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. (Continued from page 278).
What possible benefit can be derived in view of such a condition from laws that try to further the planting of woodland by free grants of the necessary land? The " Timber Culture Act," of 1873-74, gave to every one who planted forty acres with forest trees, and kept them in proper condition for the next ten years, one hundred and sixty acres of government land free of all charges. The trees might be planted at distances of twelve feet, and that alone made the law ineffective, for even the particularly favorable soil of America could not grow a forest with such distances. As early as 1876-77 this law was amended; but of what practical use could, under the most favorable circumstances, the planting of Poplars and other soft-wood trees be, when the organized spoliations by thousands of timber thieves, with subsequent burning of hundreds of square miles of the most valuable timber, were not stopped! Several of the States, notably Colorado, Connecticut, Dakotah, Kansas, Maine, Michigan and Iowa, passed local laws for the protection of forestry, with more or less the same regulations as the " Timber Culture Act," with what success the following example will suffice to show. The law in Iowa granted a partial immunity from taxation for every acre planted with forest trees.
Not quite a year later an impartial American reporter writes: " Large sums have already been paid the officers entrusted with the official survey of such land, for which the owners claim exemption from taxation, the extent of which newly planted woodland is given at 60,000 acres, representing a value of over six million dollars. No one can seriously assert these figures to be correct; still, as in all similar cases, the claims of the ring will be satisfied. It is indeed a brand on our legislation that with us almost the only effect of laws, designed to promote the public interest, is the creation in each case of an army of worthless and thoroughly incompetent officials." It has been the same in all the States which had to order a survey of the newly planted (?) woodland; hundreds of thousands of dollars have been expended for worthless officials, and already an abnegation of the pertinent laws is thought of.
Not for the purpose of offering statistics, but simply to give a picture of the vast dimensions these forest fires and devastations assume in free America, we beg to be allowed a few examples of their extent. The "Report of the Chief Signal Officer War Department," for 1872, affirms that in 1871 several thousand square miles of forests were consumed by fire in the Rocky Mountains and in the Northwestern States, a great number of lives were lost, and the damages amounted to hundreds of millions. The total amount of wood destroyed by forest fires in 1871, the same report states as exceeding ten years' regular consumption of the whole United States! Again, the "Report of the N. J. State Board of Agriculture," for 1874, states that a great number of the forest fires have been occasioned by incendiary wood-cutters and colliers, to whom the desired quantities would otherwise not have been sold. Professor Sargent, of Harvard, lecturing in 1878 on the present and future conditions of American forests, said: "Our'inexhaustible ' forests of the Sierra are rapidly disappearing.
From a single point in the Yosemite Valley, last year, I counted no less than nineteen extensive forest fires, caused more or less by carelessness of the herdsmen." In 1877, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania and Canada were heavy sufferers from forest fires, a large part of the White Mountains being in flames at one time. In New Jersey alone 30,000 acres of woodland were consumed by fire in 1879, which also destroyed all the aftergrowth on the districts burnt in 1873. That these last fires were incendiary was proved at the time. We could fill volumes with similar figures from official American reports.
It has been proposed to pay large premiums to those who extinguish forest fires before they have assumed too large an extent; but an American authority says that by such a measure the number of fires would only be increased, as it would prove a profitable business to "create " small fires and extinguish them by well organized efforts, thus pocketing the premiums. It is impossible to get a correct estimate of the wood destroyed every year by forest fires, only that much appears certain from a number of corresponding reports that more wood is consumed by fire than even by the wholesale thefts of jobbers and rings. The Osceola News, Michigan, estimates the amount of wood felled on the Au Sable and Pine River in 1878-79 at 455,000,000 cubic feet, while in 1872-73 it did not exceed 120,000,000. The Chicago Commercial List writes about the same time: "The northwestern woodcutters, supplied with the newest and most destructive tools, are preparing for the campaign against our forests; the crop of 1878-79 will surpass all previous ones, 400,000,000 cubic feet are contracted for at the Muskegan river alone.
Thus our magnificent forests are destroyed!" The total value of timber manufactured in 1878 in the United States amounted to $500,000,000; the amount stolen by the " Timber Ring, if it could be accurately ascertained, would increase this sum at least one-third. In some States, where wood is used almost exclusively as fuel, the consumption is quite considerable. Massachusetts, for one, uses $6,000,000 worth of wood annually (Emerson: Trees of Mass.), without taking any rational measures for planting and training an aftergrowth. In Maine the cutting of timber has gone even further; in many districts it has become necessary to procure the necessary wood from far off, and competent judges declare that the "Pine State," once famous for her vast forests, must, in fifteen or twenty years, be entirely bare of such. Pennsylvania, too, has suffered largely, - no more of those huge trees are to be found that once adorned the forests of the Susquehanna, Monangahela and Alleghany. The forests of the Eastern States contain hardly wood enough for their proper demand.
The woodless 'plains west of the Mississippi,are entirely dependent on the Northwestern States. The annual consumption for railroads, telegraph poles and fences is enormous.
According to the Railroad Gazette, 27,561 miles of railroad have been built in 1872-79, making a total of 86,263 miles for North America. The sleepers for the new roads and the repairs for the old ones consume annually the timber of 150,000 acres, besides which a great quantity is needed for the very large number of locomotives that fire with wood exclusively. The railroad fences have a total length of 125,000 miles, and 25,000 tons of wood are annually needed for telegraph poles. The total value of fences is given by the last official census at $1,700,000,000, the annual repairs of which amount to $198,-000,000!
(To be continued).