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FORESTRY INVESTIGATIONS AND WORK OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.
Hon. JAMES WILSON,
REPORT BY DR. B. E. FERNOW.
NEW YORK STATE COLLEGE OF FORESTRY,
Secretary of Agriculture.
SIR: It is with great satisfaction that the writer embraces the opportunity kindly afforded by you to prepare, in answer to the inquiry of Congress, a report on the work of the Division of Forestry in the United States Department of Agriculture in the past, which is to show the results and the practical utility of the investigations of the same.
Having directed the work of the Division of Forestry for more than twelve years consecutively, the writer may claim to possess intimate knowledge not only of its work, but of the aims and objects, the policy and the reasons for it, which have actuated its administration during the larger part of its existence.
If the appreciation of the public, expressed by letter and by print, can be considered as an indication of the value and utility of its work and satisfaction in the existence of the Division, it would only be necessary to inspect the files of the Division or the public prints, especially the extracts from the journals which represent the interests of forest exploitation and of the lumber trade, and are, therefore, most prominently interested in the subject for which the Division stands. While twelve years ago these publications had only ridicule and opprobrium for those who advocated the application of forestry methods in the use of our forest resources, giving them the title of "denudatics," under which the Division of Forestry was included, to-day there is no utterance of the Division which does not receive respectful hearing and full appreciation and praise in their columns, the shorter and even some of the longer publications of the Division being frequently reprinted in full.
It will, however, be more useful, as the provision of Congress calling for this report requires, to explain the work of the Division more fully. I propose, therefore, in the following pages to treat the subject in three parts: (1) Giving a brief historical sketch of the administrative features of the Division, together with the reasons for its establishment; (2) discussing the character of the work done, with the reasons for undertaking the precise kind of work which was done; (3) giving a résumé of the status of the forestry movement in the United States and the relation which the Division has had to it; placing in appendixes the more detailed facts and information of importance which the Division has collected or secured.
From this account, then, it is hoped that the value of the work of the Division, the propriety of its existence, and not only of its continuance but also of the extension of its work and functions in the future may appear. Certain it is that so far the Division has not been properly considered and endowed, and its usefulness has been impaired by insufficient appropriations and consequently limited functions.
The time has come when it should not only more vigorously pursue technical investigations, but when it should have charge of the public timber lands, and especially the public forest reservations, which will never answer their purpose until controlled by systematic management, such as all other civilized nations apply to their forest property.
The establishment of the Division of Forestry can be traced to the action of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which at its annual meeting at Portland in August, 1873, appointed a committee "to memorialize Congress and the several State legislatures upon the importance of promoting the cultivation of timber and the preservation of forests and to recommend proper legislation for securing these objects."
A subcommittee of this committee, consisting of Mr. George B. Emerson, a well known educator and naturalist, and Dr. F. B. Hough, prepared the memorial' and furthered its consideration by the Forty-third Congress, the memorial having been transmitted to the Congress with a special message by President Grant and referred to the Committee on Public Lands in both House and Senate. Although as a result a bill was favorably reported by the Committee of the House providing for the appointment of a Commissioner of Forestry, similar to the Commissioner of Fisheries, no action was taken by the Forty-third Congress, nor did the Forty-fourth Congress act on a similar bill introduced by Hon. Mark H. Dunnell, M. C. Instead an amendment was adopted to the act making appropriations for the legislative, executive, and judicial expenses of the Government for the year ending June 30, 1877, which was approved August 15, 1876, and required that the Commissioner of Agriculture "appoint a man of approved attainments and practically well acquainted with the methods of statistical inquiry, with the view of ascertaining the annual amount of consumption, importation, and exportation of timber and other forest products; the probable supply for future wants, the means best adapted to the preservation and renewal of forests, the influence of forests on climate, and the measures that have been successfully applied in foreign countries or that may be deemed applicable in this country for the preservation and restoration or planting of forests, and to report upon the same to the Commissioner of Agriculture, to be by him in a separate report transmitted to Congress."
Curiously and significantly enough this clause and the appropriation of $2,000 for the purpose appears as a part of the provisions for the distribution of seeds.
In obedience to this law the then Commissioner of Agriculture, the Hon. Frederick Watts, appointed, on August 30, 1876, Dr. Franklin B. Hough, of Lowville, Lewis County, N. Y., as an agent to prepare such report, Dr. Hough not only having been most instrumental in bringing about the legislation leading to his appointment, but also being well known as a writer of local histories and gatherer of statistical material.
This appointment was continued from year to year without further special appropriation by Congress; since 1881, however, under a special appropriation as chief of an established administrative division in the Department of Agriculture. Dr. Hough produced three voluminous reports, transmitted to and published by Congress in separate volumes in 1877, 1880, and 1882, and comprising in all 1,586 pages of information on a wide range of subjects.
The appropriations being extremely limited, special original research was excluded, and Dr. Hough being acquainted with the subject as an interested layman only and not as a professional forester, these reports, while valuable compilations of existing facts from various sources, naturally did not contain any original matter, except such suggestions as Dr. Hough could make with regard to the duties of the Government with reference to the forestry interests of the country and especially of the public domain.
In 1883 Dr. Hough was displaced as chief of the administrative division, although retained as an agent under the new chief, Mr. N. H. Eggleston, from Stockbridge, Mass. During Mr. Eggleston's incumbency one report was issued in 1884--the first published directly from the Department of Agriculture-comprising 462 pages. It concerned itself largely with tree-planting interests in the prairies and plains; it reported also on the decrease of woodlands in the State of Ohio and the forest conditions in some other States; it adduced statistics on the kinds and quantity of railroad ties used in the country and discussed the production of maple sugar. In a briefer report (24 pp.) embodied in the Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture for 1885 various other questions were also touched upon.
See Appendix (copy from Sen. Ex. Doc. 23, first session Forty-third Congress).
2 Report No. 259, H. R., first session Forty third Congress.
3 See "Readings of appropriations" further on.
On March 15, 1886, the writer assumed the position of chief of the Division of Forestry, which on July 1, by the act of Congress making provision for the expenditures of the Department for the year ending June 30, 1887, approved August 15, 1886, became a permanent statutory part of the organization of the Department.
The writer may be justified in stating here that he is a forester by profession, having received his technical education at a professional school and having been employed in the Prussian State Forestry Department. He was able, therefore, to direct the work of the Division with a professional knowledge of the requirements of the subject and from the standpoint of the forester.
His appointment having been preceded by a residence of nearly ten years in this country, he had also enjoyed ample opportunity during varied occupation in city and country, and especially as secretary of the American Forestry Association since 1883, to become acquainted with American conditions, institutions, and requirements, and to fully appreciate climatic, floral, social, and economic differences.
With gradually increased appropriations during the following years, not only was the propa ganda for more rational treatment of our forest resources continued, but in addition, technical and original investigations were instituted.
With the growing interest in the subject, the correspondence with those seeking technical advice grew. As a result, besides the printed publications of the Division there are recorded in letter-press books nearly 20,000 pages of matter, largely containing specific advice given to correspondents during the twelve years of the writer's administration.
While during the years from 1876 to 1886 the aggregate of appropriations for the investigations in forestry amounted to somewhat less than $60,000, the aggregate of expenditures during the twelve years following has been, in round numbers, $230,000, excluding an appropriation of $17,000 for the artificial production of rain, which being not germane to the work of the Division. and not expended under its direction, is not properly chargeable to it.
The printed information issued during this time, besides some unpublished manuscripts, comprises about 6,000 pages. It is published in four different forms, namely: annual reports contained in the reports of the Secretary of Agriculture and in the Yearbook of the Department of Agricul ture; bulletins, in which more exhaustive and more or less complete investigations of any one subject are recorded; circulars of information, in which information that could be treated more briefly or preliminary announcements of results in some one line of investigation are communicated; reports to Congress, in response to calls for special information. A list of the publications of the Division is appended.
It can be claimed that at least one-half of the amount of the printed matter is original, i. e., recording results of investigations, being of an independent character and containing new truths, while for the other half originality of form or presentation of statement can at least be claimed, being compilations of facts which can not be found elsewhere in the same shape.
This means that if the money value of the manuscript pages of advice be added to that of the printed pages at a fair ratio, the information has been secured during the last period at an average price of less than $24 per page, which is hardly a fair charge for expert writing; while during the preceding period of nonprofessional writing the cost was about $30 per page. And if only the truly original information covering new additions to our knowledge is included, it has cost less than $75 per page. As to its money value to the people, which is hardly capable of expression in dollars and cents, some calculations will be found in later pages of this report when discussing the character of the work. From these it will appear that enough new information has been secured through the Division of a kind which can be translated into money through savings in useful forest materials amounting to millions of dollars and paying fifty fold for the expenditures.
The indirect value, however, in awakening an interest and proper conception of the subject, which can not be expressed in money, is infinitely greater and more important.
$8,000.00 8.000 00 8,000.00 8,000.00 b10,000.00 € 15, 056.85 12,000.00 c 20, 000. 00 20,000.00 25, 000, 00 20,000.00 20,000.00 174,056, 85
a 2, 500.00
1, 268. 01
REASONS FOR CREATING A DIVISION OF FORESTRY.
1.70 12.64 163.17
Total second period (12 years)..
a Not especially appropriated, but disbursed from other funds for forestry investigations.
b Increase for experiments in the production of rainfall.
e Increase for investigations in timber physics, although not specially so expressed in appropriation clause until following years.
66.61 4.04 91.77 6, 601.88 487.12 275.67
These appropriations represent not much over 1 per cent of the appropriations for the entire Department of Agriculture during the same years, a ridiculously small and disproportionate amount when the relative magnitude of the agricultural and the forestry interests are considered.
The reason for establishing a Government agency where one of the largest interests in the country, the forestry interest, should find consideration and at least partial representation seems obvious if we acknowledge merely the educational function of government. This we have practically acknowledged as legitimate in the maintenance of the Department of Agriculture itself and of schools of various descriptions, experimental stations, etc. There would seem to be no need for other reasons than the fact that the absence of the art of forestry, which is practiced by other civilized nations, calls for the exercise of this educational function. But this interest has more need for governmental consideration than many others for reasons which may need fuller discussion.
They are (1) the magnitude of the manufacturing interests which rely upon the exploitation and on the continuance of the forest resources; (2) the widespread influence which forest areas, their presence or absence, and their condition have upon water flow, upon soil and climate, hence influencing navigation, damage by floods, and changes in agricultural conditions, thereby imparting to the forest cover a particular communal interest; (3) the peculiar technical and economic aspects of the art of forestry which, dealing with long time periods, does not readily recommend itself to private enterprise and needs the fostering care of the government to guard the communal interest in the forest cover.
The magnitude of the mere industrial and commercial interests which are subserved by forest growth is best expressed by a comparison with other industries, as is done in the subjoined table, from which it appears that the aggregate value of products of the industries relying for their existence on wood as raw material amounts to at least two billion dollars, second only in value to that of agricultural products. In capital and labor employed and in wages paid and value of product the forest industries and wood-manufacturing establishments outrank by far any other group of industries which may rationally be considered together. Even if the entire group of industries relying upon mineral products is considered together, it falls in value of product at least 25 per cent below that of the wood products of the country.