The "Wasteful Havoc of Forest-lands, and its Serious Consequences.— The Indifference Manifested towards Remedying the Evil. — The Action of Public Corporations on Forest-lands.—The Efforts of Dr. Drake to Protect Forests.—The Evil Consequences of Non-attention.—Probable Date of a Timber Famine in the United States.— The Inherited Duties of Americans. — The Destined Uses of Nature's Growth.—Fencing and Railroad Interests as a Means of Forest Destruction.—Annual Destruction and Replacement Contrasted. —Convincing Necessaries.
The wasteful havoc which is being woeked in the west, and the seeious consequences.
Oue National Legislature," tritely observes Bryant, " is almost wholly indifferent to the fate of our forests, and betrays a destitution of statesmanlike forecast that is painful." If this were all it would not be so bad; but, aside from their indifference, the Congress is constantly squandering large bodies of our forest-lands on public corporations who are obtaining them only for profit, and who will destroy them with more rapacity even than private individuals. Candidly, I beheve that very many of our Congressmen do not credit the statements and theories that, by denuding a country of its forests, you can injure its productiveness. Some of them have lived a great many years, and as yet have seen no evil effects from the cutting down of forests, nor have they experienced any scarcity of fire-wood at home. Wise men—to them there is no other land than Spain, and no other age than that in which they live. It is now nearly fifty years since Dr. Drake of Cincinnati proposed to Congress the importance of saving our forests. Failing in this, he begged the government to at least reserve tracts of woodland around the head-waters of the principal streams, as a means of" preventing their diminution. The wise doctor was poohed at, and thought a little cracked. Well, some of the streams he proposed to save are almost valueless, and in a half-century more will be entirely useless for purposes of navigation. Probably the doctor did not anticipate that the time would come when these reserves would become important as a source of timber supply; and if he had proposed such a thing he would have been laughed at outright. It is needless to say that Congress disregarded Dr. Drake.'s advice, and to-day the children of the very men who poohed at the doctor are suffering for the follies of their fathers. Maine, New York, and Pennsylvania are practically ruined as timber states, and their streams are gradually drying up. In twenty-five years more the Northwestern States will be as bad, or even worse off for timber than the Eastern States are, and in twenty-five years more the timber famine in the United States will begin. Good, say the Congressmen and timber vandals of to-day, we shall be dead by that time, and why should we. care what happens then? Americans owe more than any other people on earth to the toils, sacrifices, and forethought of their forefathers, and it is their duty—every man's duty—to transmit the inheritance they received from them to their descendants unimpaired by waste or neglect. Says Bryant: " The length of time required for the growth of timber from the seed to maturity shows conclusively that it was never destined in the order of nature for. the exclusive use of a single generation." Nor is this all. The man who wantonly destroys that which he cannot reproduce in his lifetime is not only a coward and a fool, but he commits a flagrant crime against nature and nature's God. I never see a man cutting down a fine tree but I feel like crying out,
" Stop thief !!!" What is his life as compared to the life of the tree ? If he were immediately to plant another, not in his lifetime, in that of his children or his children's children, would the tree attain to maturity. All this he knows, yet he fells it to the earth and does not even plant another to replace it for future generations. Is not this man a vandal ? Surely; and worse, for he is a criminal, and his seed shall suffer for his sins. If the trees could talk, what a pitiful tale they would tell. How they had for ages drawn moisture from the earth and distributed it through ten thousand leaves into the air, to descend again in showers, refreshing the earth and watering the gentle flowers. Even the tiny blades of green grass would cry out,
" Oh, woodman, spare that tree, Touch not a single bough."
But they must perish from the earth; the fiat has gone forth, and we shall soon be able to say no more:
" Thank God for noble trees! How stately, strong, and grand These bannered giants lift their crests O'er all this beauteous land."
They will be cut down and gone; and the shifting sands alone will mark where they once stood. The bleakness and barrenness of death will cover the earth, the sun pour clown his vertical rays, and the scorching winds unchecked howl over the sterile plains.
I fear you will think I am becoming excited over this subject, and I do warm up a little when speaking or writing of the murder of the beautiful trees, which in atrocity is little short of human murder itself. But it is not fine phrases or grandiloquent expressions we want in this case, but facts, cold arguments, to convince the unreasoning and the ignorant. The voracious monster who threatens to devour all our young timber in his insatiable maw are the railroad interests of the United States.
Last year there were 101,000 miles of railway in this country, and this year we are building 16,000 miles of new railway. All these roads have to be tied with comparatively young timber. I have not at hand an estimate of the number of ties used per mile, but the annual consumption is very large. Some years ago to build 71,000 miles of railway required 184,600,000 ties. Ties have to be replaced every seven years, and it is fair to set down the number of ties required annually for future consumption at 160,000,000. As every one knows, railroad ties are cut from young timber, the trees being from eight to twenty inches in diameter, and this demand strikes at the very source of our timber supply.
It is a fact that the fences of the United States have cost more than the land, and they are to-day the most valuable class of property in the United States, except buildings, railroads, and real estate in cities. To keep up the fences requires annually an enormous consumption of timber. The 125,000 farms in Kentucky require 150,000,000 panels of fence to enclose them. The number of rails required is set down at 2,000,000,000, costing $75,000,000. To repair and keep in good order the fences in this one state costs, annually, $10,000,000. Illinois, a comparatively new state, has $200,000,000 invested in fences, but it costs her only about §300,000 annually for repairs, many of her fences being constructed of wire. The whole value of the fences in the United States may be set down at $2,000,000,000, and it costs $100,000,000 annually to keep them in repair.
The city of Chicago alone last year employed 17,800 men in handling lumber. There were 500 clerks, 4000 wood-workers, 2000 sailors, 1000 men to load and unload the vessels, and 10,000 men to handle and prepare the lumber for market, besides 300 proprietors. The lumber brought to Chicago in 1881 exceeded 2,000,000,000 feet, and would have loaded one train of cars 2000 miles long. No less than 300 square miles of land was stripped of trees last year to supply the Chicago market with lumber. These figures are indeed appalling, and may well alarm any one as to the future source of our timber supply. There is no hope of any diminution in the future, for Chicago will require more lumber this year than she did last. The demand is ever increasing, and the supply ever diminishing. Between the two the end must come soon, and the grand old forests disappear. After the Saginaw, Muskegon, Menomonee, Manistee, and Lud-ington sources are exhausted, the Rocky Mountain slopes and Washington Territory will be stripped of their forests, and then we will have all that is worth taking. Every year we denude 8,000,000 acres of trees, and plant less than 1,000,000 acres to replace them. The end is so plain, even a fool may read it as he runs.