Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/195

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THE VALUE OF OUR FORESTS.

ence and art and governmental authority are invoked to unite their powers for the purpose of remedying the evil results.

We are treading the same course that other nations have trod. Says Humboldt, "Men, in all climates, seem to bring upon future generations two calamities at once—a want of fuel and a scarcity of water." With our comparatively sparse population and our continental stretch of forest, it has hardly entered our minds that we could be improvident in the use of our woodlands. It has seemed to us that we had enough, and that for ever; and so we have consumed the forests with a recklessness which has perhaps never been surpassed. We have even sacrificed them by carelessness, or in the wantonness of a temporary greed, utterly regardless of the future. Forests which have been the growth of centuries have been swept off in a day. The lumberman cuts the few noblest trees, or takes only the choicest portions of them for the purposes of the arts, and burns the rest to ashes, thereby precluding another growth upon the spot. The miner does the same, cutting off the already sparse forests, and taking no pains to replace them. And so it is happening that our forest area, particularly in the more recently settled portions of the country, is rapidly diminishing. The opening of the great agricultural regions of the Ohio and the Mississippi Valleys, with their superior attractiveness, has lessened the value of much of the Eastern lands for the purpose of tillage, and, in some portions of New England particularly, what were once corn-fields and pastures, have been abandoned by the cultivator and a growth of trees has come in. But as a whole our forest area has been diminishing for a long time, and never more rapidly than within the last decade. Serious evils have already come from this wasting of the woods, but they have been spread over so wide a stretch of territory that attention has not been called to them in a way to arouse general attention or lead to their remedy. Our streams have a diminished flow of water, while they are marked by alternations of floods and droughts, much greater than formerly prevailed. They are not navigable for so long distances, nor for so large a class of boats, as they once were, nor do they furnish so large or so uniform a supply for the mill-wheels as they did in earlier times. Changes of climate have also resulted, affecting the health of the people and the productiveness of the fields. These effects have been noticed in a multitude of cases. But, in most instances, they have been regarded as isolated and local occurrences, and have not been attributed to their true cause.

In some of our Western States which are almost treeless, the beneficial influence of forests has been forced upon the attention of the people. It has been found that life may not be worth living, though on the richest soil, if that be all. A writer of acknowledged authority, in a lecture before the Illinois Industrial University, speaking of the importance of trees as a shelter of crops from injurious winds, says, "I think it may be safely estimated that an average of one twelfth part of