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PART VI. A STUDY OF OUR FORESTS.
FROM ABUNDANCE TO NEED.
When the white man first made his home in America, thick forests hundreds and hundreds of square miles in extent covered the eastern part of the United States, the Rocky Mountains, and the Pacific coast region. Evergreens-pines, hemlocks, cedars, holly, and spruce-grew near the coast in abundance, while farther inland were the most magnificent hardwood forests in the world. At first the forests were a hindrance to progress, because the trees had to be cut down before houses could be built, land cultivated, or roads laid out. Therefore, the early settlers took no care of the trees whatever, and either burned them or caused them to decay.
Conditions have changed slowly. The country has filled with people, towns have sprung up, and railroads have been built. As population has increased, the vast forests of former times have gradually disappeared, and large wooded areas remain only in inaccessible regions. It is becoming more and more difficult to procure lumber for building, and the need of forests to regulate the flow of water and to prevent floods is constantly more apparent. The change from abundance to need has come so gradually that few persons, even those living where the forests formerly were, have realized until within the past few years how fast the forests are going.
The wholesale destruction without replanting has come mostly from ignorance and greed. Many large lumber companies cause wholesale and reckless destruction by cutting small trees that should stand, and by breaking down young trees. Forest fires, caused by carelessness, sweep away not only vast numbers of trees, but destroy likewise houses and crops and even human lives. It is estimated that the loss by fire is as great as the entire amount cut for use in the entire United States; about 50,000,000 acres of woodland are burned over yearly. Notwithstanding the fact that building materials of all kinds are constantly growing scarcer and more costly, more than enough timber to supply our needs is burned every year. The next great loss to the forests is from insects that bore into the trees and destroy them.
Notwithstanding the destruction that has been going on at a rapid rate, we still have large areas of the most valuable forests in
the world, and by careful preservation we have enough to meet the needs of our growing population. But if the destruction continues at the present rate, even this generation may feel deeply the result of the waste.
THE VALUE OF OUR FORESTS.
Few people ever think of a forest as a place to store water. Who would think that “the woods” hold water as well as a mill pond or a reservoir! But they do, although we can not see the water they hold except, perhaps, as a pool here and there; and that is one of the most important functions that a forest can perform.
All of us have noticed in walking through the woods how soft and springy the ground is. A thick carpet of leaves, twigs, and decayed wood covers the earth, sometimes to a depth of several feet. It is very porous, and it absorbs water like a sponge. When storms come and rain falls in torrents, it does not beat directly upon the ground under the trees because the raindrops first strike the leaves and branches above. The water then trickles gently down and soaks into the leafy carpet. If the forest is extensive a very large quantity of water is absorbed—enough to prevent floods except in extraordinarily long periods of rain. Gradually through the weeks and months that follow the absorbed water oozes out of low places as "springs," and it dashes merrily away in little brooks that combine to form creeks and rivers, which flow peacefully and steadily to the sea.
If there are no trees, no leaves to break the beating of the rain, and no spongy mold to hold the water when it falls, no matted roots to prevent washing, the big raindrops spatter upon the earth and quickly form rushing streams that wash the ground into gulleys. The bare earth absorbs some water to be sure, but far less than the humus of the forest. If the rains are continued the rivers are soon filled beyond the capacity of their banks and they spread over the neighboring valleys, carrying devastation with them. After the heavy rains cease, the flood waters subside as suddenly as they had arisen and the streams dwindle to insignificance, sometimes completely drying up in a long, hot summer.
Thus it is that forests act as great reservoirs and aid in preventing disastrous floods and in maintaining the flow of streams at a rate that is nearly uniform all the year round.
Now let us see what use is made of the trees. The greatest of all is for firewood; but this is largely the decaying or faulty trees from the farmer's woodlot, the waste product of a lumber region, or from
land that is cleared for cultivation. It is said that about 100,000,000 cords are used annually.
The greater part of the salable timber, however, is sawed into lumber, which is used in a variety of ways. The first and greatest use of lumber is for building houses, barns, sheds, outbuildings, and fences.
Next comes furniture of all kinds-chairs, tables, beds, and all other house, office, and school furniture; musical instruments; vehicles of all kinds—wagons, carriages, buggies, and parts of automobiles; agricultural implements—plows, harrows, harvesters, thrashing machines, and other farm implements.
Car building is another great use for lumber—freight cars, passenger cars, and trolley cars. Other important uses for timber are for crossties, poles for telegraph and telephone lines, and “shoring” or supports in mines. Even more trees are used in the manufacture of paper than for these purposes. Then there are various small articles used in the home, such as spools, butter dishes, fruit crates, baskets, boxes, all kinds of tools, toys, picture frames, matches, pencils, clothes pins, toothpicks, etc. These are little things, but so many of them are used that they consume a great deal of wood. Next we derive tannic acid for tanning leather, turpentine and rosin, maple sugar, and many extracts used in making medicines.
So valuable are the forests that the whole Nation is interested in preserving them. No one is benefited more by them than the farmer, and no one should be more interested in them.
PRESERVE THE BEAUTY OF THE LANDSCAPE. In protecting our forests we preserve one of the finest features of America's scenery. Trees give beauty, variety, and tone to every natural picture that our eye rests upon. A shady road, a long, green hillside, quiet woodlands in glorious autumn coloring, orchards laden with ripening fruit! Compare that picture with a country where the hillsides are worn into gullies, where rocks are seen everywhere cropping above the barren soil, where crops are scanty and vegetation stunted. What a difference! Who can enjoy an arið, treeless view, which conveys a feeling of sadness and desolation ? But who can resist the fascination of a beautiful woodland scene, and who can look upon it without a sensation of cheerfulness and satisfaction? How good for the soul it is to rest the eye on a smiling landscape!
There has been a great movement toward beautifying cities and villages in the past few years. Streets are cleaner, sidewalks are
better, more shade trees are planted, and more attention is given to beautifying private grounds. The adornment of front yards and porches with vines and flowers is increasing every year. Many causes have been at work to produce this result: The broadening influence of travel, which brings people in touch with what is done in other places to promote beauty; the work of schools; newspaper and magazine articles; and women's clubs everywhere.
In many places, flower and vegetable seeds are distributed free, or at a nominal cost, to the school children; prizes are offered for the best garden, the largest vegetables, the most attractive back yard, the best arranged flower bed, and other efforts of similar nature.
A country where beauty meets the eye at every turn invites the tourist and the homeseeker, is deeply loved by its people, and is an inspiration to poetry and art. It rests largely with us to decide whether our own land shall be such an ideal place.
-From Gregory's “ The Checking of the Waste.”
HOW TO PLANT A TREE.
The Department of Agriculture at Washington gives the following suggestions for planting trees:
The proper season for planting is not everywhere the same. When the planting is done in the spring, the right time is when the frost is out of the ground and before budding begins.
The day to plant is almost as important as the season. Sunny, windy weather is to be avoided. Cool, damp days are the best. Trees can not be thrust carelessly into a rough soil and then be expected to flourish. They should be planted in properly worked soil, well enriched. If they can not be planted immediately after they are taken up, the first step is to prevent their roots drying out in the air. This may be done by piling fresh dirt deep about the roots or setting the roots in mud.
In planting they should be placed from 2 to 3 inches deeper than they stood originally. Fine soil should always be pressed firmly-not made hard-about the roots, and 2 inches of dry soil at the top should be left very loose to retain moisture.
Many years ago before the great Northwest was settled, and while even a large part of New York and Pennsylvania was still a wilderness, there lived a man who spent a large part of his time in what inany people considered a foolish occupation. His name was John Chapman, and, according to tradition, he went through what is now western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana before the forests were cut away and planted orchards for the settlers who, he was sure, would come later. Many stories have been told of this remarkable man. Perhaps the best is Rev. Newell Dwight Hillis's “ The Quest of John Chapman.”
It is said that he spent his winters in the settlements near the Atlantic coast teaching the children and doing odd jobs about the farm. In those days the teachers “boarded around" in the neighborhood. Therefore John Chapman had no board to pay, and he needed little money. But he did not ask for money. He was content to receive his pay in the seeds of apples, peaches, pears, plums, and grapes. This is why he was called “Appleseed John.” The farmers and the children saved their seed for him, and when spring came he filled his boat with seeds and started down the Ohio River. At every suitable landing he took his bag of seeds on his back and trudged through the forest until he found a good open place, and there he planted his seed, built a fence of boughs about them, and started out again.
Thus he traveled on and on through many springs and summers, planting his seeds in the unsettled western countries for those who would later come and make their home in the new country. When the first settlers crossed the mountains and began to clear the forests for homes and farms they found orchards and vineyards awaiting them. Although Appleseed John lived many generations ago, a few trees are still standing which are said to have been planted by him. The story of this man, who in his humble way devoted his life to others, is one that may well be told and retold, for while none of us can repeat the work he did, it may inspire us to make some spot on earth better by planting a few seeds or trees for the enjoyment of the next generation.
A song for the beautiful trees !
A song for the forest grand,
The Garden of God's own hand,
For the maple, the sylvan queen,
For the ladies in golden green.
For the beautiful trees a song !
The peers of a glorious realm,
The linden, the ash, and the elm,
For the hickory staunch at core,
For the silvery sycamore.
1 Read at the first meeting of the American Forestry Congress, in Music Hall, Cincinnati, Apr, 19, 1882.