This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The Pertinent Laws and Regulations, and the Future of North American Forests.
Translated for the Gardener's Monthly by G. W. De B. (Concluded from page 307).
A Boston authority of the highest national repute has addressed us some very valuable reports on these questions, from which we extract the following:
"Of the twenty-six States composing the New England, the Middle the Western and Northwestern divisions, up to the Rocky Mountains only three grow more timber than their own consumption; and in these the trees, owing to the great demand, are cut down so indiscriminately that logs of 6 to 8 inches diameter are frequently found in the saw-mills. If this course is continued another decade, we'll see also these three States at the end of their timber. Still the woods are spoliated as if our welfare depended on their speedy disappearance. What is to come after mocks all description, for not a single one of our many industries can prosper without a plentiful supply of wood. There are more than enough theories and learned treatises on the influence of forests and extensive woodlands on the vegetation, climate, waters, etc., of a country; but has any one ever thought seriously of how it will be with us after the disappearance of our rich forests? Whoever took the trouble to calculate how our finances will be affected by being forced to export $500,000,000 annually, merely to supply our own market with timber? An amount which the merchant navies of the whole world could not transport, as according to the census of 1870, it is almost 13,000,000 cubic feet in excess of their united tonnage.
From the absolute indifference shown by the authorities and the greater part of the people, one might almost be justified in presuming that they believe it to be possible to exist entirely without wood, or that some day we might begin to sow timber as we do rye or wheat. But it takes a century to grow a respectable pine forest. Many, too, believe that when the United States have lost their woodland, Canada will still be able to supply us for centuries to come. From personal knowledge I can, however, assert that two or three years of supply to the United States would bring Canada to the same stress as her Republican neighbor.
"Avery near future must prove to our government that it would have been a wise measure to favor the introduction of foreign timber, instead of banishing it from our shores by high protective duties".
Already the consequences of this wholesale vandalism in the treatment of forests and woodland, that not so very long ago seemed actually inexhaustible, show themselves very clearly in the United States, as regards climate, etc. It is the same old story all over. In Spain, France, Italy and Asia Minor, as well as in the United States, a remarkably retrograde condition, notably in agricultural products, has been developed since the destruction of the wooded districts. Many Americans consider these devastations a necessary evil - somewhat like one of those ills to which all children are subject, and because so many of the European countries have passed through them, they consider it but natural that the United States should go through the same experience. They forget, however that at the time when the wholesale devastations of European forests occurred, but few individuals were cognizant of the evils they would cause; to-day all the world knows them, in America no less than in Europe. The Americans are under no obligations to buy an experience which they already have.
A report sent us by an undoubted authority on the subject of American forestry, proves that since 125 years the necessary moisture of the soil in North America has decreased seven per cent, every quarter century in consequence of the wanton destruction of woodlands, and that a further continuance of these must most seriously affect the climate of the whole continent, to the great detriment of health as well as of the fertility of the soil. That the picture is not overdrawn we can easily prove from the decline of horticultural products. From many States, in which but comparatively few years since peaches were grown on free land, this luscious fruit has entirely disappeared, and many other garden products with it. According to the " Report upon Forestry" Southern Indiana until shortly had a regular peach crop, while now it is the rule for such crops to fail - almost the same is the case with regard to the far more hardy apples and other fruits. Light frosts in May and June are no longer a rarity; the wheat harvest was in many places entirely killed by frost; in others from 20 to 40 per cent, were lost.
In many States, in which at the commencement of the present century spring used to happen in February, it is now delayed until end of April, and the growing of wheat has become altogether problematical! An official report from Illinois, (July, 1879,) on the harvest prospects, climate, etc., says that the crops had suffered greatly from the want of rains in spring and the continuing cold winds; and the cause of both is referred to the indiscriminate destruction of woodland.
As a further consequence of cutting down the forests must be mentioned the increase of [ ground squirrels and locusts. The latter that used to nourish on the woodless prairie lands, ] have extended their devastations to where the forests have been cut down or destroyed by fires; the farmer that formerly lived in the woods alone, migrates to where these have disappeared into fields and gardens - the damage to grains and fruits reach almost an incredible amount, as the plentiful and good food makes this destructive vermin multiply unusually quick.
In Southern California the ground squirrel has become a veritable plague; in the Northern dis-tricts it is less numerous. An interesting forest in Northern California, that has its equal no-where on earth, may be mentioned here as its preservation is of the greatest significance, not alone to California, but for a large part of Westem America. "Sequoia sempervirens ," belonging to the same family as the well-known California giant trees, the "Sequoia gigantea or Wellingtonia," reaches similar dimensions and, contrary to these, is still found in numerous and compact forests, which begin in Northern California in the Humboldt district and stretch Southward to Sonoma, only occasionally broken by other formations, for ft length of some 150 miles, by an average breadth of five to eight miles. A. rich soil, that is regularly inundated every spring, lets these trees reach a height of 150 feet or more, and single trees have been known to give 60,000 feet of timber, at a value of over $1000.
In the " Proceedings of the California Academy of Natural Sciences " we read, " The Sequoia sempervirens " is one of the very few coniferous species that shoot forth from the root, and so rapidly that they soon cover the whole soil, suppressing every other growth. After the trunk has grown to a diameter of two to three feet, it resists fire, and it is a common occurrence to see trees, whose branches have been entirely destroyed by fire, covered all over with young shoots as with ivy. These woods have the most beneficial influence upon the neighboring regions, as they condense the moisture of the atmosphere, which then falls either as light rain or as one of those heavy fogs which the farmers value as particularly fruitful. But here two narrow guage railroads are being built, the quicker to transport the immense quantities of timber to the saw mills. Dr. Bolander, in a treatise written for the " California Academy of Sciences," says, " It is my firm conviction that the disappearance of the Sequoia forests - and they will very speedily cease to exist if the government does not protect them by very stringent laws, which are rigidly enforced - will make California a barren desert in every sense of the word.
On these forests depends the future weal and woe of our State. They alone are our safeguard. Wise laws have in Europe newly planted devastated regions, and in the course of two or three generations new forests have grown under judicious care; but no government, nor no human care and power could recall to life these Sequoia forests of California if once destroyed".
Thus much of the forests and forestry in the United States; in conclusion we beg to say a few Words in reference to the same in British North American possessions. .From an official report on "Colonial Timber " to the British Parliament we gather that in none of the six provinces into which the Dominion of Canada is divided, laws have been passed for the regulation of replanting and growing the cut-down sections of woodland; and only in the Province of Quebec two ordinances have been passed in relation to unauthorized cutting of timbers and forest fires, both, however, remain entirely ineffec-tive. In Nova Scotia all trees are cut with-out reference to size, and the forest fires aiding, another generation will no longer see the mighty forests of yore. In New Brunswick extensive forests are still found, but Weymouth Pines of more than a few inches diameter are rarely found, and the Hemlock Fir is almost extinct. As early as 1697 the governors of, at that time, French Quebec were urged to pass some law for the protection of timber lands, since then the devastations have continued for nearly two centuries, nor has the law of 1874, forbidding that from May 15th to Oct. 15th fires be lit nearer than half a mile distance from any woods, brought about any change.
A law (Dominion Act of 35 Victoria Cap 23, Section 51) for the protection of forests contains somewhat stringent regulations as to the cutting of timber on government lands, and entirely forbids the felling of pine trees which measure less than twelve inches diameter above the root; but it has never been enforced ! The report for 1877 of the "Council of Agriculture" to the Minister says, that even more timber was destroyed by fires than was cut down.
In Ontario some species of trees, notably the Weymouth pine, [arbor vitas and birch tree, have already become so scarce that they hardly count as an article of commerce. On Prince Edward's Island the oak, the elm and the ash have almost entirely succumbed to the indiscriminate cutting down and forest fires. Really magnificent forests are still found in British Columbia, consisting chiefly of Abies Douglasiit Pinus Stro-bus, Pinus ponderosa, Abies canadensis and Abies Menziesii. To the local authorities these forests seem inexhaustible, and they would indeed be so under wisely protective regulations, but, says the Report to the British Parliament, it is to be feared that in consequence of the demand from those provinces where the timber has begun to decrease, if it have not entirely disappeared, the consequence of a total want of national legislation will in a very near future be felt here too. The occurrence of forest fires is a frequent one, and these are the more dangerous as most of the trees are extremely resiniferous.
What then are the conclusions to be drawn from the above remarks for the future of North American Forestry.
We have seen how all authority is wanting to enforce even the simplest regulations on forestry. The only man in America who ever understood to carry out his absolute will in this, as every other respect was Brigham Young, who in this one matter has our decided sympathy. The communistic theory that the "forests are the property of every single American," and.that he has a perfect right to cut down as much timber as he needs, is so widespread; the corruption in official circles, an unavoidable consequence of perpetual rotation in office, is so general; the necessity in which both parties find themselves of not offending the mass of voters, is so great, that we can hardly call unjustified the assertions of competent and patriotic American authorities as to the impossibility of enforcing any protective laws on forestry. In view of such conditions we can neither hope for any beneficial results from the "Commission to inquire into the European Laws on Forestry," asked for by Mr. Secretary Schurz in his annual report to the President; nor expect Professor Sargent, of Harvard, to achieve much by the three years' survey of American forests, with which he has lately been entrusted.
A more competent man, or a better authority on all incidental questions, could not be found; but of what use can laws be if there exist no authority to enforce them? It is to be feared that, unless affairs take some entirely unexpected turn, the words of the " Report of the Secretary of the Interior " for 1877 will come true; that "in twenty years, at the most, the United States will no longer be able to fill the demands for home consumption for their own forests," and that they will have to import at an enormous outlay what they might have had at, a trifling expense! What the consequences will be in other respects, we have already foreshadowed, it is impossible to overrate their importance.