National Geographic : 1907 Aug
SAVING TH stocked young pine forest coming on to take the place of what was cut off. The situation is so plain now that he who runs-or rides in the Pullman-may read. But had it been necessary to wait until the facts themselves spoke clear to the public understanding, the time for effective action in the West would have passed. Sooner or later the logic of events was bound to point out the right path, but it would have led up to a closed door. There is almost no good timber outside of the national forests which has not passed into private owner ship. Would-be locators under the tim ber and stone act in the far northwest are now hunting down and filing on forty acre lots-a thing hitherto unheard of. Had the making of reserves been de ferred until now, there would be little of value left to reserve. That the lumber industry, now one of the chief industries of the West, must perish with the exhaustion of the timber supply needs nr argument; and private lumbering in the West is making virtually no attempt to prevent exhaustion by the use of methods to secure a future timber crop from cut-over lands. But the eco nomic importance of the forests is far more fundamental than merely the sup port of the lumber industry, or even the supply of building material, to say noth ing of material for the various wood working industries. Houses can be made of brick, stone, concrete, and iron, but not mine props, nor even railroad ties, with any practical success, as yet, at least. If fire and the ax (or the saw, to be more exact, since the lumberman cannot now usually afford to waste good sawlog ma terial in chips) were allowed to continue their work uncontrolled by government action, future mining development would begin to face an obstacle which would grow increasingly difficult to overcome. It is not too much to say that forest pres ervation in such regions as the Black Hills and the Montana copper district is of vital moment for the future of the mines. Somes of the great railroad sys tems of the West are already drawing E FORESTS 525 heavily upon the national forests for ties. The supply of fence-posts for the farmer is a smaller, yet important, function of the foi. THE USE OF THE NATIONAL FORESTS As yet, however, the use of the national forests as sources of timber supply has hardly begun. In most regions there is still plenty of uncut timber in the hands of private owners. It would be the height of unwisdom for the government to enter into competition with this tim ber for the market, so long as the pub lic can obtain it at a reasonable price, when a future demand is certain. Un doubtedly the day will come when the necessities of the public will put great pressure upon the national forest admin istration to sell the timber faster than it will grow, and it remains to be seen whether under these conditions it will be possible to prevent overconsumption. For the present, however, the fact that the national forests are still largely sur rounded by more accessible timber be longing to private owners prevents their extensive utilization. In a sense, this in volves a loss for the time being of their productive power; for unless mature tim ber is cut, production is at a standstill, growth merely balancing decay, whereas a well-managed forest is never idle, but always increasing in volume of timber up to the time of harvest. Yet the tim ber in the national forests is steadily in creasing in value, even if not in quan tity, from the rise in lumber prices; and this means that its capacity for public usefulness is increasing also. Essentially the national forests should be thought of as undeveloped property of great potential value, but needing also large expenditures on capital account be fore their productive power can be fully utilized. Efficient forest management or, in other words, working a forest for all it is worth-requires, for one thing, good means of transportation. With a well-planned system of permanent roads, logging can be carried on in whatever part of the forest is most ready for it.