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Soils, waters, and forests

The constructive management of soils, waters, and forests combines to form an interwoven trinity best called "conservation of renewable resources." As the three basic elements are treated constructively and in harmony one with the other, so, with agricultural and forest products, may systems of distribution, economics, and trade within and between nations derive stability and a chance for permanence. Unequal attention to any one can only, in the verdict of history, lead to ruination of the world's productive estate of land and water.

This indivisible grouping is set and perpetuated by natural law. Man's many attempts to ignore the law have been notable only for their uniformly disastrous outcome.

Merely to state the inviolable unity of soils, waters, and forests in a single system should, it would seem, carry the ready conviction that sustains any self-evident truth. And indeed comprehension of the role of conservation in the future of man and his world is spreading. But is it evident that man's efforts to live in and maintain his indispensable environment display a true, insistent, and practical recognition of this role? Scientists in and out of government have formed themselves into more and more specialized groups, each worthy in itself, each in its own more or less airtight compartment, each dealing with but a fraction of the unity of soil, water, and forest. So, too, with governmental organization; in its common pattern it has broken up into various agencies, each dealing with and claiming jurisdiction over a part of the whole.

It goes then without saying that the key role of each element can be neatly and conclusively established by those whose lives are occupied in dealing with soil, or water, or forest.

To the agriculturist, the very basis of life is the croplands, and in his preoccupation to make them produce, he may never lift his eyes unto the hills. To the manager of the great circulating medium, water, neither croplands nor protective forests have life and meaning, except as water is gathered, controlled, and distributed. The massive structures which are now technologically within his grasp, and which enable him to accomplish his ends, tend to become a fascinating end in themselves. To the forester, it is obvious that the health of the wild lands which regulate water flow hold together conservation as a unified enterprise, and that attention to forests should precede rather than follow development of water and land resources.

Each point of view is, of course, correct; conservation cannot succeed permanently without proper attention to every resource. But the heart of the problem is not to appraise the exact degree of essentiality of soil, water, or forest in general or in particular situations. It is rather to establish the habit of joint study and consultation - meeting grounds to which each member of the natural team may come with no compulsion to uphold the pre-eminence of his role as custodian of one of the elements forming the trinity. Only as this can be brought about can a three-stranded cord be woven, stronger than the sum of the separate strands.

How to ensure such free-minded study and planning by organized means is a problem, which nations and professional men have by no means solved, but various experiments are even now being worked out toward this end.

Foresters, no less than their professional brethren who deal with soil and water, will need to broaden their approach to the conservation problems of which they are inescapably a part. Just such an approach is evidenced in the participation of FAO's Division of Forestry and Forest Products in the Seventh Pacific Science Congress. The results of this Congress augur well for a continuing and deepening co-ordination in the approach of all whose varied interests and activities mesh in the conservation of renewable resources. We hope this co-ordination will be further strengthened by the United Nations Scientific Conference on the Conservation and Utilization of Resources to be held at Lake Success, New York, from 17 August to 6 September 1949.

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