Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/334

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population for that of nature. By tools and sprays he drives back the larger and more minute representatives of the former population until finally they are to be found only in such places as man may not yet wish to use for the other purposes. In Muir's "Mountains of California," in the chapter entitled The Bee-Pastures, he describes what used to be. "The Great Central Plain of California during the months of March, April and May, was one smooth continuous bed of honey-bloom, so marvellously rich that in walking from one end of it to the other, a distance of 400 miles, your foot would press about a hundred flowers at every step. The radiant honey-filled corollas, touching and over lapping, and rising above one another, glowed in the living light like a sunset sky—one sheet of purple and gold, with the bright Sacramento pouring through the midst of it from the north, the San Joaquin from the south, and their many tributaries sweeping in at right angles from the mountains, dividing the plain into sections fringed with trees." Now that plain is a checkerboard of grain and alfalfa fields bounded by irrigation ditches. And the lesser valleys, parallel with this great central plain, bounded by mountains still more or less timbered, are consecrated to the culture—of prunes. Undisturbed nature is still accessible, nearer at hand in that golden west than in the green middle west or on the Atlantic slope. Even the tourist can reach it if he will; not in Yosemite with its hotel, camps, and mule-polluted trails; but beyond, at the top of the world, in the higher places of the Sierra.

Civilization in the form of agriculture plays sad havoc with natural native vegetation, destroying, driving back, exterminating most, domesticating and assimilating few, plants.

Where agriculture has not yet reached, the lumberman hews down that man may elsewhere build up. There is, so far as I know, only one of our forests which, given a fair chance, will quickly reproduce itself. The redwood forest which used to stretch for hundreds of miles unbroken over the eastward as well as the westward slopes of the mountains closely paralleling the coast line of California, can reproduce itself and does wherever the lumberman fails to clear by the cheap and costly means of fire. The redwood suckers like a lilac, a rare quality in conifers. If the underground parts of a felled tree are left alive, suckers will spring up, and by their astonishingly rapid growth, almost throughout the twelve month, drenched in life-giving fogs in the rainless summer and checked only by the coldest weather of the mild and rainy winter, they will yield a stand which in thirty years will be merchantable timber. Meantime the soil is held in place, the wash is slow and comparatively harmless, the streams are clear, and those turbid destructive floods so common elsewhere, are almost unknown.

The vast areas which the nation has saved from the lumberman to furnish timber for our children and their children, to cover the water-