Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/245

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233
OUR FORESTRY-PROBLEM.

agricultural States—Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, with 14·7 per cent; the Prairie States, with a continental climate, and with only 4*4 per cent; Texas, with 23·2 per cent, all in one corner; the Rocky Mountain States, with 14·1 per cent of forest-land, and their water-supply depending on the forest-cover; the Pacific slope States, though heavily timbered on the Northwestern coast, with 34 per cent, and in the southern and interior parts largely dependent on irrigation—these, I may say, come nearer to that lowest limit of forest-cover which is claimed as desirable for climatic considerations. Especially where the forest had been destroyed, and the climate made unfavorable before the advent of the white man, in the vast prairies, reforestation is demanded for purely climatic amelioration.

This has been recognized by the prairie settlers, tree-planting in shelter-belts and small groves has been begun, and the change for the better, aided by the breaking of the soil in large areas, is gratefully acknowledged. But a radical change in the inclement climate of those plains we can expect only from extensive and densely shaded forest belts, dispersed over the country, such as only entire communities, or citizens aggregated in a government, will be able to provide.

Of injuries wrought locally by the reckless clearing of hill-sides and of deterioration of the soil due to inconsiderate action of man, I could entertain you by the hour; the country is full of examples. Any one who wishes to study the effect of such denuding of hill-sides upon the soil, the water-flow, and agricultural conditions, need not go to France, Spain, Italy, Greece, or Palestine. The Adirondack Mountains are within easier reach, where the thin cover of earth exposed to the washing rains is carried into the rivers, leaving behind a bare, forbidding rock and desolation, while at Albany the Hudson River is being made unnavigable by the débris and soil carried down the river; the Government has spent more than ten million dollars, I believe, and spends every year a goodly sum, to open out a passage over the sand-bar thus formed.

Go to the eastern Rocky Mountains, or to Southern California, and you can gain an insight into the significance of regulated water-supply for the agriculture below, and also learn how imprudently we have acted and are acting upon the knowledge of this significance by allowing the destruction of mountain-forests in the most reckless and unprofitable manner. Along the shores of Lake Michigan, and along the sea-coast, we are creating shifting sands by the removal of the forest cover, to make work for the ingenuity of our children in devising methods for fixing these sands again. The vegetable mold with which the kind forest had covered the alluvial sands of the Southern coast-plain we are taking pains to burn off in order to replace it with expensive artificial fertilizers.

That the great flood of the Ohio, which cost the country more than twenty million dollars, was entirely due to deforestation, I will not