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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/244

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ignorant action of man, it is doubtful whether, on the existing area, one half the amount of wood is produced yearly which we now require. We have, therefore, beyond doubt, reached—if not passed—the time when increased drain means squandering of capital, and when regard to husbanding, to careful management, to recuperation of our forests, and planting of new forests is required for the purpose of merely furnishing raw material; and it should not be forgotten that to reproduce the quick-growing white pine of an acceptable quality and sufficient size, requires not less than eighty to one hundred years, and for the long-leaved pine two hundred years; that, altogether, wood crops are slow crops; that nothing of size can be grown under a quarter of a century at the best.

That this is a business requiring intelligent national consideration is apparent; not less so if we appreciate the magnitude of the values resulting from it. The total value of forest products in the census year was placed at $700,000,000, or ten times the value of the gold and silver production, five times the value of all coal and mineral production, and exceeding every one of the agricultural crops, com and wheat not excepted; and representing in value about thirty per cent of the total agricultural production.

Turning to our concern in the climatic aspects of the forestry question, I have recorded my skepticism as regards a wide-reaching forest influence upon the climate of a country; and since the influence can only be local, since its nature and scope depend on geographical position, configuration, elevation, the neighborhood of large water surfaces, and prevailing winds, etc., it is evident that it is entirely impossible to speak of a safe percentage of forest-cover for a continental country like ours. The climatic factors at work and the requirement of regulating influences on the Atlantic shore have no bearing on considerations of the Pacific, and what the treeless plains need may not be needed by the lake-bordered States. A proportion of forest which has been suggested as safe, without any proper basis, however, is twenty-five per cent.

In order to study the need of considering forest climatic influences, I have divided the country roughly, as far as our scanty forest statistics permit, into eight or ten regions, or rather grouped the States together, which are more or less similarly situated as regards possible climatic influences of a cosmic nature. These groups are, to some extent, arbitrary, and, being based upon political divisions, for which alone approximate forest statistics exist, can not closely correspond to the range of actual climatic conditions. It would appear, however, that the Atlantic States, with over forty-three per cent of forest, as well as the Gulf and central Southern States, and even the lake-bordered Northern lumbering States, with nearly fifty per cent of forest cover, can not, in general, be said to have gone below that safe proportion for climatic considerations; though in special localities the inroads may have been severe enough to produce undesirable results. But the