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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/243

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231
OUR FORESTRY-PROBLEM.

mills, which have depleted, in less than fifty years, a crop which it takes one hundred and fifty years to replace, is sufficient to rob the immense forest areas of the South of their valuable timber in very much less than twenty-five years—timber which it has taken one hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty years to grow; and, though almost inconceivable quantities of standing timber are reported from the Pacific coast, even with the utmost stretch of the imagination, considering the wasteful manner in which that supply is being consumed, there can not be a sufficient supply standing to meet the present requirements of the whole nation for fifty years.

It is a most farcical attempt at deception which has been practiced in comparing the supplies of one particular region with the present requirements of that region. We are one country, one nation; and, unless we build Chinese walls around our different sections, the resources of the entire country must be placed in comparison with the requirements of the entire country. The only rational way of looking at the requirements and supplies of a large continental nation like ours seems to me the following: According to latest estimates, Ave consume yearly, with our present population of sixty million, not less than twenty billion cubic feet of wood. This amount is made up, in round figures, in the following manner:

2,500,000,000 feet for lumber-market and wood-manufactures;
360,000,000 feet for railroad construction;
250,000,000 feet for charcoal;
500,000,000 feet for fence material, etc.;
17,500,000,000 feet for fuel.

To this it will be safe to add, for wasteful practices and for the destruction by yearly conflagrations, at the least, twenty-five per cent.

The average yearly growth of wood per acre in the well-stocked and well-cared-for forests of Germany has been computed at fifty cubic feet. Applying this figure to our present requirements, we should have an area of not less than five hundred million acres in well-stocked forest to give us a continual supply of all kinds for our present needs. Now, a careful canvass made four years ago developed the result that the existing forest area in the United States, excluding Alaska and Indian Territory, comprised almost five hundred million acres (489,280,000); but it is well known to everybody who is acquainted with our forests that they can not compare in yield with the average European continental forests under systematic management. Much of what is reported as forest is useless brush-land, or open woods, and depreciated in its capacity for wood-production by annual fires, by which the physical structure of the leaf-mold is destroyed, and thus, too, its capacity for storing the needful moisture, reducing wood-production, and killing all young growth.

Without care, without management, and left to the kind but uneconomical work of Nature, interfered with, in addition, by rude and