National Geographic : 1909 Jan
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE country for centuries has done its work, and I very much doubt if even a rational system of forestry will ever bring back to those hilltops again the magnificent pines which once adorned them. Nature has been too badly treated. The soil which slumbered upon those slopes at creation's dawn has sifted to the valleys and the floods have carried it away to the sea. Nothing now remains but ster ile rocks which bake in the glaring rays of the torrid sun. Speaking of the wholesale destruction of forests and the difficulties often en countered in getting trees to grow again upon the same mountains reminds me of an example to the point which I once met with in Germany. Some years ago I spent several weeks in the old univer sity town of Jena. On one of the hills above that city, on the I 4 th of October, 1806, Napoleon fought and won the great battle of Jena. Many of those hills consist of white cliffs devoid of vegetation, and I was informed that something like 125 years ago, when the poet Goethe was finance minister of the little state of Weimar, the forests about Jena were cut down in order to create funds for a depleted exchequer. No steps were taken at that time to replant what was removed, and although within recent years many attempts have been made to nurture trees upon those barren hills, no practical results have been achieved. The husbanding of the resources of a country is a task which is fraught with the deepest consequences to the welfare of the people who inhabit it. Unless our people wish to see the mountains of Pennsylvania, Maine, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Oregon as barren and as sterile of production as are the bluffs above the city of Jena or the mountains which skirt the coast of Asia Minor, then it is high time that something radi cal be done. But if the forests have been razed from many mountains in Asia Minor, there still slumber beneath untouched mines of every description which prom ise fabulous wealth, and this compen sates in some degree for the loss of wealth in other directions. LESSONS FROM CHINA* IF there is any one duty which more than another we owe it to our chil dren and oiu children's children to perform at once it is to save the forests of this country, for they constitute the first and most important element in the conservation of the natural resources of the country. There are, of course, two kinds of natural resources. One is the kind which can only be used as part of a process of exhaustion; this is true of mines, natural oil and gas wells, and the like. The other, and, of course, ulti mately by far the most important, in cludes the resources which can be im proved in the process of wise u-e; the soil, the rivers, and the forests come under this head. Any real civilized nation will so use all of these three great national assets that the nation will have their benefit in the future. Just as the farmer, after all his life making his living from his farm, will, if he is an expert farmer, leave it as an asset of increased value to his son, so we should leave our national domain to our children, increased in value and not worn out. There are small sections of our own country, in the East an I in the West, in the Adirondacks, the WVhite Mountains and the Appalachians, and in the Rocky Mountains, where we can already see for ourselves the damage in the shape of per manent injury to the soil and the river systems which comes from reckless de- * From President Roosevelt's message to Congress, December 8, Igo8.