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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/238

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

areas of the Northwest have brought rapidly near to us the possibility of a time when a scarcity of wood may be felt. For the haulage over so long distances of so bulky freight, in addition to other obstacles, allows only a small amount of the timber growing in those distant forests to be profitably moved to market, and from fifty to sixty per cent, often even more, of the trees cut is left in the woods to rot or to furnish food for the yearly conflagrations. Even now, in the more remote lumber-camps, any part of a tree less than one foot in diameter is considered unprofitable, and is left in the woods.

But while—as I will show farther on—the fear of those early alarmists is with renewed force, and upon a more reasonable basis, again pressed upon us, other considerations besides a waning lumber supply compel our attention to forest-preservation. A vague idea that some connection existed between the forest-cover and the climatic conditions of a country has been prevalent from olden times. "The tree is the mother of the fountain," or "the father of the rain," are significant expressions of the sages of old. But it was due to the representations of such eminent naturalists as Humboldt, Boussingault, and Becquerel, that the important and complicated part which the forest plays in the economy of Nature was first clearly recognized. And now, in the light of recent scientific experiments and investigations, added to the historical evidence of earlier times, we are forced to consider the forests of a country in a fourfold aspect:

1. As furnishers of raw material.
2. As regulators of climatic conditions.
3. As regulators of hydrologic conditions, influencing the water-flow in springs, brooks, and rivers.
4. As regulators of soil-conditions.

I need not stop to call to your mind the endless variety of articles into which the product of the forest enters. There is hardly any manufacture, hardly any branch of human industry, in which wood does not find application in some way or other; and we can say, without exaggeration, that the progress of the human race in civilization has been largely dependent on this material. A continued supply of such an important substance must, then, be deemed a necessity. To the assertion that substitutes are being and will be easily found, I would reply that, with the invention of substitutes, new applications of wood are also invented; that with the growth of civilization the use of wood has grown disproportionately; and that the population of the earth is constantly increasing, so that substitutes would have to be found to meet a demand for wood by far greater than that of the present. Besides, if we can, by reasonably husbanding present supplies, and by exercise of management, prolong for the human race the use of this most convenient material, should we not rather curb our spendthrift tendencies than rely upon the ingenuity of our children in supplying substitutes?