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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/10

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

by fires as often as once in twenty years. In the southern part of the State, so frequent are the fires and so wide-spread, the risk has made woodland less salable than formerly. Though nine tenths of this region is wooded, there is little large timber to be found, and lumber is largely brought from distant places. Droughts are becoming more frequent, and these increase the exposure to fire. Thus the partial consumption of the forests makes their further consumption the more certain and rapid.

And what is true in this limited area is measurably true throughout the country. That our forests are being destroyed with alarming rapidity admits of no question, and it is probably true that fires consume more than are cut down by the axe of the lumberman and the wood-chopper.

Our neighbors in Canada keep themselves better informed in regard to the condition of their forests than we are in regard to our own. The Commissioner of Crown Lands, in the province of Quebec, in his report of 1871, speaking of the preservation of timber-lands, says: "The most formidable agent in the destruction of our forests is, certainly, fire. All the most active operations in lumbering which have taken place since the settlement of the country, and all those which are likely to take place for the next twenty years, have not caused, and will not cause, to our forests so much devastation as this one destroying element has effected up to the present time." In a report on forestry and the forests of Canada, by a member of the Dominion Council of Agriculture, in 1877, it is estimated that more pine-timber has been destroyed by fire than has been cut down and taken out by the lumbermen.

The combined effect of fires and the wasteful consumption of our forests in the production of lumber and for other purposes, and the almost total neglect to protect their growth, have resulted in the diminution of our area of woodland to such an extent as justly to occasion alarm on many accounts. In California, for instance, the President of the State Board of Agriculture reported, several years ago, that within twenty years at least a third of the native supply of accessible timber had been cut off or destroyed, and that forty years would exhaust the forests. This estimate was made without taking into account the increased demands upon the forests which would be made by the increase of population and the growth of manufacturing industries.

Similar reports come from other States and Territories, though in those which were originally heavily wooded the destruction of the trees may not have gone so far as to produce a scarcity of lumber, or to increase its price to such an extent as to be burdensome. In some parts of the country, also, particularly in the older States, it is probable that the growth of the woods has kept pace with their destruction. Yet of the country as a whole it may be said, without hesitation, that