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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/193

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THE VALUE OF OUR FORESTS.

have our spring floods, often so destructive to property as well as life.

There is another aspect in which the forests are to be regarded, but in which we have hardly begun to consider them properly, and that is the economical one, as the continuous producers of fuel, and of lumber for use in the mechanic arts. With our boundless area of cheap lands, covered originally with forests to such an extent that the trees have been regarded as an obstruction to agriculture, and so to be swept away often by fire rather than to await the slower process of the axe, we have thought little of the forest as anything of permanent value. Added to this the practically unlimited area of our coal-fields has served to prevent any apprehension of loss from the destruction of the forests. That there is ever to come a time when we may suffer from a scarcity of wood for fuel or for the arts, hardly seems to have entered many minds.

Very different is the settled feeling in other countries in respect to the value of the forests. When in some portions of Europe the peasant has to travel miles on foot to bring home, as the result of a whole day's labor, an armful of wood to burn, and can afford to bake bread but once in six months because fuel is so scarce and dear; and when England, with only four or five per cent. of woodland, is gravely and anxiously figuring out the time when her coal-fields will be exhausted, and her vast manufacturing interest will be at the expense of purchasing its fuel from other countries or suffer inevitable decline or extinction—the importance of the forest, in an economical as well as in a political point of view, becomes at once apparent. The coal-fields are not growing, and never can be made to grow again. They were deposited ages since, once for all, and, so far as we can see, are to have no successors or substitutes but the living trees, following each other from generation to generation.

It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that the European nations, having learned its value by its loss in greater or less measure, see the forest to be an important factor in all that constitutes national life and comfort, and have given it a place in their thoughts and in their practical arrangements which we have not in ours. It is not surprising that they should establish schools for the special purpose of teaching all that relates to the growth and preservation of the forest, that they should make it a matter of national and political concern, and that the literature of the subject should be so extensive that it is estimated that from the German press alone as many as a hundred volumes and pamphlets on forestry, in some of its aspects, are issued annually.

Germany has given much attention to her forests ever since the days of Charlemagne, who is said to have afforested the Ardennes and established the forest of OsnabrĂĽck. The sovereigns of Germany have treated the woodlands not merely as preserves for game and