Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/11

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METHODS AND PROFIT OF TREE-PLANTING.

the supply of desirable timber, both pine and hard-wood, has materially-diminished within the last twenty-five years. As a natural consequence, the price has everywhere advanced, and a further advance is as natural and inevitable, unless effective measures are taken to check the waste of our forests and to restore them to their proper dimensions. The necessity of vigorous action in regard to this matter is beginning to be felt. In the sparsely wooded districts of the West this is particularly true. The Legislatures and agricultural societies of several of the States have already taken important action on the subject. Laws have been enacted for the protection of the existing forests from destruction by fires, and for encouraging the planting of trees. The national Congress has also, within a few years, made enactments both for the repression of timber-thieving on the public lands and to encourage the planting of timber-trees.

The enactments of Congress for the purpose of encouraging timber-planting, while they have marked a step in the right direction, have not been so effective as they might have been. This has resulted in part through evasion of the laws by speculators, who have only made a pretense of planting while their real object was to get possession of land which they could sell at a profit for agricultural purposes, and in part because the requisitions of the law were too onerous to be complied with by settlers without capital. The latter was of course unintentional. But this, as well as other defects of the timber-culture acts, came as the natural result of our ignorance in this country of the whole matter of tree-planting. We know enough to plant apple and peach trees in orchards, and a row of maples or elms, occasionally, along the road-side, for shade and ornament. But of the cultivation of trees on the large scale, in masses, as they grow in the native forests, few among us know anything. A planted forest is a thing almost unknown here. The chances are that, among the members of Congress who framed the timber-culture acts, not one had any practical knowledge of the subject. The whole matter is new to us, and we have hardly any experience for our guide. For our knowledge we must go abroad, where the subject is treated with the greatest and most scientific attention, as we have lately shown ("Popular Science Monthly," July, 1881). In France and Germany, and other European countries, one of the principle bureaus of government is that having charge of the forests and rivers. Its annual reports are looked for and read with interest, as having important bearings upon the revenue as well as upon the health of the people and the agricultural and commercial resources of the country.

It is a happy thing for us that, as we are waking up to the necessity not only of checking the wasteful consumption of our existing forests but of planting new ones, we have the experience and careful study of the subject by European nations to aid us. For, although their physical conditions are in many respects different from our own,