Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/197

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THE VALUE OF OUR FORESTS.

involved in the case, and their far-reaching relations. It is a matter not of present or local exigency merely, but of general and abiding importance. The future of the whole country is involved in it.

Champollion is reported as saying in reference to the great desert of Northern Africa: "And so the astonishing truth dawns upon us that this desert may once have been a region of groves and fountains, and the abode of happy millions. Is there any crime against Nature which draws down a more terrible curse than that of stripping Mother Earth of her sylvan covering? The hand of man has produced this desert, and, I verily believe, every other desert upon the surface of this earth. Earth was Eden once, and our misery is the punishment of our sins against the world of plants. The burning sun of the desert is the angel with the flaming sword who stands between us and paradise."

An awakening of general interest on this subject is needed. To this end the most important step is to get before the people as widely as possible the facts showing the importance of the forests in their relations to climate, to water-supply, to floods and droughts, to commerce and manufactures, to agriculture and to health; the rapidity with which we are destroying our forests and bringing upon ourselves the natural and inevitable results of that course. The history of other nations, as related to their treatment of the forests, should be made widely known, and the danger that this land, or portions of it, by the reckless destruction of its forests, may be converted into a desert, as other lands have been. Thus may we hope to arouse a general interest in the trees, and a disposition to cherish them as our best friends. Meanwhile, let tree-planting be encouraged. Let it be shown, as it has been again and again, that much of our poor and what is commonly regarded as waste land can be made to yield a handsome profit by being devoted to the growth of trees; and that our rough hills and mountain-sides can thus be made of direct pecuniary value, while at the same time they are rendered objects of beauty and the means of protecting our springs, maintaining the flow of our streams, and promoting health and prosperity. With this awakened interest in the forests, sylviculture will come to be one of our arts. We want an intelligent and scientific observation of the facts in regard to trees as related to our various soils and situations. The adaptation of trees to one climate or another, their comparative value for one purpose or another, the obstacles to successful planting—these, and many other things, need to be known as they are not yet known. Some things we can learn from the experiments which have been made and the knowledge which has been gained in Europe. But so different are the trees there and here, and so different the conditions of soil and climate, that the problem set before us is virtually a new one, which must be worked out carefully and patiently on our own ground. The most important advance in this direction yet made here, so far as we know,