PRESERVATION OF OUR FORESTS

PRESERVATION OF OUR FORESTS

The study of forestry is at last beginning to assume the importance it deserves and is being taken up in earnest by the Federal government, several of the States and one or two of our largest institutes of learning. It is no new study. With a few exceptions, notably those of Russia and Turkey, the study is practised by every civilised country in the world. On this continent, the Dominion of Canada has long enjoyed good forest laws and has now 203,500,000 acres out of its nearly 800,000,000 woodland areas made “forest reserves,” of which 100,000,000 acres are in British Columbia. A forest office in the Department of the Interior has been established since 1899 and a protective service of fire-ranges organised with good results in some of the Dominion lands since 1901, while farmers and others, particularly in the central prairie regions have been supplied free of charge with 7,000,000 seedlings for forest plantation. Such a course, wherever tried, has been found to pay and to pay best where the most money is expended in applying it. Up to the present the United States is very far behind in the amount it lays out on the management of the National and State forests; but it is improving in this respect and with returns proportionately good. Where the forests are depleted and the land left bare of trees, the results are disastrous. There follow floods and freshets which swecp away the soil from the mountain sides, leaving them totally bare and increasing the danger from even greater floods. In the plains the arable soil is swept away or covered with debris that is destructive to vegetation—to say nothing of the loss incurred by the ruin of buildings, the drowning of stock, and the submerging or uprooting of growing crops or stored grain. In France, where towards the end of the eighteenth century large areas were cleared of forests, two-thirds of the European torrents occur in the 1,462 brooks and mountain streams that are considered dangerous, and something like 1,000,000 acres of mountain slopes arc exposed to erosion by floods in these streams and at least as many more of the flat land below. In Switzerland, severe floods in 1830, 1834 and 1868 caused such pecuniary loss that the Bund had to take the matter in hand and assume the supervision of the water and forest police in the High Alps above a certain elevation, and see to the work of engineering and reforesting for the control of the Alpine torrents, with the most beneficial results. In Austria the work is carried on, especially in the Tyrol, under the direction of the “forest protective service,” which was first created for that region in 1851 and afterwards extended to the rest of the empire and Hungary, as a consequence of the 1851 floods in the Tyrolese Alps. In Norway, Sweden and Denmark the forests are under State protection, with special regard to forest fires. In Russia, which has not been forced to it by present necessity, the subject, while notstudied scientifically, has not been neglected. The czars of 250 years ago attempted to settle property rights and guard against fire and theft. Peter the Great, with an eye to shipbuilding, insisted on the more careful use of the forests. After the abolition of serfdom, from 1861 to t888, that liberated population kept on doing so much damage to the forests that strict laws had to be passed for the conservation of forests public and private in European Russia. In 1903 these laws were made applicable to the Caucasus, the Trans-Caucasus and other southern Provinces. A forest-protection committee was appointed by the government in each Province, which directs all operations in forestry, and will procure without charge expert advice and seedlings for the owners of private forests. The worst effects of deforestation were suffered in the southern districts near the steppes, where the soil and stream-flow had been gravely hurt by promiscuous and unscientific clearings. Protection forests in Russia are those which hold shifting sands or protect the shores of rivers, canals and other waters, as well as those which serve to prevent erosion and avalanches in the mountain districts. In Finland where 50,000,000 acres—sixty-three per cent, of the whole land area—is in forest and mostly belongs to the State, all that is done in the wav of conservation is to restrict waste and fires. Clearing along waters adapted for fishing, as well as clearing more than 12 acres anywhere, without providing for new growth arc forbidden by law. In British India 180,000,000 acres—about twenty-four per cent, of British territory is under England’s control. Of this something about 149,000,000 acres chiefly forest are directly under State control. The remaining 600,000 sq. miles are made up of native States under Great Britain as suzerain. Some of these have twenty-four per cent, under forest. The British-controled forests are reserved, protected itnclassed, only the reserved— 9.5 per cent.—being permanent. Owing to the peculiar conditions existing in India, forestry work is carried on with great difficulty. Yet the Indian forest service is one of the most efficient in the world, even although it has to contend against the trouble caused by the vast size of the country, the variety of climates, the habits of waste, tbe fire-loss, the arid and desert area, the floods, the stress laid upon grazing, the possibilities of irrigation (30,000,000 acres of the cultivated acreage depending upon it), and the extent of the national forests (149,000,000 acres as against 160,000,000 in the United States). Forest fires used to be very destructive in India, but not since i860, when protective measures were inaugurated. Today 3,500,000 acres—or 36 per cent, of the area of reserved State forests—is now effectively protected against fire—an area which is being steadily increased. Japan has nearly 58,000,000 acres—59 per cent, of its total area under forests, of which the State owns nearly 33,000,000 acres (56.8 per cent.); the crown, nearly 5,250,000 (9.1 per cent.) ; municipalities, more than 4,250,000 (7.5 per cent.) ; shrines and temples, nearly 500,000 (0.7 per cent.) ; private forests have been controled under the old Japanese feudal system and the rule of the Mikado. Before the Christian era and during the early Christian cen turies forest-planting in water sheds to prevent floods was enforced by frequent edicts, and the felling of trees was supervised by provincial officers. The “reserve” forests are guarded from the reckless felling of trees which would expose the soil to injury. The “available” forests are to be developed to their fullest capacity as a source of wealth for the country. Forestry is now a home and no longer a foreign study in Japan. Italy has suffered extremely from the ruin which follows the removal of protective forests. One-third of all the land is unproductive, and, though some of this area may be made to support forest growth, one-fourth of it is beyond reclamation, mainly as the result of cleared hillsides and the pasturing of goats. The rivers are dry in summer; in spring they are wild torrents; and the floods, brown with the soil of the hillsides, bury the fertile lowland fields. The hills are scored where the rains have loosened the soil, and landslides have left exposed the sterile rocks, on which no vegetation finds a foothold. Such floods as that of 1897, near Bologna, which did over $1,000,000 damage, destroy property and life. The dearth of wood and especially the great need of protection forests to control stream flow have brought some excellent forest laws. There are some 10,000,000 acres of forest—nearly 15 per cent, of the land area, of which the State owns only 4 per cent.; commercial forests cover 43 per cent.; private forests, 53 per cent. Most are exceedingly poor; and not less than 500,000 acres must lie planted, at a cost of at least $12,000,000, before the destructive torrents brought on by stripping and over-grazing on the hillsides, can be controled. Spain has about 12,000,000 acres under forest—practically all State land. The country has suffered very greatly from destructive floods, caused by insufficient forestcover, and though it has enacted good laws enough for the conservation of the wooded tracts of the kingdom, they are not observed. Portugal is in a much better condition, so far as regards its forests and their conservation. Roumania and the Bulgarian provinces are studying forestplanting in Germany, Austria and France, and Roumania has reclaimed 18.030,000 acres of sand dunes by forest-planting and forested 9.000 acres of other land. The forest nurseries in which the stock is grown covers 330 acres. China holds a unique position as the only civilised country which has persistently destroyed its forests. What forestrv has done in other countries stands out in bold relief against the background of China, whose hills have been largely stripped clean of all vegetation, and whose soil is almost completely at the mercy of the floods. Trees have been left only where they could not be reached. Nowhere in the world is the forest cleaned off down to the very soil as it is in China. When the trees are gone, the saplings, the shrubs, and even the herbage are taken. A dearth of wood is not the only forlorn result of forest devastation; a dearth of water and the ruin of the soil follow in its train. In western China, where forest destruction is not yet complete, enough vegetation covers the mountains to retard the run-off of the rains and return sufficient moisture to lower levels, where it can be reached by the roots of crops and where springs are numerous. But on the waste bills of eastern China the rains rush off from the barren surfaces, flooding the valleys, ruining the fields, and destroying towns and villages. No water is retained at the higher levels, so that none is fed underground to the lower soils or to the springs. As a result, even on the plains the water-level is too far beneath the surface to be used. Without irrigation and the ingenious terracing of hillsides, by which the rains are made to wash the soil into thousands of miniature fields whose edges are propped up by walls, agriculture would be entirely impossible. Even irrigation calls for the immense labor of drawing the needed water from wells. The Chinese, by forest-waste, have brought upon themselves two costly calamities—floods and water famine. The forest school just opened at Mukden is the first step in the direction of repairing this waste so far as it now may be repaired. In Turkey there are large and valuable forests—5,000,000 acres, at least, being in Macedonia alone. The Turkish empire, however, is without forestry; much of the forest land is difficult of access; the rest of it is devastated. The German empire has nearly 35,000,000 acres of forest, of which 31.9 per cent, belongs to the State; 1.8 per cent, to the crown; 16.1 per cent, to communities; 46.5 per cent, to private persons; 1.6 per cent, to corporations; the remainder to institutions and associations. There has been a considerable amount of forestwaste within its limits; and, in addition to the wood-supply question, Germany has hud forced to undertake forestry through the need of protecting agriculture and stream-flow. The troubles which France was having with her mountain torrents opened the eyes of the Germans to the dangers from floods in their own land. As a result, the maintenance of protective forests was provided for by Bavaria in 1852, by Prussia in 1875, and by Wiirttemberg in 1879, Each State of the German federation administers its own forests; all practice forestry with success. The Prussian forests cover nearly 7,000,000 acres; those of Saxony, 430,000. Great success, also, has followed the study and practice of forestry in the smaller States.

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