This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Perhaps, one of these days, the course the Gardener's Monthly has taken on the forestry question will be appreciated. It has steadily opposed the whimsical speculations of persons utterly unacquainted with the natural laws bearing on forestry, and whose closet studies given to the public are worth little more than dreams. This class has had its say for the past one hundred years or more; still our lumber supply is disappearing, and the awful forest fires annually occur. What is the use of theories of trees and climate if no more planting follow? The question must be argued as one of dollars and cents if the slightest good at all from the agitation is to come.
It may do good in view of the recent calamities to go over again what we have said before:
The idea that it takes centuries to raise a forest is derived from European forest literature. An American forest under proper management need not take fifty years, and would be productive in half the time.
A natural forest of American timber is at its best in less than one hundred years. It is no great loss to cut away an old forest, as after one hundred years the trees are on the downward track.
The planting of new forests is of far more consequence than the preservation of old ones.
It is good economy to cut away forests in inaccessible places, clear the land, build up towns, and encourage human industry, and new plantings should be encouraged in locations where mankind can get at the lumber and make good use of it.
The greatest foe to forest planting in America is forest fires. Forest fires are virulent only where there is a mass of undergrowth, collecting enormous masses of dry leaves and dead branches, which feed the flame when a fire is once started. The owners of all forests with underbrush beneath the forest trees should be rendered liable for all damages from forest fires to other people.
Most forest fires come from sparks from railroad locomotives. Even if it be not thought expedient to insist on the utter absence of underbrush from large forests, the railroad companies should be compelled to clear all sides of their tracks for at least 150 feet in each direction of trees, weeds, grass or other material that might start a forest fire.
Green trees or green vegetation will not take fire easily, and there is no more reason why acres of dry brush should be allowed to lie about loose than that gunpowder should be scattered along the highway.
The States or the United States should each or all have bureaus of forestry, the duty of which should be to collect statistics of forest trees and forest culture adapted to their respective regions, and circulate the same freely among the citizens that they may see clearly what profit there is in forest culture, if at all, and if there cannot be shown enough profit within a reasonable time to induce the investment of capital, some " protective laws " of sufficient encouragement should be enacted.
These are about the main points which we have presented from time to time. Most of the timber laws so far enacted have been childish, even when not a waste of public money and an outrage on taxpayers. The setting out of half a dozen trees along the roadside is of no earthly consequence, nor even the planting of ten or twelve acres here and there. It is the earnest efforts of a hundred or more acres that should have the judicious protection of the law.