Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

visitors to the Adirondacks, was smothered in the Ways and Means Committee through the opposition of the Chairman, who was also the majority leader in the Assembly, who is financially interested in water-storage, and who was evidently determined that no legislation beneficial to the Adirondacks should be passed until the private interests which he represented had secured what they wanted in the way of permission to build storage reservoirs on State lands. For this reason, then, forest conservation by road building is at a standstill. 5—Replanting of Denuded Areas. Constructive forest conservation, that is to say, the building up of new forests to take the place of those removed, has made some progress in New York, but not so rapid as could be wished. The fault has not been that of the Forest, Fish and Game Department, but of the Legislature which has not furnished the means for the liberal prosecution of this work. The State has good nurseries and expert help, but lacks means to prosecute this branch of its work in the manner which its importance warrants. Fortunately, private owners are taking up the subject of replanting effectively. The International Paper Company, for instance, has adopted the policy of tree-planting to renew its crops, and has a large nursery at Randolph, Vermont, from which it is distributing young plants to different sections of the country, including the Adirondacks, where it owns and controls lands. Within the limits of the Adirondack Park there are about 120,000 acres of State land which should be replanted, and in the Catskill Park about 30,000 acres. As to the cost of replanting: last year the Forest, Fish and Game Commission sold about 1,000,000 trees to 180 private parties for reforesting, and a careful analysis and average of their reports by the Forest, Fish and Game Commissioner indicate that reforesting cost these parties, including cost of stock, expressage, and labor, $8.50 an acre. We are informed that the State could reforest to advantage from 2,000 to 2,500 acres a year, and could supply material for planting at least 30,000 acres a year on private land. The importance of conservation by reforestation becomes apparent when one takes into consideration the relative rates of forest removal and forest reproduction. In the United States at large, we take from our forests each year, not counting the loss by fire, three times their yearly growth. We take 36 cubic feet per acre for each 12 cubic feet grown. We take 230 cubic feet per capita, while Germany uses 37 cubic feet and France 25 cubic feet. In the State of New York we are cutting away our trees five times as fast as they grow, and at the present rate of denudation, the State will be rendered practically barren of forest growth— except in the Forest Preserve—within 20 years, unless there is a decided change in the proportion between tree-cutting and tree-planting. 6—Tree Destruction by Flooding. A source of tree destruction of no inconsiderable extent in the Adirondacks in years gone by has been flooding by lumbermen's dams. The seriousness of this phase of the forest question has been greater than the area of destruction might indicate, for the reason that, in addition to the loss of the trees killed, unsightly and unhealthy conditions have been produced which have robbed certain regions of important elements of value. Prior to the adoption of the Constitutional Amendment of 1894, which prohibited the removal or destruction of timber upon the lands of the Forest Preserve, it had been the practice for nearly fifty years to build dams in the Adirondack region either for the purpose of driving logs or in connection with canal feeders. Those were days of prodigality, when the great North Woods stood in almost their pristine condition, and when the lumbermen, in the presence of thousands of square miles of luxuriant forests, thought nothing of killing thousands of trees by drowning. Almost every dam, therefore, that was built in the woods, set back the water upon forest land and killed trees. A dam built at Forestport in 1848 and subsequently enlarged killed so many trees that the State had to appropriate thousands of dollars simply to remove the dead trunks. About 1879 the State built a dam at Old Forge on Moose river, which is the outlet of the famous Fulton Chain of lakes, and subsequently built a dam at the outlet of the Sixth lake of the chain. These dams raised the water in the various lakes from one to six feet, blighting the adjacent timber and producing a scene of desolation the vestiges of which are still evident after a lapse of thirty years. In 1886 and 1887 the State built a dam on Beaver river at Stillwater, raising the water 9 feet. Great areas of timber land for a distance of 20 miles were flooded and the trees killed. The whole basin became filled with a tangle of drift-wood; great swamps were created beyond the flow line, springs were covered up and polluted, and the region rendered so unhealthy that land became unsalable. Lovely lakes and ponds were submerged, and favorite camp-sites obliterated ; feeding grounds for game were destroyed; and hunting in that vicinity was ruined. The magnitude of the damage may be judged from the fact that one of the adjacent property owners, Mr Wm. Seward Webb, sued the State for $184,350 damages. The claim was settled by the State buying from the claimant 75,377 acres, including the damaged area, for $600,000. In 1865 the building of a dam was authorized on Oswegatchie river at the mouth of Cranberry lake; this dam created a reservoir of 13 square miles flooding thousands of acres of land, destroying large quantities of timber, and creating unsightly and unsanitary conditions. About 1882 a dam was built on Raquette river below the Tupper lake outlet, with the result that soon the region between Big Tupper and Little Tupper lakes looked as if some terrible blight had fallen upon it. The scene in 1893 is thus described in the Forest Commission's report: The serious and extensive damage caused by the dam arrests the eye, presenting one of the saddest and most desolate pictures of destruction ever witnessed. No forest fire or devastating cyclone or ruthless axe of the charcoal burner ever wrought such ruin or left such a blasted scene as this. For ten miles the lands along the Raquette river are covered with the white and ghastly skeletons of the noble trees which once made this spot a sylvan paradise. The bare trunks, bleached by the sun and storm, the gnarled roots and gray, scrawny limbs thrust sharply forth, recall to mind one of Dore's pictures in the “Inferno.” The traveler gazes on it all with amazement, and then gives vent to the strongest words that a righteous indignation can supply. And this was once one of the most beautiful rivers in all the wilderness. Illustrations of this sort could be multiplied to show the spirit of indifference to tree destruction in the past, and conditions which are now forbidden to be repeated upon State land. The Constitutional Amendment adopted in 1894, prohibiting the destruction of trees in the Forest Preserve. was aimed at this evil among others, and has been one of the most valuable instruments in this State for forest conservation.

Water Conservation

The subject of water conservation in the State of New York presents five different aspects: 1—The development of hydraulic or electric power, 2—The improvement of commercial waterways, 3–Flood prevention, 4–Sanitation, 5–Domestic use. As might be expected in the largest manufacturing State in the Union, there is in New York a very general appreciation of the importance of water storage for the development of power for industrial use; therefore, of the different phases of the water-storage question now pressed upon public notice, that one probably commands the most attention at the present time.

I-Power Development. The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks is chiefly concerned with this question as it bears on the Adirondacks; but owing to the fact that waters originating in part in the Adirondacks flow in many cases to great distances beyond that region, it is impossible to treat the subject as one of purely localized interest. . The question naturally arises, What proportion of importance is there between the question of water storage in the Adirondacks and water storage in the State at large? . On the face of things, the proportion seems small. The water-sheds of the whole State aggregate 30,476,800 acres, while the State lands within the Adirondack Preserve with which we are chiefly concerned comprise only 1,530,559 acres, or less than 5 percent. A comparison of possible water-power developments shows a similar disproportion. The Fourth Annual Report of the State Water Supply Commission says that “With the complete utilization of all storage possibilities an eventual development amounting to not less than 1,500,000 horsepower, exclusive of Niagara and Saint Lawrence rivers, is possible for the entire State."... If, to this estimate be added the existing 200,000 horsepower development at Niagara Falls, 100,000 horsepower as the resource of the lower Niagara, and 400,000 horsepower for the Saint Lawrence, an eventual total of 2,200,000 horsepower for the whole State does not seem to be beyond the range of possibility. From figures derived from the various sources it would appear that about 7% percent of this development would require encroachment upon State land in the Adirondack Park, which is now forbidden by the Constitution. When it is considered that attention has been concentrated for several years on the resources of the principal Adirondack streams, while the possibilities of the rivers outside of the Adirondacks have not yet been completely explored, there is much reason to believe that were the census of the hydro-slic resources of the State complete it would be found that the ratio of the power possibilities of State Forest lands to the power possibilities f time whole State is about the same as the ratio of the respective water-sheds, or about 5 percent. There are two or three reasons, however, why the question of water storage in the Adirondacks assumes an importance quite out of proportion to this ratio. One is the acknowledged fact that the majority leader of the larger house of the State Legislature is personally interested in water-power developed from Adirondack waters, and desires to have the Constitution amended so that State lands may be flooded for the benefit of his own as well as other private corporations. This powerful member of the Legislature has the sympathetic support of the Speaker of the Assembly, who stands sponsor for a power corporation on Genesee river, on the banks of which the Speaker lives. With the water-power interests thus strongly represented in the Legislature, and with some of them casting covetous eyes on State land from which they are restrained only by the Constitution, it is not surprising, perhaps, that in the public agitation of the water-storage question such statements should be made as that “the most important single obstacle to the carrying out by the State of this conservation policy” is “the necessity of amending the Constitution” so as to permit the flooding of State land. Now the attitude of this Association—and this may be of interest to other States where the same question may arise—is as follows: At the outset, the Association opposed amending the Constitution for the purpose of permitting the flooding of State lands on two grounds; first, on account of the disastrous consequences to the forests which have invariably followed the construction of reservoirs in the past, and second, because it involved the principle of using public lands for private purposes without any guarantee of proportionate returns to the people whose domain was thus used. For several years the Association, with the unquestionable support of public opinion, maintained that position for the reason that there appeared to be no safe way of compromise. During the past year, however, as the result of painstaking study of the problem by the New York Board of Trade and Transportation and our Association, a plan of legislation was evolved which it is believed may safely be adopted, and which, while conserving the public interests in the Adirondacks, will permit a reasonable use of State land for the purpose desired by the water storage people. The first problem encountered in working out this plan was presented by the fact that if the Constitution were amended generally so as to permit the flooding of State land, nobody could foretell to what extent or in what manner the lands might be flooded. It was therefore decided to prepare a law which should prescribe all the limitations and regulations in advance, and which should contain a provision that it should not become effective until validated by a constitutional amendment. Then, after this law had been enacted, it was proposed to adopt an amendment to the Constitution referring to the law specifically by chapter number and year, and permitting what was provided therein and nothing more. In pursuance of this plan, such a bill was drafted and introduced in the Legislature at its session which closed in May, 1910. It provided that storage reservoirs might be built upon State lands in certain specified water-sheds at certain specified points; that the flow-lines should be accurately surveyed and permanently monumented; that the total area of State land flooded should not exceed certain stated amounts— approximately 3 percent of the total area of the Forest Preserve; that all trees, stumps, and other organic material should be removed from within the flow-line; and certain other conditions designed to protect the public interests in the construction, maintenance and use of the reservoirs and the water-power developed there from. The law was not to become effective until validated by an amendment to the Constitution, and the constitutional amendment was to consist simply of an addition to the present section 7 of Article VII to the effect that “The provisions of his section may be modified as provided in chapter of the laws of 1910, but in no other respect whatever.” By this plan it was believed that the safeguards would be erected in advance, and in voting for a constitutional amendment our citizens would know exactly what they were voting for. The bill, however, was defeated through the influence of the majority leader of the Assembly, and instead a concurrent resolution to amend the Constitution, proposed by him, passed the first of three requisite stages of adoption. The provisions of this amendment and the utterances of its author clearly reveal the attitude of the water-power interests represented by him, and present an issue of importance to every State in which the question of Conservation under State auspices may arise. This issue, in brief, is whether, after the State has granted the use of land already belonging to the people and has acquired additional land in the exercise of its power of eminent domain ; after it has furnished the capital for building storage reservoirs and for managing them when built, the profits shall accrue only to the private individuals or corporations benefited thereby, or whether the State itself shall derive a reasonable revenue from its lands and reservoirs for the relief of taxation, or for public improvements, to the consequent benefit of all the people? The Constitutional Amendment proposed by the water-power interests in the last Legislature provides only that the actual cost of the water storage shall be paid by the private beneficiaries, leaving to them all of the profits and advantages; and the author of the amendment publicly declared himself as opposed to the periodical regulation of charges for the use of water thus conserved, or to paying anything more than the bare cost of construction and administration. On the other hand, the proposition of this Association left the question of State revenue open for future legislation without any inflexible constitutional provision one way or the other. There the matter rests at the present moment. The issue remains to be fought out in the future, possibly in the Legislature of 1911, possibly at the polls the following November, and possibly later. At present the signs of the times are not encouraging to the belief that private interests will be given such valuable o without some reasonable return to the people from whom they are erived. 2—Improvement of Waterways. Water conservation for the improvement of commercial waterways has little connection with the Adirondacks. The principal waterway improvement now in progress in New York State is the enlargement of Erie Canal at a cost of $101,000,000. Very little of the water for the canal comes from the Adirondacks, and the construction of reservoirs on State forest land is not required to augment the supply. 3—Flood Prevention. The three principal streams within the borders of New York—the Genesee, Mohawk, and Hudson—are subject at times to disastrous floods. These are in no small part the result of human folly. In the first place, the indiscriminate denudation of forests of the greater part of the State has removed one of the most valuable natural regulators; and it is the universal complaint that such denudation has resulted in the spasmodic flow of streams which are dry or low at one season and raging torrents at another. In other cases, as for instance at Rochester, on the Genesee, the river has been obstructed by bridge piers unscientifically placed, which obstruct the flow of water and cause great damage. The Hudson, from the confluence of the Mohawk to Albany, is also subject to floods, and as the headwaters of the Hudson rise in the Adirondacks it has been argued by those who desire to have storage reservoirs for power purposes in Adirondack Park that the Constitution should be amended so as to permit the building of reservoirs in the Adirondacks to control the floods of the Hudson. As a matter of fact, the statistics furnished by competent engineers show that 75 percent of the floods at Troy and Albany are due to waters which do not originate in the Adirondacks, but can be controlled along the Mohawk; and that of the remaining 25 percent over half (say 15 percent) are due to water originating along the Hudson and its tributaries outside of Adirondack Park. So far, then, as flood control is concerned, it has little bearing on Conservation in the Adirondacks. 4—Sanitation. Except as a subterfuge, there is practically no connection between the subject of water conservation in the Adirondacks and sanitation. The Hudson is so polluted from Troy southward with sewage that the fish have been almost exterminated, and the industry of fishing on the Hudson which thrived within the memory of living men has almost disappeared. Sanitation of the Hudson from the head of navigation southward cannot be effected by storage reservoirs in the Adirondacks. The only prominence which the question of sanitation ever had in connection with water conservation in the Adirondacks was from five to ten years ago when persons who desired to build storage reservoirs on State lands, for the purpose of driving logs or developing power, used the plea of “public health and safety” in petitions presented to the River Improvement Commission to disguise their real purpose. 5–Domestic Use. There are those who think that in time the Adirondacks may be drawn upon for municipal water supplies for cities in the Hudson valley. The extent to which New York City has reached out for her water supply during the past 70 years would seem to lend color to such prophecies. In 1842 New York City introduced a water supply from the Croton Reservoir 40 miles distant: at the present time it is building a great reservoir in the Catskill Mountains 90 miles distant. Many people believe that eventually New York will be forced to go to the Adirondacks 200 miles away for a pure water supply, and that the resources of the Adirondacks should be preserved against that need and should not now be parted with for private use when there is the possibility that in the future they will be required for all the multifarious uses of human existence in the great metropolis. Water conservation in the Adirondacks for municipal use, therefore. is important chiefly with reference to the future.

Scientific Forestry on State Lands

As persons unfamiliar with the history of the Forest Preserve in New York may wonder why the State does not utilize commercially the timber growing on State lands, it may not be inappropriate to conclude this report with a brief explanation of the reasons for the iron-clad restriction placed by the Constitution on the removal of State timber. The reason for this restriction is two-fold: First, it is not apparent that there are enough trained foresters yet available or that the problem of the conservative handling of State forest lands for commercial purposes is yet sufficiently understood to warrant the State in undertaking scientific forestry: and second, the citizens of the State are not confident that if the o of timber were permitted, the people at large would derive any benefit rom it. 1—Lack of Practical Men. At a public meeting held in the American Museum of Natural History in New York under the auspices of this Association on April 25, 1907, Professor Henry S. Graves, then Director of the School of Forestry at Yale University and now Chief Forester of the United States, speaking on the subject of scientific forestry on the State lands in New York, said: “lt would be exceedingly difficult at the present time to secure trained men with adequate experience to carry out a plan of successful forestry.” That situation with respect to the dearth of practical foresters still exists and promises to continue until relieved either by the more general teaching of forestry in colleges and schools or by a more general training in the field, or both. Another drawback is the lack of systematic study and knowledge of our Forest Preserve. With the exception of Township 40 and adjacent territory, and possibly a few other tracts, little has been done in the direction of examining the land to determine its value, the amount and character of timber, the growth of trees, and the local conditions which are factors in the profitable management of the forests; nor has anything yet been done toward preparing a comprehensive plan for the whole Preserve. A concrete illustration of the impracticability of scientific forestry under existing conditions is afforded by the experimental forest in Franklin County established under an act of 1898. The hopes entertained in regard to this experiment were well set forth in the message of Governor Black to the Legislature on January 5, 1898. The Governor pictured in graphic terms the desirability of enlarging the Forest Preserve as a health resort and a conserver of the northern New York water-sheds, and referred to the rapid inroads made upon the forests by commercial lumbering, and to the protection which the Constitution extended to State lands. He argued that, properly managed, the State forests might be made productive of a substantial revenue; but, he said, “The Constitution should not be amended until the people have learned prudence instead of waste, and have equipped themselves with knowledge and experience adequate to the care of this great domain. Our conditions here are not like those in Germany and France, but in what respects they differ, few can tell.” Then, with a view to the acquisition of this necessary knowledge and experience, he recommended the following plan: There are students here who have made a careful study of the forests, their capacities and their needs. The number of these gentlemen I understand to be increasing, for through the labors of several of our citizens of great generosity and public spirit, the subject has been studied and discussed, and upon the general ignorance relating to this question there is beginning to be some light. The knowledge necessary to the proper treatment of the woods must come largely through experiment. It cannot be had unless the means of acquiring it are provided. I believe the means can be secured best through the purchase by the State of a tract of ground covered with those trees which are to be the subject of experiment. Such a tract the State could set apart and gain from it the knowledge which will enable it by and by to deal with the millions of acres it has already and will in the meantime acquire. The time will come when the State will sell timber to the lumbermen, spruce to the pulp mills, reap a large revenue for itself and still retain the woods, open to the public, protecting the sources of water, growing and yielding under intelligent cultivation. The management of this experiment should not be subject to the vicissitudes of politics. It should be placed in charge of the Regents, or of the Trustees of Cornell University, or of some similar body not subject to political change. The State should pay such reasonable sum as may be needed to administer the plan. Reports should be made to the Governor and the Legislature annually of progress and results. The income from the tract so acquired should be paid to the State and the land itself should become the absolute property of the State, and a part of the Forest Preserve at the expiration of a period named. I believe such a plan would be soon, if not at once, self-sustaining, for the trees now ready to be cut would produce immediate revenue, and such revenue would be repeated at short intervals. The benefits could be hardly overstated, and in this direction, as in many others, the wisdom of New York entering upon a comparatively new and untried field would be finally approved. Following Governor Black's recommendation, the Legislature of 1898 enacted a law pursuant to which 30,000 acres of forest land in Townships 23 and 26 in Franklin County were purchased for $165,000 and conveyed to Cornell University for the purposes of a “New York State College of Forestry;” and in the years 1898 to 1902 sums aggregating $110,000 more were annronriated for salaries of the

« AnteriorContinuar »