Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/246

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234
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

assert, but it must have been considerably aggravated by the accumulation of minor local floods due to the well-known reckless clearing of the hill-sides, which sent their waters down into the river in torrents. At the season, when the winter snows are melting, watch the newspapers, and you will find an almost daily mention of the disastrous ravages of brooks and streams, many of which injuries could have been prevented by avoiding the creation of their distant and indirect cause. Thus we may multiply examples all over the country, showing harmful local influences upon agricultural conditions due to forest devastation.

That the vast stretches of land in the Northwest, from which the white pine has been cut and burned off, present the aspect of a desolation which sickens the heart, you may hear from every one who has seen these deserts unnecessarily wrought by man. Every traveler in this country, be it to the White Mountains, to the Adirondacks, along the Alleghany Mountains; be it through the Rockies or the redwoods of California, can not but be startled by the desolate, sad aspect of many of these once beautifully-clad mountain-crests.

And we are a nation hardly a hundred years old, with over thirty acres per capita to spread ourselves upon. What will become of us, when we must live upon five acres per head? We are far enough advanced in our recklessness of disregarding the indirect significance of forest areas to have learned a lesson at home, and to feel the necessity of being more careful in the utilization of the forest, so as not to lose its protection for our agricultural and general interests.

While we have seen that all aspects, in which the forest must be considered, from the standpoint of national economy, show our conditions to be such as to call for solicitous consideration and action; this is still more apparent, if we analyze the difficulties to be overcome. These are much greater, in our case, than those encountered by any of the European nations. For abroad, government is so regarded as to give wider scope to its action, and not only are government forests and government forestry permissible and natural, but government interference, if for the interest of the general welfare, is borne less impatiently. Besides, forest management by these nations has been gradually led up to by an interest outside of forestry proper—the protection of the chase, which was fostered by the king, and then by nobles, on entailed estates, so that to the present generation a nucleus of forests has been preserved, upon which to expend the needful care and management.

Our difficulties lie mainly in the unique manner in which our country has been settled, and in the spirit of our institutions, which is too prone to resent interference with private rights, even where the common interest seems to call for such. The rapid development of railroad facilities has brought a whole vast continent within easy reach of market, and has allowed a population of only sixty million people