Popular Science Monthly/Volume 83/December 1913/The Forests and Forestry of Germany

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1580105Popular Science Monthly Volume 83 December 1913 — The Forests and Forestry of Germany1913William R. Lazenby




DURING the past year I have had the rare opportunity to observe the forests and to learn something of the general forest policy of 'various European countries. My interest in this subject prompts me to present a few notes. I am glad to do this because in this country the subject of forestry is now claiming, and is bound to receive, greater attention than has heretofore been given to it.

The increasing scarcity of timber within the first half of the second century of our nation's history, in spite of the variety and richness of its sylva and extent of its primitive woodland, is a condition that calls for earnest consideration and should invoke the interest of every public spirited citizen. From the standpoint of administration and thorough system the German forest service is not paralleled elsewhere, and its intensive development is nowhere surpassed. Such being the fact, I shall confine myself mainly to what I have seen in Germany.

Why has Germany developed a more systematic, a more advanced forest policy than any other nation? Let us briefly consider. In the first place, it should be clearly understood that the German empire in its federal capacity has nothing whatever to do with its forests. The control of the forests is exclusively in the hands of the various states, which in their confederated form make the nation called Germany. Each state government directs the forest policy of its own state and the national government has never interfered in any way or manner with this procedure.

Speaking of Germany as a whole, the great impetus to a general forestry movement was received about 1750. At that time the population was rapidly increasing and nearly all of the strictly agricultural land had been cleared. Coal had not then been discovered, or was not available for use. There was no fuel, oil or gas, comparatively little peat, and no means of transporting fuel wood from the mountain forests. A succession of winters of unusual severity caused much suffering and the imminence of a general fuel famine stared the people in the face. From this time the art of forestry developed with great rapidity. Everybody was interested because everybody needed fuel. Within a comparatively short time most of the state governments had formulated some forest policy, the principal feature being an effort to secure a continuously sustained yield of fuel wood and timber from all forest lands. One fundamental principle was that no more wood
Fine Growth of Spruce near Kronach, Germany. A Sliding Road in the Forest.

should be cut in any one year than was produced the same year. After the coal mines wore opened and with the better means of transportation, all fear of a fuel famine passed away, but the practise and conception of conservative, as well as constructive forestry, had taken such a deep hold upon the public mind, that it is small wonder the art has reached a stage of intensive development that no other nation can rival. Through generations of practical tests and experiments, with many failures at first, but with a persistency worthy of the cause and characteristic of the race, German sylviculture has attained a high degree of perfection. Attention is called to a few typical forest areas that were among those visited by the writer.

Spruce and Fir Stand in a Typical German Forest.

The Frankenwald in northern Bavaria is famous for its spruce and fir. The forests of this region are regenerated from self-sown seeds and the system which is carried out with signal regularity is simple to understand and easy to work. It may be said in passing that it produces a marvelously beautiful landscape, one that can not fail to appeal to every lover of nature. The system permits of no clear cutting, so that the harvesting and the growing of trees go hand in hand. Frankenwald is a rugged region, and the hills with their steep acclivities are cut out, or cut over in strips about 300 feet wide. The strips run with the contour, and the logging is started at the top of the hills and thence proceeds downward to the valleys. Thus the second growth is situated above the old growth, and is not further damaged by the continuance of the logging operations. The rotation is 120 years, and at this age the trees average about 15 inches in diameter, and usually cut four logs to the tree. The logs are sent down dirt chutes known as "Lassen." The valleys of the Frankenwald visited are drained by three main creeks, uniting near the old town of Kronach. These creeks are used for transportation, and drives of logs, as well as small rafts, have come down them for hundreds of years. I was fortunate enough to witness the driving and splashing operations, and followed the logs to the mills located along the river.

Another of the large state forests of Bavaria is that of the Spessart Mountains, near Rohrbrun. This is one of the regions where the Bavarian kings and other royal sportsmen are wont to hunt the wild boar. The white oak of this particular forest, which appears to be identical with the English white oak, is justly famous throughout the world. So fine and even is its texture that it yields oak veneer logs of the highest value. Although there is a large amount of this timber, the owner, which in this case is the state of Bavaria, or the whole people, absolutely refuses to sell more than a small annual percentage of the entire stumpage. In this way what appears to be phenomenal prices are secured. For illustration, the price of prime oak logs in the woods, twelve to eighteen miles from a railway, has now reached an average figure of $280 per thousand feet, board measure. Please note that this is the average. The very best logs are selling at $585 per thousand feet board measure. As one who has a hearty love for trees, and one who appreciates the quiet, persistent, marvelous forces of nature set in operation by their growth and development, I felt like taking off my hat when I saw specimens of these oak trees that had individually a cash value in the market of more than a thousand dollars. Under these conditions it is readily understood why the state is eager to reproduce this oak by all means at its command. As 1911 happened to be an unusually good so-called "oak mast year," the writer had the good fortune to see something of the energetic activities of the
What is Called the "Thousand-year Oak," left as a memorial or curiosity, Spessarto Mts., Bavaria, Germany.

Bavarian foresters in this line of work. Hundreds of acres were thickly planted with white oak acorns, and more hundreds of extra employees were kept busy for six weeks to take full advantage of an infrequent but blessed mast year.

Probably no state has developed a more intensive forestry system, or has done more to place forestry on a sound financial basis than Saxony. This has been due to several causes. Among these may be mentioned, first, the individual work of Heinrich Von Cotta; who is Justly regarded as the greatest forester that the world has seen. Second, the forest school at Tharandt, which was founded by Von Cotta in 1811, and is the first technical forestry school ever established. It has always stood in the front rank of forest schools. Again, the forestry of Saxony is associated with, and has been largely influenced by, Dr. Max Pressler, the father of forest finance and the inventor of many efficient forest implements.

The average rate of revenue from all the state forests of Saxony is close to 21/2 per cent. It should not be forgotten that the Saxon forests have gradually risen in value during the past 100 years at an annual rate of 3 per cent.; that is, the total income, counting both cash returns and latent revenue, amounts to 51/2 per cent. One of the largest and most progressive lumbermen in the United States has declared he could not see a cash revenue of more than 2 per cent, in forest growth in our country under the most favorable conditions. The lesson from the experience of Germany is that conservative forestry is fairly remunerative at least, when the price of stumpage increases steadily. At present the most all-around valuable timber species in Saxony is the spruce. There is practically an unlimited demand for this wood in the rapidly developing local industries. The spruce is raised in a rotation of 80 years. Clear cutting is practised and the succeeding crops are started by transplanting seedlings from the nurseries. The expense of planting (outplanting) averages about $10 per acre. The Saxon forester, instead of concentrating his logging operations and the subsequent replantings in one place, has a large number of cutting series: that is, he removes a small strip of the oldest trees in each of a large number of places at short intervals of time. Although this increases the cost of logging, the advantages are more than balanced by a lessened loss by windfall in the older stands, and better conditions in way of shade and moisture, decrease of insect injury etc., for the young plantations. Owing to the short rotation the trees in the Saxon forests are much smaller than are usually seen in Germany. Inasmuch as small timber, saplings and poles, are in great demand, it is found that the smaller sizes are more remunerative investment than the larger trees of a longer rotation.

As an example of a completely rejuvenated forest, the one owned and operated by the city of Heidelberg presents an impressive illustration. A little more than a century ago, this forest, which is on absolute forest or non-agricultural land, was a worthless wilderness. The few straggling trees were decrepit and diseased. The whole forest had been practically ruined, by the combined action of fire, pasturing and reckless cuttings. To-day there are few better or more remunerative forests in Germany. It is an interesting picture, and shows what the art of foresty can accomplish when based on the principles, and operated by the methods, of science. There was one feature of this forest that presented a peculiarly interesting, not to say fascinating, picture to an American forester. It was some experimental plantations of American trees begun some 30 years ago. In these plantations, as they are seen to-day, are fine stands of Douglas fir, Engleman spruce, Western cedar, hemlock. white pine and many other American species. Careful measurement of the annual growth of these trees have been

A Forest Macadam Road ix a Saxony Forest, showing a fine growth of Spruce on either side near Swartzenberg, Saxony.

taken. The results are equally interesting and instructive. In 1911 the increment per acre, including the branchwood, was, for the Douglas fir, something over two cords, and that of the hemlock was a little more than three cords, while the white pine, which stood the highest on the list, gave a yield of very close to four cords per acre. Whether these remarkable figures of productiveness will be maintained we can not say. We can say, however, that the German foresters are watching this experiment with lively interest.

ISTo report of German forestry and forests, however brief, could omit to make some mention of the Schwarzwald; one of the most famous fore?ts of southern Germanv, commonly known as the "Black Forest." This is a region of enchantment, the recreation ground of Europe, and the delight of all visitors. Here one comes in contact with new economic conditions, new silvicultural types and new ideas in the utilization of forests. While esthetics and sentiment are coming to play an important rôle, the purely commercial aspect of the production of timber is not overlooked. Not many years ago this was the wilderness of Germany. Destructive forestry, not unlike the past, and for the most part even present, American methods of lumbering, was practised in the Black Forest. I visited the holdings of a forest stock company with an historical record covering more than 300 years. In the early days splash dams were made in the rocky, turbulent streams, and the accessible timber was removed and splashed down to the mills located on the river Rhine. The waste was enormous. Since the advent of the railways conditions have changed. The whole forest is a network of excellent macadam and skidding roads. Destructive forestry has given place first to conservative, and then to constructive forestry. The advance of stumpage prices and the introduction of better forestry methods are rewarded by increased revenue. The net income from some of the holdings of this great forest area is better than that of any other forest that I have had the pleasure of visiting. The regeneration is all by natural seeding, and planting is only practised in case of severe windfalls or necessary clear cutting. The two prevalent types of natural reseeding are what are technically called "shelterwood compartment type" and "selection cutting."

In the first type, the regeneration is carried on over large areas, and the standing seeding and shelter trees are removed gradually during a period of from 40 to 50 years. In the "selection cutting type" the regeneration is in patches and the process of seeding is continuous. That type is selected that is best adapted to the prevailing local conditions. The logging operations in some parts of the Black Forest are unique. On the steep slopes the large logs, scaling from 600 to 1,000 board feet, are let down to the roads by means of a long rope one end of which is wound a few times around a near-by standing tree and then fastened to the large end of the log, by a strong ringed spike. The log is started and the rope is drawn around the tree. The man or men who play out the rope hold it loosely or tightly, according to the weight of the log and the steepness of the descent, and the velocity of the log is under perfect control. The logs are guided past the trees and rocks that may be in their way by woodsmen who are both active and expert in this work.
Group of American Forest Students and German Oberförsters in a German State Forest.

Even in Germany the forester has his troubles. There are still difficulties to overcome, and more or less serious questions to face. I became acquainted with one of the problems of the Saxon state forest. This was near Schwarzenberg, practically in the manufacturing center of Saxony. Here the damage done by the sulphur fumes and other poisonous gases that came from the smokestacks of numerous factories is enormous. No wonder the Oberforster was embarrassed, for the condition of a large area of the forest under his charge was desperate. Trees, dead and dying by the thousands. Fortunately, being of true German pluck and persistency he was not discouraged. He was making some well-directed experiments to determine the species least susceptible to smoke and poisonous fumes. It is now well known that conifers are more affected than broad-leaf species, and that the spruce is the most sensitive of the conifers. This later species is being removed as fast as possible and hardwood species are being substituted. Dr. Wislicenus, of the Saxon forest school at Tharandt, who is a distinguished investigator, has devised a perforated smokestack which he believes will greatly lessen the injury caused by smoke, sulphur fumes and other injurious gases.

Another difficulty of which many foresters bitterly complain is the injury done to seedlings and young trees by deer, rabbits and other forms of wild game. It is true that the revenue from the hunting licenses offset the injury in some degree, yet the absolute loss is often serious and irreparable. All known methods of efficient protection are expensive.

In some states the greatest difficulty of all lies in the exercise of certain prescriptive rights that are held and exercised by the common people. These rights include the pasturage of domestic animals, the removal of stumps and certain amount of brushwood, the removal of forest litter, etc. These inherited rights are being bought up as rapidly as possible, and the exercise of them is discouraged in every way. In many places where fully exercised anything like modern constructive forestry is impossible.

Still good will sometimes comes from what is generally regarded as evil. In a fine forest near Ysenburg, the ravages of the larva of the June bug made it impossible to plant successfully the seedlings of the pine in the areas to be reforested. It was found that the soil cover of these areas, which had been removed by the inhabitants, and the presence of an unusually large number of hogs, all due to certain prescriptive rights, were the main influences in causing a thoroughly successful natural seed regeneration. Thus was accomplished what had been regarded as impossible.

The financial success of German forestry depends mainly upon two factors. First, good means of transportation, and, second, the owners, whether they be states, cities, royal families, communities, associations or private individuals, only sell annually about the amount of wood that is produced each year. By so doing the market is never overstocked, the demand is always greater than the supply, and the price is kept above the cost of production. The German forest policy aims to reforest all waste or non-agricultural lands, and to gradually increase the forest area under direct state control. It aims to furnish good means of education and trailing in forestry at the state expense. It is seeking to extend the best possible means of protection, both from animate and inanimate enemies over all forest lands.

Another feature that we may well imitate is to encourage the largest public use of all forests as a means of health, recreation and enjoyment for all the people. While American forestry should not be content to merely follow European methods and teachings, if we would be really progressive, our leaders must acquaint themselves with the best achievements elsewhere, and up to this time no nation can show such results as Germany.