Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/609

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THE LESSON OF THE FOREST FIRES.

awakened to the importance of legislative control and the establishment of a forest policy.

The first important forest movement began with the enactment by Congress of the Timber Culture Act of 1873, having reference to the comparatively treeless region west of the Mississippi River. By this act the planting to timber of forty acres of land conferred the title to one hundred and sixty acres of the public domain. Even this law was in advance of real knowledge on the subject of forestry and of other conditions. It failed to produce the expected result, and after a few years was repealed.

The first act of Congress looking toward a definite forest policy, enacted in 1876, required the Commissioner of Agriculture to appoint "some man of approved attainments, with a view of ascertaining the annual amount of consumption, importation, and exportation of timber and other forest products; the probable supply for future wants; the means best adapted to the preservation and renewal of forests; the influence of forests upon climate; the measures successfully applied in various countries, and to report upon the same." In 1878 Mr. Franklin B. Hough made his first report, a volume of six hundred and fifty pages. He alludes to acts of Congress, passed as early as 1817 and 1837, under which reserves were made of such lands as had a growth of live oak and cedar for shipbuilding purposes; and that in 1854 the heads of the several land offices were authorized to investigate the repeated spoliations of public timber, to seize any timber found cut without authority, and to bring the offenders to the attention of the proper officers of the law.

Many of the States had before this taken hold of the subject, so far as to offer premiums for the planting, and in some cases exemption from taxes, especially to encourage the planting of trees along the highways, and also laws for the preventing of forest fires. In some of these States, as in Michigan, forestry as a science is taught in the colleges, though as yet no school of forestry has been established, as is done in every country in Europe, in which the general or local government are owners of woodlands.

State forestry associations have also been formed, Minnesota claiming the first, in 1878. In 1875 a National Forestry Association was formed, which since 1882 has met yearly, in widely separated localities. All these have been instrumental in arousing public interest, in issuing information on forest subjects, and in procuring legislation, especially regarding public reservations.

This movement has resulted in the enactment of a law by Congress permitting the setting aside, by proclamation of the President, of portions of the public lands, in the Western States and Territories, for permanent forest reservations. Previous to