Forest Service Circular No. 35
Forest Preservation and National Prosperity


Secretary of Agriculture.

Forestry is not a local question; it is as wide as American jurisdiction. It is not a class question; it affects everybody. It is not limited by latitude or longitude, by State lines or thermal lines, by rivers or mountain ranges, by seas or lakes. Steel has taken the place of wood for fencing to a large extent. It has taken the place of wood for ships to some extent. It is being introduced in house building, and is replacing wood extensively in the making of machinery and for other purposes. Coal and gas are taking the place of wood as fuel, and cement is taking its place for building. The use of wood, notwithstanding these substitutes, increases every year, and our forests steadily vanish before the axman.

The extension of railroads, the settlement of the public domain, the building of cities, towns, and villages, the use of wood in paper making, and the opening of mines, call for more wood every year. The extreme East, the extreme West, and the Gulf Coast are now sources of commercial supply. The industries of our country will be carried on at greater expense as wood becomes scarcer and its substitutes become dearer. Agriculture, commerce, and mining will greatly miss the cheap supply of wood to which they have been accustomed.

* * * The future requires planting in the uplands, at the sources of all our streams that should never be denuded, to make the hills store water against times of drouth and to modify the flooding of the low lands. We have to tell the people of the lower Mississippi every few years to raise their levees to hold the floods that exceed themselves, as the forest ceases to hold waters that in previous years were directed into the hills and held back.

Every tree is beautiful, every grove is pleasant, and every forest is grand; the planting and care of trees is exhilarating and a pledge of faith in the future; but these esthetic features, though elevating, are incidental—the people need wood. They have had it in abundance and have been prodigal in its use, as we are too often careless of blessings that seem to have no end. Our history, poetry, and romance are intimately associated with the woods. Our industries have developed more rapidly because we have had plenty of cheap timber. Millions of acres of bare hillsides, that produce nothing profitably, should be growing trees.

* * * I look for excellent results from the deliberations of this congress, for more light upon vexed questions, and for the statement of new and useful points of view. But above all, I hope from our meeting here there will come a more complete awakening to the vastness of our common interest in the forest, a wider understanding of the great problem before us, and a still more active and more earnest spirit of cooperation. Unless you, who represent the business interests of the country, take hold and help, forestry can be nothing but an exotic, a purely Government enterprise, outside our industrial life, and insignificant in its influence upon the life of the nation.

Without forestry, the permanent prosperity of the industries you represent is impossible, because a permanent supply of wood and water can come only from the wise use of the forest, and in no other way, and that supply you must have.

Forestry and irrigation go hand in hand in the agricultural development of the West. The West must have water, and that in a sure and permanent supply. Unless we practice forestry in the mountain forests of the West, the expenditure under the national irrigation law will be fruitless, and the wise policy of the Government in the agricultural development of the arid regions will utterly fail. Without forestry, national irrigation will be merely a national mistake. The relation in the arid regions between the area under forest and the area in farms will always be constant. We can maintain the present water supply of the West by the protection of existing forests. In exactly the same way we can increase this supply by the foresting of denuded watersheds. The full development of the irrigation policy requires more than the protection of existing forests—it demands their extension also.

The relation of railroads to the forest is no less vital than that of the lumberman. The development of systems of transportation upon a secure basis depends directly upon the preservation and wise use of the forest. Without a permanent supply of wood and water the business of the railroads will decline, because those industries upon whose production that business mainly depends can not prosper. But the railroads are interested in a still more vital way. As great and increasing consumers of wood for ties, construction timbers, poles, and cars, they are in direct and urgent need of permanent sources of these supplies. The problem directly before the railroads is, therefore, the forest problem in all its parts. Much may be done by the preservative treatment of ties and railroad timbers, which not only prolongs their life, but also leads to the profitable use of wood of inferior kinds and a corresponding decrease in the drain upon the forest and the cost of its product. But, important as this is, it merely mitigates the danger instead of removing it. For their own protection the railroads must see to it that the supply of ties and timbers in the forest itself is renewed and not destroyed.

I am particularly glad that this congress will include a full discussion of National and State forest policy. The forest movement in several States has already resulted in the adoption of definite State forest policies. In many others the time is ripe for useful work because of the existence of a strong sentiment for the best use of the forest. The forest problems in different States can not all be solved in exactly the same way. The methods will in each case have to be worked out on the ground where they will be used. But we have before us here the same opportunity in State forest matters as in other phases of the forest problem, for full discussion of methods and results. Above all we must find the most effective means of working together toward the same great ends.

The vast area of the timberlands of the United States is mainly in your hands. You have it in your power by putting forestry into effect upon the lands you own and control, to make the lumber industry permanent, and you will lose nothing by it. If you do not, then the lumber industry will go the way of the buffalo and the placer mines of the Sierra Nevada. But I anticipate no such result. For the fact is that practical forestry is being adopted by American lumbermen. In its results it will surpass the forestry practiced in any other country. The development of practical forestry for the private owner has been more rapid here than in any other country, and I look for a final achievement better than any that has been reached elsewhere.

President Great Northern Railway Company.

[Extract from a letter to the President of the Congress.]

I very much regret my inability to be present at the Forest Congress. The subject is of importance far beyond the general understanding of the public. The growth of population in the United States has practically covered all the land which can be cultivated with a profit without artificial moisture. Irrigation and forestry are the two subjects which are to have a greater effect upon the future prosperity of the United States than any other public question, either within or without Congress.

Representative in Congress from Virginia.

* * * For over two hundred years there has been a ceaseless war upon the forest of the South Atlantic States. The early settlers cut it down and burned it up, and their children, with few exceptions, followed their example. Then came the general consumption for rails and wood; the demand for mechanical industry; the destruction for liquidation of farm debts; the sale of cord wood and sawed lumber to Northern markets, till every tree of the original growth in most of the States had been removed. The second growth of old field pine is now receiving the same treatment, with smaller profit to the seller and poorer results to the consumer. Could the farmers of these States be persuaded to adopt the intensive system of farming, and have their poorer lands grow up in timber, they would improve their own condition, and hand down to their children valuable possessions.

The disastrous results of overflows and freshets, caused by the removal of the forests along the banks of the rivers, can not be learned from any statistics. The report made to our committee of agriculture shows a distressing condition, and one that appeals strongly for Federal and State legislation. Many valuable farms have been impaired in value, and some utterly destroyed, by the sand and debris washed down by the overflows. Cities and villages that were not affected years ago are now often flooded with water 8 to 15 feet deep. All this shows the importance of forests to agriculture, and appeals to the American people to spare the trees, and will in time— not far off—compel the State legislatures, as well as the Federal Government, to take action in the premises.

Representative in Congress from Iowa.

I was born in the woods of Virginia. I moved to the prairies, and one of the most unpleasant things of my subsequent life was to return to the woods of Virginia and find that the old streams and the holes we used to swim in and where we used to go fishing are now gravelly roads. They are highways as dry, as arid, as one of the deserts of Arizona or New Mexico. Why is it? Because the trees have been cut down and the springs, the children of the forest, dried up. Instead of a slow-running brook digging out holes here and there clear as crystal, we have simply a torrent carrying the pebbles and sand from the hills, and then a desert.

<<< Previous <<< Contents>>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 01-Apr-2008