Ray Stannard Baker
The Century/May, 1903
Here, at last, was the deep forest. Since dawn we had been climbing the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, first on the flat-car of a logging train running up from Puget Sound—the air nimble with cold, the sun not yet risen—twisting around perilous side-hills, across burned slashings thick with colossal stumps, over mountain streams, through stretches of virgin wood, towering and dark, where we ran as in a canyon of verdure; then still more perilously upward on a mountain locomotive, geared for just such gorges and bold climbs as these, past logging camps squatting low in the thick, moist undergrowth, the landings piled high with new logs; and then to a still steeper skidway worn with the downward rush of ponderous, shaggy logs. Thus we came to the opening where the axman, the swamper, the barker, the bucker, the sniper, the dogchain tender were at work in the forest, where the donkey-engine, fuming with the spicy, ever-to-be-remembered odor of fresh cedar-smoke, was dragging the logs by resistless steel cable from the unwilling wood. Still upward, through the green ruin of the fresh cutting, the scarred earth where fir and cedar had fallen, the broken and tangled undergrowth, we came at last to the deep forest.
Now the head feller lays his hand on the fir, looking up along its mighty bole, a hundred and fifty feet to the first limb. The head feller is without awe in this place—a ruddy young Swede with tobacco in his cheek and holes in his hat. To him a forest is so much merchantable lumber, lath, shingles; a tree, three or four matter-of-fact logs, sound or shaky. They call him Chris.
“We’ll take this feller. Ay tank,” he says. “Make ’im fall over dare.”
It seems irrational that two men alone should attempt such a task, two pygmies with toy axes, a toy saw, a sledge, a bottle of kerosene-oil. For where the ridged and rugged butt of the great fir sets into the earth, it is thirty feet in circumference, a massive column rising two hundred and fifty feet in air. Its very bark is a foot thick; its flesh is solid and hard.
Chris and his partner clear away for a space the tangle of wild sweet clover and Oregon grape; then they cut stepping notches in the bark of the giant. Ten feet above the earth they fasten two springboards, narrow planks on which they now stand perilously balanced, their spiked shoes clinging fast, their double-bladed axes in hand. Even at the height of this enormous prospective stump the tree is over seven feet through. Chris spits on his hands, shifts his tobacco, and takes a nick from the brown bark. Jack follows: the tree stands as firm as the ages, towering to the sky. For hours they swing steadily, the knocking of their axes echoing through the silent forest. A fine drizzle of rain sets in, darkening all the wood; they do not pause, except now and then to wipe their dripping faces. Far below from the valley come occasionally the rattling, tinny sounds of the donkey-engine as it winds in on its cables, and less frequently the whistled signal of some invisible log-boss in the woods. A kerf, or notch, three feet deep in the clean white wood is finished at last, the earth underneath it covered with pitchy chips. Skillfully has this notch been made, for it is this that governs the fall of the tree.
Chris makes no errors. Where he says a tree will fall, there it falls. Set a stake a hundred feet from the foot of a fir, and he will so cut the kerf that the falling tree will drive it into the ground.
Now they have had their lunch: for each one a heaped pyramid of cold beans, three cups of coffee, three boiled eggs, five or six wedges of bread, cold ham in quantities, cake, and crackers—a meal there in the rain in proportion to the work. They shift their spring-boards to the other side of the great tree, and the long, double-handled saw rasps into the rough bark. Back and forth they sway, balancing perfectly on the narrow boards. Jack at one side, Chris at the other. Their heads are bare in the drizzling rain, their sleeves rolled up over their hairy arms; through their wet shirts one sees the play of the muscles in their shoulders. So, steadily, unrelentingly, the back-breaking task goes forward for hours. Occasionally, as the saw cuts deeper, they pause to change the spring-boards, and pour a little kerosene from their flat pocket-flasks on the saw, to clean it of pitch. They shout their signals, for the tree is so huge that they work without seeing each other.
Through nearly five feet of solid green timber have they thus cut their way, little jets of sawdust following each withdrawal of the saw; their trousers and shoes are yellow with it. But the fir has given no sign of yielding, still towering mighty among the smaller hemlocks and cedars. One’s interest grows acute. It is nothing less than a tragedy that this majestic tree should be laid low; it seems impossible, indeed, that it can be made to fall from its wide-spreading foundation, after five hundred years of the stout survival of storm and shock.
Chris and Jack have been discussing in brief scraps the vagaries of a certain camp cook, who, it seems, had served a baked mouse with the beans. Now, still unconcerned with the impending catastrophe, they withdraw the hot saw. Wedges they place in the saw kerf opposite the undercut, sledging them in.
“Watch out there!” roars Jack. “Watch out over the hill!”
His voice echoes through the hushed distances of the forest. Strange sound here, this human cry; strange and full of portent. We withdraw far up the hill, for, in the ruin which follows the fall of one of these giants, branches are sometimes hurled for hundreds of feet.
“If you stay too clost,” warns Chris, “you get killt pooty qvick.”
We hear the crack, crack of the sledge on wedge metal, then suddenly a sharp, penetrating, unearthly snapping, rending, tearing, which thrills through the dripping forest. Away plunge the fellers, shouting:
“Watch out below! Watch out! Watch out!”
The great fir, for the first time, gives sign of distress, of yielding; a shiver passes through its mighty bulk; there are other sounds of rending wood, far-reaching, overpowering; then, slowly, with stately majesty, the noble tree sways aside, with matchless dignity even to the last. Its lofty head, gray, gnarled, stupendous, gives way, and opens a wide space of leaden sky, letting in a garish light to the wood. Faster it falls, striking the earth with a hollow roar, jarring the whole forest as with an earthquake, the sound of it reverberating through the valley, deep, hoarse, appalling —the death-cry of the fir!
Though the earth is moist with rain, the air fills with dust, followed for seconds afterward by a shower of falling branches, some as large as a man’s body. And such ruin as the fall has wrought in the wood! Here is a young hemlock, a magnificent tree in any forest but this, stripped clean on one side of every limb and all its bark. Lightning could do no worse. Here are a dozen young cedars crushed to splinters; smaller shrubs are driven into the soft earth, where the giant now lies as in a trough.
Silence again in the forest, except for the dripping of rain on the leaves, the occasional snap of a twig as the fir settles in its resting-place. Then the calm, matter-of-fact voices of Chris and his companion, coming leisurely forward:
“Better make thirty-sixes and thirty-eights out of it.”
They are taking a fresh chew of tobacco; they reek with the odor of toil.
We walk along the body of the prostrate fir, seemingly even more immense now that it has fallen, lying like a bridge through the wood. It is bare in places where the bark has been torn off in the catastrophe. The bucker—he who is now to cut the tree into log lengths—comes measuring and notching, making ready for the saw. And he finds that the fir, noble as it had looked in life, was decayed at the top, so that, in falling, a hundred feet of the mighty summit was splintered and broken.
“Rotten as a pumpkin,” he comments. “It’ll make only three logs.”
But such logs—six feet through and thirty-six and thirty-eight feet long! Lumber enough to build a small house. One good tree of this size will yield from fifteen to eighteen thousand feet of good lumber, besides shingles, lath, and fire-wood, a money value of from two hundred and fifty to four hundred dollars, and sometimes more.
While we speculate on the lumber possibilities of a single tree, the swampers have been at work on the forest hillside, clearing a trail through the thick undergrowth, and here and there, where necessary, laying down a pathway of short timbers or skids along which the logs can be dragged out of the wood. Other Chrises or Jacks in overalls and with spiked shoes come to “snipe,” or bevel, off the ends of the logs, and to clean the bark from the “riding side,” so that the logs will slip easily along the miles of skidways which they must now travel. All this work is done with splendid system and despatch, the buckers following the sawyers, the snipers and barkers following the buckers, and so on.
Now painfully up the hill they drag the heavy wire cable from the donkey engine, assisted by a pulley-horse in the valley below, and attach it by means of hooks set in notches near the end of the leviathan. The boss whistles; Jimmy of the engine—that greasy man in the “dinky” cap—toots in return. The drum revolves, growling and rattling, the cable tightens, and the log begins its momentous journey. Down the hill it plunges, rooting through the earth, tearing up shrub and tree, now slipping willingly over the skids, now sulking behind a rotten windfall, until at last it reaches the main skid road, a long, carefully engineered path or trough made of. logs laid endwise and winding off down the mountain-side for over a mile. Sometimes this trough is made slippery with grease, and sometimes a liberal watering is sufficient. Five or six logs are now fastened together, end to end, with dog-chains. The cable from the lower donkey-engine is attached to the leader, the signal is given, and the train of logs slips forward faster and faster down the hill, bounding, jerking, swinging around the curves of the skidway, and finally, with rush and roar, their under sides hot with friction, they plunge past the lower engine and out on the tracks of the mountain railroad. A man has followed them all the way, sometimes even riding, dangerously, on the bounding logs, dancing a lively measure with spiked boots on the rough bark. Sometimes, too daring, he falls, and there is a broken leg, and often worse; for these are perilous operations.
Now the geared mountain locomotive takes hold. The track is planked from rail to rail, and the train of logs, chained to the engine, is dragged wildly down the hill. We rode on the engine, watching the logs twisting and bounding after us, around curves where it seemed they must certainly jump the track, down grades where we expected the logs to rush upon us and crush us, locomotive and all. Yet we always maintained our distance, the ponderous logs, many of which were as wide as the track itself, miraculously keeping to the narrow space between the rails. Sometimes, indeed, the logs do jump the track—we saw in places the signs of such ruin, —and sometimes they carry the locomotive with them; but for the thousands of logs that are thus brought down the mountainside there are remarkably few accidents.
At the end of the mountain railroad we came to the level landing-place where the logs were rolled across a narrow platform and out upon ordinary flat-cars, another donkey-engine assisting in the work of loading, so that many logs, piled pyramid-wise, could be placed on each car. When a dozen cars or more were loaded, a standard locomotive came and pulled them to the mills, thirty miles away in Tacoma, downhill all the way.
Nowhere else in the world is there such a forest as this. A few steps in any direction from the roads of the loggers bring one at once to the primeval wood.
Turn to the north. A thousand and five hundred miles you may wander, if you will, and never escape the inclosing silences of this wood. Across the British possessions, through endless reaches of mountains, snow-capped, inaccessible, and onward to Alaska, nothing but trees and trees—cedar, fir, hemlock, pine, spruce. Turn to the south. For a thousand miles of Sierra, through the heart of California, where grows the sequoia, the monarch among trees, to the very deserts of the Mexican border, and you will find this forest still covering all the hills, thick, silent, and all but undisturbed. A continent long is this wood, facing the Pacific, here two hundred miles wide, from the water’s-edge across the heights of the Cascades and the Sierra, there narrowing to a thin, straggling, yet persistent growth along the mountain-tops.
This tree before you, rising two hundred and fifty feet in air, straight and strong, thick-coated with brown bark, its mighty base setting firmly in the earth, its roots gripping deep, was growing before Columbus saw America. Five hundred years has it been standing here, raising its head to the sky. What storms has it bent before; under what ages of sunshine has it gained strength; what lightning strokes have threatened it, what sweeping fires! And still it stands with the sublime majesty of age and strength, fearful of nothing—and the sound of axes knocking in the valley below!
But long before the seed of this hoary giant was sown in the wind, forests were old on these hills. For fifty thousand years and more have these mountains been forest-clad, one forest rising five hundred years from youth to maturity, sinking away in ripe old age, and giving room to another generation of trees. Deep in the earth to-day lie some of these ancient forests, changed by the slow chemistry of the ages into coal, and now at last beginning to give out for men the sunshine which they stored up centuries before the beginning of history.
During all these ages nature has favored the growth of forests on the Pacific mountains, providing the peculiar conditions which make them far different, much greater in size, more luxuriant, than any other in the world. Of all the creations of the living world none is so great in size, so majestic in presence, as the mighty trees of the Sierra and the Cascades. For here the air is always fertile with moisture; clouds blown in from the Pacific Ocean rest among the mountain summits, even crowning the tops of the trees themselves, and here discharge their rain. The soil is deep and spongy with centuries of decomposing vegetable matter, furnishing an unequaled nurturing-place for vegetation, and there are no extremes of heat in summer or depths of cold in winter. Every condition has been favorable to unexampled exuberance of growth not only of the larger trees, but of all manner of undergrowth, vine, shrub, and brake. A huge tree falls, decays, and is yellowed with thick moss; immediately scores of young firs and cedars spring up along the top of it—the first chance of a bare spot in the wood. Old burned stumps, gathering soil in their hollow interiors, are nurseries for colonies of young trees, some strong individual finally shouldering out the others, growing larger, and, as the mother stump drops away, sending its roots downward into the earth through the disintegrating textures, until it, in time, becomes a great tree. Even where the lumberman has laid the country waste with ax and fire, the new growth, creeping in silently from all directions, clothes the naked land with green within a year or two—a tangle of verdure almost impassable. Some of the old cuttings of Wisconsin and Maine have become all but barren wastes, the new growth coming in slowly or not at all; but here reforestation, unless prevented by continued fires or cultivation, goes forward immediately. There is no hindering the work of the fertile earth and the moist winds, and if these hills, when cut over, could be protected, they would again produce a great forest, though none of us might wait to see the harvest.
We hear much of the magnitude of Western lumbering operations. Truly they are great and wonderful, and yet so vast are the forests that men have barely notched the edges. An eye that could see the continent length would hardly perceive the puny cuttings of the few loggers among the great trees, though he might see the blackened evidences of the forest fire.
Yet the logger is there at last, the sign of the consuming human builder. Five hundred years has the forest been preparing for his advent; he comes now, heedlessly, to reap his crop, unmindful of the wonders of the place. Long ago he sent down most of the forests of Maine to build Boston and New York; he has consumed the timber of Pennsylvania; he has nearly swept away the noble Lake Superior forests ; he is fast subduing the ranges of the Southern pine; and now surely, slowly, inexorably, wastefully, he is gnawing his way into the greatest of all forests. Years it will take him, but he will finally subdue it—he and that other more destructive agency, his own ungoverned servant, the forest fire. Already, comparatively small as his beginnings are, he has built up scores of towns in the forest region; hundreds of miles of his railroad penetrate its solemn depths; he has absorbed the services of scores of ocean vessels; and his product is now being used in every part of the world: his masts on ships built in Maine; his shingles on houses in the ancient lumber stronghold of Michigan; his timbers in the mines of Australia and South Africa. His business today makes up a large share of the total commerce of the ports of Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, to say nothing of a score of other towns along the Pacific from Alaska to California.
But the waste of it all! Nothing impresses the visitor more strongly than the almost reckless despoliation of the forest. Here they have left to rot or burn a stump twelve feet high, seven feet across; here is the entire top of the tree, a hundred feet or more in length, in places over a foot through, with great branches forty feet long. It would yield a large amount of good lumber, lath, shingles, and scores of cords of wood. If only that forest could be gleaned for the East Side of New York! Presently, when the loggers have finished their cutting, they will burn over the land, destroying everything that is left, even killing all the young and growing trees, some of them fifty years old or more, and large enough for good lumber, but left to waste in this forest where there is so much other and better timber. You travel over miles and miles of such blackened, desolate waste, in some cases the earth having been sown with grass-seed so that no new forest growth will appear. Much more than half of the actual bulk of the timber (sixty or seventy-five per cent) is ruthlessly wasted, burned, lost, in the process of lumbering.
Yet the lumbermen say helplessly:
“What can we do? We don’t like the waste; we are the greatest losers. But it does not pay us to cut any closer or save any more. We must watch our ledgers. We can find sufficient market for only the best and choicest lumber, so we save only the best logs. Freight rates to the East are so high that we cannot manufacture common-grade stuff and sell it to compete with Michigan and Georgia, and the population here on the coast is not sufficient yet to absorb a tenth part of it. As the country settles up and the demand grows, we shall cut closer and save more, as they are now doing in the Eastern lumber woods. As for the fires, we must burn over our old cuttings, else they furnish material for forest fires which would sweep into and destroy the green timber.”
So the waste goes ruthlessly onward. The loggers are only one element in the wholesale destruction. Every year great fires break out, sweeping through the mountains, licking the very earth bare of its timber, and leaving it hopelessly desolate and forlorn, sometimes wiping towns out of existence, destroying railroad property, and taking toll of human life. For weeks during the summer of 1902, while we were among the forests, all Oregon and Washington lay under a pall of smoke: towns, sawmills, farms, logging-camps were burned; settlers were driven from their homes; millions of acres of forest were burned, the timber being utterly destroyed, representing the loss of millions of dollars. The result of a single fire in Washington is thus described in a newspaper dispatch:
TACOMA, WASHINGTON, September 16, 1902. Thirty-eight bodies were found today in the Lewis River valley, indicating that the devastation there by forest fires was worse than supposed. The search is still in progress. The burned district was settled by five hundred prosperous farmers, who lost all they had. Sixty persons camping out at Trout Lake, near the base of Mount St. Helens, saved themselves by taking to the water on improvised rafts of poles and logs. One hundred and forty sections of the finest timber in Cowlitz County were destroyed. The total losses in western Washington cannot be less than two million dollars, without counting the cessation of the logging industry of southwestern Washington.
Henry Gannett, government lumber expert, is authority for the statement that while about twenty per cent of the merchantable timber of Washington has been cut by lumbermen, over twenty-two and a half per cent, has been destroyed by fire. And there seems no way to stay this criminal wastefulness and loss, the very robbery of coming generations; there is no concerted action, no thought for the future. While the fire burns, the people talk, as at the burning of a neighbor’s barn; the newspapers agitate: but with the first rain the fires are forgotten until another year.
Everything connected with the lumbering industry of the Northwest is built on larger lines than in the East. The timber is greater, the distances more extensive, the country far more mountainous and difficult, the waste more appalling. Consequently the Northwest has had to develop new methods of lumbering, using a maximum of machinery and steam, a minimum of man-muscle and horse-power. Naturally, the practices in different localities vary slightly according to local conditions. Sometimes oxen are employed to haul the logs out of the woods; sometimes, where a mountain stream is convenient, they are shot down steep hillsides in water-chutes, landing at the bottom in a pond or river. In one locality, Bridal Veil, Oregon, where the forest is in the depths of m inaccessible canyon, the logs are lifted up hundreds of feet by wires suspended from the top of the canyon, sawed on their hills, and the lumber sent down in water-chutes. But, in the main, the methods are everywhere the same, and very different indeed from the operations in the Maine and Wisconsin woods—more daring, and on a much larger scale.
In these older lumber states the trees are not so large by far, nor do they grow usually in such difficult mountain places. There is more room for the work of men and oxen, for pevee and pike and ax. The Eastern logger commonly cuts his timber only in the winter, lands the logs on the ice of some stream or lake, and in the spring utilizes the freshet waters for driving them out and down to the sawmill, often many miles below. The lumberman chops in winter, goes “on the drive “ in the spring, and lies idle, spending his money, in the summer. But these new loggeries of the Pacific coast never rest, cutting, hauling, sawing all the year round, except for a week at the Fourth of July, the greatest time of the year for every lumberman, and another week or more at Christmas. Nowhere else in the world has timber-cutting reached such a science as it has here in the West. The Russian government has had two separate commissions, for weeks at a time, inspecting these operations with reference to duplicating the machinery and methods in the forests of the Caucasus and Siberia.
The loggers in these camps live much as they do in Wisconsin, as they have for years in Maine—the same rude shacks set in the deep woods; the same long, low dining-room, with the same advertisement girls on the walls; the same fat cook in oil-cloth apron bringing in the same huge pans of beans, potatoes, soda-bread, pork, and prunes. Yet there are many and important differences. Working all the year round in one place, some of the men bring their wives and families to the camps; others build separate shacks, where they can secure privacy and a few comforts that they cannot find in the big, smoky bunk-houses. The camps are often more like little villages than temporary lodgings, and they are correspondingly more comfortable, attracting a better class of men. In the Eastern camps the management supplies the bed-clothing and the food. Here every man owns and cares for his own bedding, and has pride in keeping it clean; and he pays for his board from his wages at so much a day. Wages in the West are also higher. In one camp that I visited ordinary workingmen received from two dollars and a half to three dollars and twenty-five cents a day, with a deducted charge of sixty-five cents for board. A fine, healthy, hearty lot of men they were, too, from Mr. Wilbur, the “old man,” down to the waterboy. Singularly enough, logging seems to go by latitude. A large proportion of men in these winter camps are from Maine, Michigan, and Wisconsin—Northern logging districts all—or else they are Swedes or Norwegians from the lumbering country of northern Europe, mostly young men, and unusually intelligent.
Sitting about the fire of an evening, one can find men with whom to discuss almost any subject under the sun, and with wit and intelligence, too: the poet who can repeat “The Lady of the Lake”; the man who knows Dickens to the last character; the inevitable Scotchman, with his Bobbie Burns; and one is certain of his fill of politics and religion. Rough fun and cards there are, too, in plenty; and on the Fourth and Christmas, wild hilarity and the reckless disposal of hard-earned dollars. The food is good and astonishingly abundant, yet not more astonishing than the appetites of the men who gather at the long tables.
At Tacoma I visited a sawmill said to have a greater capacity than any other in the United States, and, with one exception (in Norway), the greatest in the world. It is, in fact, two separate mills, covering a wide, low flat, with docks on the sound where ships can be loaded at the door of the yards. Here the logs from the camp which we visited are sawed. They are dumped from the railroad-cars into ponds of water and held until the mill is ready to cut them into lumber. Mr. Royce showed me through this great establishment, with its devices for handling the enormous logs of fir and cedar, hemlock and spruce, which come to it daily. Nearly every step in the long process is performed by some humanlike machine. Logs weighing many tons are handled like jack-straws, pulled out of the water, whirled over, lifted about, gripped, slabbed off, turned again easily, and, directed by the swift and sure judgment of the expert sawyer, driven through band-saws or great gang-saws, cutting twenty boards or more at once, and finally trimmed to certain lengths—everything moving at once, smoothly, with absolute exactitude. In fifteen minutes from the time the log enters the mill it has been reduced to lumber of several grades; the poor parts have been whittled up into lath and shingles, the slabs have been shot out on a great pile for fire-wood, and the remaining bark, sawdust, and refuse have been carried away to the fire-heap. This mill cuts 100,000,000 feet of lumber and 90,000,000,000 shingles a year, and its product goes the world over—to Australia, Hawaii, China, South Africa, South America, and Europe.
Washington, Oregon, and California are now the chief sources of the world’s supply for all timber of extraordinary size, length, and fine quality. I saw two single timbers a hundred and ten feet long, twenty-four inches square, weighing over eight tons each, loaded on a row of three flat-cars, ordered for the mines of Butte, Montana. The Pacific forests have supplied the masts for the great sailing-ships of Maine, a recent order being for a stick, clear and straight, one hundred and thirty-two feet long, five feet in circumference at the bottom, and three feet at the top. It required four flatcars to carry two such spars, and they could hardly be got around some of the curves and through the tunnels of the railroad lines over which they were shipped. These mills supplied the flooring, sixty-three feet long, clear lumber, for Emperor Wilhelm’s yacht, an order that could not have been filled outside of the Pacific forests.
And the supplies of timber in the Pacific Northwest seem all but inexhaustible. A large proportion of the states of Washington and Oregon and the northern and central parts of California are today densely forested. Though the figures are too great to convey much of an idea, Washington has 47,700 square miles (seventy-one per cent, of the area of the state) of forest, a considerable portion of which is merchantable lumber; and Oregon 54,300 square miles (fifty-seven per cent of the area of the state). Four counties in Oregon have timber valued at (rough lumber prices) $578,000,000, or about four times the entire assessed valuation of the state. Washington has more lumber today than the combined states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. One of the best lumber authorities of the Northwest told me that there is standing in Washington 200,000,000,000 feet of timber—billion, be it understood—red fir, hemlock, and cedar mostly; in Oregon, 225,000,000,000 feet, mostly red fir and yellow pine; in California, 200,000,000,000 feet, mostly redwood and yellow pine. It has been estimated that cutting at the present rate may go forward for upward of one hundred and twenty years before the forests are exhausted. It is probable, however, that the rate of cutting will increase enormously within a very few years. The forests of the East are rapidly disappearing; population is everywhere growing, with a consequent increased demand for lumber, so that the United States must come to lean more and more heavily on the Pacific coast forests for its supplies. Indeed, the increase in the lumbering business of the northwestern states has been phenomenal. Twenty years ago the Oregon product was worth $2,000,000. In 1900 it was five times as much—over $10,000,000. In the same time Washington’s product showed even a more extraordinary expansion, leaping from $1,734,000 to over $30,000,000, while California rose from $8,794,000 to $13,764,000. About one-fourteenth of all the lumber of the United States now comes from Washington and Oregon.
But the forests of these states will not all be sacrificed to the logger and lumberman, fortunately. Some remnants of the great Pacific wood will be saved for future generations. During the last few years the United States government, pursuing a policy new in its history, has stepped in and set aside vast areas of forest lands along the summits of the Cascade Mountains in both Washington and Oregon, and west of Puget Sound in the former state. The chief purpose of the reserves is to protect the head-waters of the various rivers, which now play such an important part in the irrigation development of the arid regions east of the coastal mountains. A broad strip of these forest preserves from twenty to a hundred miles wide extends almost continuously from the Canadian boundary southward nearly to the line of California, a distance of some five hundred miles, embracing, with the great reserve west of Puget Sound, a seventh of the entire area of Washington and over a thirteenth part of Oregon—a vast park for the people forever. Most of this land is now well wooded, little of it, however, with the best timber, and no cutting is at present allowed. In the future, when the better, privately owned forests are stripped, these great reserves, carefully logged under governmental supervision, only the mature trees being sacrificed, will supply immense quantities of valuable lumber without injuring the forest in the least as a water conservator or as a park wilderness. These reserves are protected by rangers, who attempt not only to prevent timber-cutting and the invasion of sheep, but do their best to check the spread of forest fires, a nearly impossible task. Never has the United States government exercised more wisdom and forethought than in the reservation of these timber-lands, although as. yet they are very insufficiently patrolled and protected. And it is to be hoped that the area of the reserves will be constantly extended; for it is only by this means that the country can be saved from deforestation, and the waters so much needed in the irrigation country conserved and protected.
(Source: UNZ.org, http://unz.org/Pub/Outlook-1902may03-00029)
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