Page images

than $3,200; in 1911 the corresponding cost was $56,000. On the only Forest in this district for which figures of loss this year have reached me, 42 fires have occasioned an estimated loss of $30, where in 1910, 17 fires occasioned a loss estimated at $151,500.

While the results of the past summer are gratifying, it must not be assumed that the protective organization is yet able to cope successfully with a repetition of the climatic conditions which occurred in 1910. The inadequacy of the system of communication is its greatest weakness. There have been completed on the National Forests the equivalent of 1.29 miles of trail and 1.04 miles of telephone line to each township of 36 square miles. This means that if all the trails were laid off on straight lines running parallel to each other, without detours or cross connections, they would still be about 28 miles apart, while the telephone lines if similarly located would be 35 miles apart. Of course the system of communications built by the Forest Service is supplemented by roads, trails, and telephone lines which are the result of community and private enterprise; but the fact remains that great parts of the National Forests are most indifferently provided with improvements. Ten miles of trail and six of telephone line in the average township represent the approximate system needed for efficient protection. The construction of about eight times the present mileage of telephone line is therefore necessary to safeguard the National Forests adequately.

A remarkable development of public sentiment regarding forest fires has taken place. In this field, also, the fires of 1910 proved a great lesson. Belief on the part of a portion of the public that forest fires are either inevitable or of little importance has been replaced by a keen realization of the necessity for adopting safeguards against them and for putting them out. One result of this awakened and healthy sentiment has been more exacting demand for a high standard of protection of the National Forests. Fires which would previously have attracted little or no attention now receive wide newspaper notice and comment. The gain along this line has been enormous. It means, of course, public criticism if fires are not effectively controlled; nor is this a misfortune, for a public demand that a high standard of administration shall be maintained is in itself a safeguard; but it means also diminution of carelessness, better laws, and more general efforts to combat forest fires everywhere.

The growth of sentiment is reflected in the increased desire on the part of timberland owners, railroads, and business enterprises of all kinds conducting operations on or near the Forests to cooperate with the Forest Service in fire protection. The efforts of the railroads which run through the Forests to reduce to a minimum the danger of fires along their lines, through clearing their rights of way, preventing the discharge of sparks and the dropping of live coals, and

cooperation in patrol of the lines and the reporting of all fires discovered, deserve special mention, and the same is true of the increasing desire of timberland owners to provide systematic protection of their extensive holdings. Where these holdings are either adjacent to or intermingled with National Forest land in such a way as to make a common system of protection advantageous to both parties, the Forest Service and the associations have joined forces.


There was cut on the National Forests during the year a total of almost 500,000,000 board feet of timber, of which about 375,000,000 feet was sold and over 123,000,000 feet cut under free use. The total value of the timber cut under sales was $843,000, a decrease of $63,000 from the previous year. The contracts of sale entered into during the year, however, disposed of over $2,000,000 worth of timber—an increase of 50 per cent over the corresponding amount for the previous year. The average stumpage price obtained for the timber sold was $2.56, as against $2.44 in 1910.

It is estimated that the annual cut which might be obtained from the National Forests without diminishing the available supply (since the increase by growth would offset it) is over 3,250,000,000 feet, or more than six times what was cut. The Forests are now a heavy charge on the Government, and much of the timber is overmature. A natural question is: Why are not the sales increased, at least to the point at which the Forests will pay their way?

The answer is readily given. Since the panic of 1907 the lumber market has been depressed. During the past year there has been overproduction in the Northwest, where the heaviest stands of National Forest timber are found. To obtain any great increase in the receipts from timber sales last year I should have had to offer the timber at a price far below its actual value. The public is now amply supplied. Within a relatively few years the timber on the National Forests will be in great demand to meet fast-growing necessities and to help develop the West. I should be utterly disregardful of my responsibility and duty to the public, which owns the timber, if I were to permit large amounts to be needlessly sold on bargainday terms, and with the knowledge that instead of promoting the conservation of our timber resources I am accelerating their waste.

Vigorous efforts to dispose of at least a considerable fraction of the timber killed in last year's fires culminated after the close of the fiscal year in several large sales, aggregating about 290,000,000 feet. It is hoped to be able to sell perhaps 1,000,000,000 of the estimated 6,000,000,000 feet of dead timber which formed the aftermath of these fires; the remainder is too remote from present demands to be lumbered. The effort to sell this timber did not consist merely in making known the fact that it was for sale and offering it at a low price. Almost before the fires had ceased to smoke preparations had begun for cruising the timber in order that full data might be available for prospective purchasers. By being able to tell interested lumbermen what quantities of timber were obtainable on specific logging units, what development of transportation facilities would be required, and what logging methods could be employed, sales were facilitated. The same method is being extensively practiced for sales of live timber. Reconnoissance parties are put in the field to secure detailed timber estimates and make accurate maps, thus obtaining data valuable both for devising a long-term plan of management and for making immediate sales; intensive reconnoissance studies have now covered nearly 9,000,000 acres, of which nearly 4,000,000 acres were covered last year. Less intensive reconnoissance has covered an additional 17,000,000 acres.

On the basis of the best information in hand, I fix each year a maximum cut to be allowed during the year, usually for each Forest, but sometimes for groups of Forests so situated that from the standpoint of sustained yield they may be treated as a single unit without jeopardizing the future supply of timber for local use. This maximum cut is prescribed in order to prevent overcutting-that is, the removal of more timber than the current production through growth. The maximum cut authorized from all Forests during 1911 was a little less than 3,300,000,000 board feet. All sales are made with primary consideration for developing the productive power of the Forests through utilizing material whose removal will either be followed by the establishment of a new crop or increase the growth of the part of the stand left or both together. Merchantable dead timber and overripe timber, which is declining in quantity and value through decay, are being disposed of wherever a market is open. Under the silvicultural methods which are being applied steady increase in the rate of annual growth will be secured for many years.

Out of a total of 5,653 separate sales made during the year, 5,144 were for less than $100 worth of timber each, 397 for from $100 to $1,000 worth, and only 39 for over $5,000 worth. These figures show the extent to which the National Forests are drawn upon for the supply of small local demands. It is evident, however, that, along with continued use of the Forests for meeting local needs through small sales, a wise public policy demands the making of sales to large purchasers who will operate through a term of years, in Forests too far removed from present markets to permit of utilization in the near future without heavy investments of capital for means of transportation to get the timber out. Prior to the year 1911 no contracts were made for operations to cover a longer period than five years. Last year, however, three sales were advertised on terms which contemplated operations extending over from 7 to 10 years. It will be my policy, as favorable opportunity offers, to sell a certain amount of timber under longer-term contracts than have prevailed in the past, but with provision for the readjustment of stumpage prices at regular intervals and with proper precautions against purchases made with a view to reaping a speculative profit. Such sales will not only make it possible to utilize timber now ripe for the ax and thereby to increase the productivity of the Forests, but will also make it possible to advance with fair rapidity toward the point at which a sufficient income will be obtained to make the Forests self-supporting. The marked increase in the volume of sales last year, previously noted, is an indication of progress already making in this direction. On a number of Forests on which demand for timber is active the receipts from timber sales show even at the present time a net revenue over the cost of administration.


The problem of reforestation concerns both the establishment of new growth after lumbering operations and the extension of the forest over denuded areas. In either case there is a choice of methods. Reforestation may be accomplished, and is actually being accomplished on a very large scale, by making the forests themselves do the work. It is also accomplished through artificial methods.

The most valuable tool, under present conditions, for renewing and extending forest growth is fire protection. There are about 15,000,000 acres of denuded lands within the National Forests, the result of old fires and unregulated grazing. To a large extent these areas are now practically unproductive barrens, though some of them have a certain value as inferior grazing lands. In addition, some 90,000 acres are cut over annually under National Forest timber sales; and there is a further area, large in the aggregate, of grass lands, much of which will eventually be covered with growing timber. On all of the land which is now being cut over the operations are planned with a view to securing natural reforestation. It is estimated that an additional 150,000 acres of denuded land are being reoccupied by forest growth through natural extension. In both cases the desired results depend absolutely on keeping out fires, supplemented on a large part of the areas involved by the control of grazing. In other words, over 250,000 acres are being reforested annually by creating conditions favorable to natural reproduction.

It is probable that half the denuded lands, amounting to about 7,500,000 acres, will eventually be reconquered by the forest with

23165° --AGR 1911—-7

out the employment of other agencies than the control of fires and the regulation of use. At the estimated present rate of forest extension it will take about 50 years to complete the process. Artificial reforestation must be employed on the other half, and will doubtless also be employed to some extent, as the need for timber supplies grows more pressing, to hasten the process of natural forest extension. It may also be called for as the best means of reestablishing the forest after lumbering on certain classes of cut-over lands.

The object sought in reforestation is not only the production of timber for cutting, but also the improvement of stream-flow conditions.

The work of the year in artificial reforestation included both sued sowing and tree planting. The seed sowing was applied on a little more than 23,000 acres under a variety of methods. The tree planting was applied on 2,000 acres with the use of nursery stock grown in nurseries on the National Forests. Aside from the stock furnished without charge to settlers in western Nebraska under the Kincaid Act, the annual product of these nurseries will within three years be sufficient, after providing for losses incident to the various stages in the development of hardy seedlings, to plant 8,000 acres annually.

On most of the National Forest areas which are in the greatest need of artificial reforestation the work is exceptionally difficult. Where the natural conditions are favorable, the Forests tend to restore themselves. Success in establishing a new forest growth under semiarid conditions depends on the discovery of methods based on careful experiment, and even so must always involve a certain element of luck, due to the vicissitudes of seasonal variations. In a certain sense, almost all of the work hitherto done is to be regarded as experimental; that is, it is the process of working out commercial methods rather than the application of methods which have been reduced to a strictly business basis. The practical expediency of reforesting any area as a wise business policy could be decided only by balancing the probable cost against the probable benefits; this would require a reasonably accurate estimate of the cost. The object of the work which has been actually undertaken has been rather to find out what the cost will be and to test the relative cost and success of different methods. Considered as a business operation, the average cost has been high and the variation in cost has been extreme. The practical value of the work lies in this very fact, for results are being secured in the light of which future operations may be directed along the best and most economical lines.

In regions where the conditions are relatively favorable, as on the west slopes of the Rocky Mountain and Cascade Ranges in the Northwest, the results obtained justify operations upon a larger

« PreviousContinue »