Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/23

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15
METHODS AND PROFIT OF TREE-PLANTING.

there is coming an increased demand for wood, for use as fuel and in the various arts and industries, while the sources of supply will be lessened for a long time to come, whatever may be done to increase them. The existing forests, which we are sweeping off so rapidly with the axe and by fire, have been the growth, some of them, of centuries. They can not be replaced in this generation or the next. In some cases they can not be replaced at all. Meantime the destruction of what are left will continue. It is estimated that the great lumber region of Michigan and Wisconsin will be swept of its timber in ten years more. The increasing millions of our population will make increasing demands upon the forests. With all that we may do in planting there is likely to come a scarcity of lumber and of timber for purposes of construction which will carry the price far beyond anything which we now know, and make woodlands mines of wealth to their owners.

But comparatively few take such a large view of things; or, if they do, have the forecast and resolution to act upon it. It is the consideration of present gain or loss which moves most men to action. And, regarded in this light, the subject of tree-planting is one which commends itself to almost all land-owners. Apart from the rich prairies of the West, there is hardly a farm, we may say, upon which there is not. some portion so swampy, so rocky and inaccessible, or so poor in soil, that the cultivation of the ordinary crops upon it is impracticable or unprofitable. Such portions are now properly called waste-lands. But there ought to be no waste-lands. There need be none. These intractable portions of many of our farms, now bearing only a scanty and often well-nigh worthless growth, may, with little trouble, be planted with valuable trees, which, even in a few years, will yield a profitable return from their proper thinning, while those that may be left will increase in value as certainly and as rapidly as money deposited in a savings-bank or invested in the public funds. The farmer or land-owner can hardly provide for his children so easily as in this way a sure and valuable legacy. A distinguished authority has said, "As a general rule, in the highlands and lowlands of Scotland, land under wood, at the end of sixty years, under good management, will pay the proprietor nearly three times the sum of money that he would have received from any other crop on the same piece of ground."

Nothing is better understood in England and on the Continent than that the forests are among the best and surest sources of income. Governments and great corporations regard them as stable and important means of revenue. In our own country, as yet, we have not become accustomed to look upon the forests in this aspect. Nor have we cared for them as we do for those things which we depend upon for revenue. And yet, neglected as our woodlands have been, and left to take care of themselves, they have yielded a fair pecuniary return. There is no reason why, with good management, they should