By E. I. KOTOK, Assistant Chief in Charge of Forest Research, U. S. Forest Service
President Truman's announcement of the Point Four Program struck a highly responsive chord in the United States of America. Here was a measure which sought through peaceful means to build up a modern economic base over the widest possible area. Its major plank, to bring the "know-how" and capital of the more highly developed countries to the underdeveloped regions of the world, had a particular meaning for the professional men of America. Never in the history of our country had there been as keen an interest in over-all world affairs. The last world war and the exigencies that have grown out of it obviously were the reasons for this.
As discussions of the Point Four Program proceeded, our State Department marshalled together many groups of scientists to consider the scope and the manner in which such a program could be carried out. A good many American foresters were called into these conferences, and they contributed forestry items that might be included in the program. It is rather fortunate that in the last decade the opportunities for American foresters to observe and understand forest problems of the world have been greater than ever before. They were therefore able to urge with sympathy and understanding that forestry be given its fair share in the Point Four Program.
A further factor that had an important bearing on the acceptance of the foresters' viewpoints grew out of developments in the Marshall Plan and the subsequent ECA Program. In these programs dealing largely with Central European economic problems, policy makers and planners, both in America and in Europe, were startled to find that forestry was a necessity and not a luxury. For American participants in the ECA Program, led by some of our outstanding industrialists, it was a new awakening to the importance of forestry, This has had repercussions even in internal American policy, where we had been slowly molding an American forest policy.
Teak logs being unloaded from a truck-trailer by means of a home-made overhead travelling pulley.
The point I wish to make is that American foresters have not only had an interest in the Point Four Program, but they were given the chance to shape it in part in the preliminary stages.
Another factor that influenced American opinion and outlook regarding forestry grew out of our experience of observing the benefits that grow out of well-managed and highly industrialized forest properties, both in Europe and in some parts of our own country. We also could appreciate the consequences of mismanaged and abused forests, the effects they have on rural communities, and the corollary consequences in destructive floods and desolation. We noted this in our own country, and those of us who had the opportunity observed it in far too many places elsewhere in the world.
So it was easy for us to envisage an important part for forestry in a Point Four Program, and we hope that nothing goes amiss in achieving this objective.
The question that now requires attention deals with the manner in which such a program can be carried out positively and effectively. No one who has studied this problem has been concerned over any lack of technical skills to be mustered for the underdeveloped regions of the world. We also must assume that finances will be available in due course where justifiable plans are presented to the appropriate governments and international organizations.
The Role of FAO
We now come to a happy circumstance that has grown out of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's promotion of a Food and Agriculture Organization. It is well to re-read the charter that created this instrumentality. Even with its all too meager budget, FAO is one international organization that in five years has been able to assemble technicians in the fields of agriculture, fisheries, and forestry from practically every region of the world. It has been able, through its own personnel, to get a real understanding of the problems in these fields, to establish contacts with technicians and governments, and to assemble a substantial body of information which will prove more and more useful as time goes on.
The Division of Forestry and Forest Products in FAO has made good use of its five years. Work that it has performed for governments in underdeveloped countries has given it a rich experience in how to deal with their problems and how to assemble specialists and experts from many lands for task forces.
For forestry, therefore, it is obvious that FAO should become an important international agency in the Point Four Program. It has had good training for this task.
Those of us who have participated in FAO conferences and other of its activities and have deliberated on its programs have always been disturbed that recommendations from governments for work to be Undertaken far exceeded the financial capabilities of the Organization. The demands for new work and the expansion of activities for the forestry section of FAO have been especially heavy from countries in the underdeveloped regions. Funds, therefore, that may come from the Point Four Program may well fill this need, and profitably.
There are a few troublesome possibilities that will have to be guarded against. There is no quick and easy cure for belated development and no short cut to rapid rehabilitation of abused forest land. Programs will take time to develop. Some of the capital investments will have deferred returns. But in such development temporary incomes may be available to indigenous populations. And in the long run productivity of lands and forests with their related industries in place should bring livelihoods to many and a source of wealth for internal and external use.
The Point Four Program cannot merely depend upon its well-wishers. A good many of the richer countries have already indicated the extent to which they will contribute to this work. It now devolves upon those countries who seek work under this plan to formulate their programs for consideration by the appropriate international agencies.
Forestry under this program may be the key project to stimulate internal industrial development in many regions. We must not, however, lose sight of the fact that the world's wood basket is none too full for growing populations under any expanding economy. The world needs productive forests for an inexhaustible array of forest products.