Big Trees occur the occasional groves, of historic interest more than of commercial value.
Toward the south, both on the Coast Range and on the Sierra, the value of timber growth greatly diminishes, becoming reduced in size, the stand opening more and more; finally, in the southern ranges of the San Gabriel, San Bernardino, and San Jacinto mountains, the timber of value, Yellow and Sugar Pine and Red Fir, occurs only in groves among the brush and chaparral which covers most of the dry slopes.
We have seen that the timber-producing area of this Pacific coast forest may not be estimated at more than round 60,000,000 acres, containing somewhat over 600,000 million feet of merchantable timber. Upon the basis of a compilation of
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timber cruisings of railroad companies, the United States Chief Geographer has for the states of Washington and Oregon placed the merchantable timber at less than 350,000 million feet on 38,000,000 acres, which appears to us a rather low estimate even with the high standard at present prevailing. Timber cruisings are usually from 20 to 50 per cent below the actualities.
The writer still believes that it would be perfectly safe for purposes of this general discussion to raise this estimate 20 per cent, and, applying the same stumpage for California on a timber-producing area of 18,000,000 acres, to arrive at the above figure, leaving 180,000 million feet of the amount credited to the Western states on page 52 to be found in the Rocky Mountains and scattered regions of the West.
Indeed, with a change in standards and in logging practice, and especially with a more rational utilization of all the useful timber, this estimate may readily be doubled or even trebled, as the writer had done in the Senate document cited, when comparing supplies with the consumption of the whole country.
Since the cut of lumber in the Pacific coast states does not exceed at present 5,000,000,000 feet, no immediate apprehension regarding supplies would be justified. Yet, when we find that the value of the mill-product of the three states increased according to the census from $8,000,000 in
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1880 to $30,000,000 in 1890, and to $54,000,000 in 1900, the security for the future is not as assured as the mathematical statistician figures out from the given data, especially since it is well known that forest fires keep in check useful reproduction and also consume or make useless considerable quantities of standing timber. (See note on page 336.)
Unsatisfactory as is our statistical knowledge of our forest resources, it is sufficient to arouse most serious apprehension as to future supplies. We have, in the forests of the United States outside of Alaska, a supply of coniferous material most unevenly distributed and not exceeding 1,200,000 million feet to satisfy a demand of at present 30,000 million feet per annum and constantly growing. Even if the estimates of supplies were doubled, and if fires were stopped, it must be evident to any student of the field that the reproduction, left to nature alone, cannot replace in time our requirements.
The argument for the adoption of immediate recuperative and conservative measures from the supply point of view, in which the writer for a quarter century has used his breath and pen with indifferent result, would appear well sustained.
Small beginnings toward the solution of the problems which arise from this condition of things have been made, but the importance of the forestry
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movement has by no means been fully and generally realized, as we shall see in the next chapter; the difficulty of changing existing usages, lines of procedure, and modes of thought require unusual effort and require time.
For the future, it is in the end of much more importance to know the acreage available for timber growing and the capacity of production of that acreage than the actually available supplies. These, no matter how large, every intelligent man will admit, must sooner or later be exhausted, and we must rely upon the reproduction. The present acreage must, to be sure, change until all agriculturally available lands have been turned into farms and all lands unfit for farming have been turned back into forest growth.
But if we accept as mere indications of possibilities the present acreage of timber land on the Atlantic side as 400,000,000 acres, and assume that it can be made to produce at the same rate as the German forests under good management, it would be able to supply continuously the present consumption of 25,000,000,000 cubic feet.
The most important, most immediately needful change in thought and practice, without which forestry, the provision for future supplies, cannot be practically applied, is that in regard to forest fires. Forest fires are the bane of the forests of the United States--the most destructive agency; for while, with the exception of the Western forests,
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the yearly conflagrations destroy comparatively small amounts of standing timber, they kill the young growth, the hope of the future, and destroy even the soil, the fertility, an accumulation of centuries of decaying leaf-mould.
In comparison with our figures of bona fide consumption the direct loss of material through fires would appear, from such incomplete statistics as are at hand, as a small matter, perhaps 2 to 3 per cent of the total value of forest products, but the indirect loss can hardly be overestimated; besides, the seeming impotency of copying with this destructive agency discourages more conservative forest management on the part of forest owners, who are, under the circumstances, naturally induced to shorten the risk and turn into cash as quickly as possible what is valuable in the forest growth, leaving the balance to its fate.
That, with the reckless exploitation of our virgin woods, accompanied by these forest fires, which have become notorious throughout the world, not only timber supplies have been decimated, but the protective function of the forest cover on mountain slopes has been considerably injured in many places, goes without saying.
Although it is even more difficult to adduce definite data regarding this influence, the argument of the pernicious influence of forest destruction on waterflow and loss of soil has found much more ready ears among the public.
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Indeed it is often used in the most absurd, extravagant, and unintelligent manner.
In the Eastern forest, especially the mountain forest, wholesale denudation is comparatively rare, since the lumberman usually culls merely; reproduction at least of a shrubby vegetation is most rapid, and there would be little danger of losing the protective cover through lumbering operations if the fires were kept out.
Even if a fire goes through the slash, it is not many years before a new vegetation has established itself, and only repeated fires can produce a real denudation.
The effects are, of course, variable according to a variety of circumstances and conditions, the time of occurrence of the fires, the amount of débris to feed the flames, the character of the soil and its cover, etc.
While the mountain forests on the Atlantic side show only here and there really serious detriment to soil and soil cover due to lumbering operations and fires, injudicious clearing for farm use and improper management of farm lands are much more frequently the causes of undue erosion and soil washes.
Signs of the deleterious influences of undue deforestation are visible in all parts of the Eastern United States, and a chapter could readily be filled with detailed descriptions of regions which have especially suffered.
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Sand-dunes have been created by forest removal on all parts of our sea-shore; uneven water stages have been aggravated in all the older parts of the Union; soil washes can be seen in all the mountain and hill country, especially in the Southern states, with their abandoned or mismanaged farm lands.
In the Western mountains, where fires are more destructive on account of the coniferous composition and the dry climate, and where the pasturing of sheep in the forests prevents ready reëstablishment of vegetation, the results are even more readily observed.
We are experiencing droughts, we are suffering from floods, we have uneven seasons; but how much of these conditions is to be ascribed to our forest conditions, how much to general cosmic causes, nobody can determine. At any rate these conditions can be discussed and corrected only for definite local points. We have, perhaps, nowhere as yet come to such state of affairs as those reported from the high Alps of France, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy, but a continuance of our present disregard of the soil cover must inevitably lead to them.
Meanwhile the supply question is the more important, and attention to this, leading to the practice of silviculture, will naturally also incidentally correct the evils of denudation.