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At the half-century mark

Chief, United States Forest Service

THE year 1955 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the United States Forest Service. This is, therefore, a good time to review the past half century of progress in forestry in the United States, and to take a new look at the tasks still ahead.

When the land that is now the United States was first settled large parts of it were covered by forests. Nearly all the land east of the Great Plains was unbroken woodland. Vast areas of forest also were found in the mountainous parts of the West. Trees were in the way of towns and farms and homes. Wood was plentiful; timber values were extremely low. The forests were used lavishly, or cleared away wastefully over large areas.

Fifty years ago, forestry in the United States was still largely a theoretical concept in the minds of a few forward - looking individuals; it had been given only a very limited trial here and there on the ground. Most people still believed the forests to be inexhaustible. Few forest owners had ever thought of holding and managing woodlands for permanent production. "Cutout and get-out" was the nearly universal practice. Only a few men and women foresaw the day when the timber land of an expanding nation would be one of its vitally important resources.

The Forest Service came into being in 1905. Although, for some years earlier, the Federal Government had engaged in a limited amount of forestry work, it was not until the Forest Service was created that a broad national policy of forest conservation was developed and American forestry really began to make headway. Practically all of the major accomplishments in American forestry have occurred during the past half century - within the lifetime of many who are still active in forestry work.

The scope of the Forest Service

The work of the Forest Service has gone forward along three principal lines: forest research; administration of the national forests; and co-operation in forestry programs with the States and private owners.

Study of forests and forestry methods was the principal activity of the small forestry agency that preceded the Forest Service in the United States Department of Agriculture. Research work was greatly expanded after the Forest Service was created. In 1908, the Forest Service began to operate its first forest experiment station - the Fort Valley Station on the Coconino Plateau in Arizona. Other experimental forests and ranges were soon established. Pioneering research at these stations and elsewhere produced much knowledge to aid the advancement of fire control, timber management, range management, and watershed management. The Forest Products Laboratory, established in cooperation with the University of Wisconsin in 1910, began almost immediately to produce results of value to lumber manufacturers, wood processors, and consumers.

In the McSweeney-McNary Act of 1928, Congress provided a broad charter for a forest research program in the United States. Under the provisions of this Act, the Forest Service continued to establish regional forest and range experiment stations to serve the principal forest regions of the country. Today, the Forest Service maintains a forest products laboratory and nine regional experiment stations in the United States with numerous experimental forests, range, and watershed field centers. There are also forest research units in Puerto Rico and Alaska. Several of the forest experiment stations maintain their main headquarters or branch offices in co-operation with State or private universities and are housed on their campuses. State and private agencies and forest industries also conduct forest research; the Forest Service co-operates with them in many research projects.

National forests

The first national forests were established by reservation of certain areas of public domain, mostly in the western States. Later, Congress authorized government purchase of lands for national forest purposes, and additional national forests were established in the eastern part of the country. At first, the national forests were opposed by many who thought that these public forests were to be locked up, thus thwarting the development of local industry and sacrificing the present to the future. But the Forest Service adopted the policy that forestry is the preservation of the forests by wise use, that all land in the national forests was to be devoted to its most productive use, "for the permanent good of the whole people."

In 1905, the national forests were largely undeveloped, remote back-country areas. There were few roads and other facilities for protection and management. Today, these forests are playing an important part in the nation's economy. There are 150 national forests located in 39 States and in Alaska and Puerto Rico. Their combined area is more than 181 million acres (73,250,700 ha.). They are now supplying a yearly cut of 6,000 million board feet (27,180,000 m3) of timber. As more roads are built into areas now inaccessible and as the basic growing stocks are further built up, the sustained annual harvest can be further increased. The national forests also are contributing to the nation's livestock production by furnishing seasonal grazing for more than 8 million cattle and sheep. Last year the national forests reported 40 million visits by persons seeking outdoor recreation. The Forest Service has developed some 4,500 camping and picnicking areas, and 200 winter sports areas. These forests are the home for great numbers of wildlife, including nearly a third of the nation's big-game animals. They have 81,000 miles (130,350 km.) of fishing streams and more than 2.5 million acres (1,011,750 ha.) of lakes.

National forests cover parts of the headwater areas of many of the nation's major streams. They are located mainly in the high-altitude areas along the mountain chains - areas that receive the most precipitation. These forests help protect the water supplies of some 1,800 cities and towns, of more than 13 million acres (5,261,000 ha.) of irrigated farm land, of more than 600 hydro-electric power plants, and of thousands of industrial plants.

As public properties containing basic natural resources, the national forests are managed for continuous production. A policy of multiple-purpose management is followed which seeks to maintain a balanced use of all the forest resources, and to bring the largest total of returns and benefits in the public interest.

Co-operative projects

Since in the United States the bulk of the commercial forest lands are in private ownership, protection and good management of these privately owned forests is of great importance to the national economy. The Forest Service has endeavored to meet its responsibilities in this field through a number of programs carried on in co-operation with the States.

The Forest Service co-operates with State forestry agencies to provide protection of State and private forest lands from fire. It also co-operates with the States in producing and distributing tree seedlings at low cost for planting on private lands. Another cooperative program provides technical information and advice to owners of forest lands and to processors of primary forest products. A number of co-operative projects are under way to combat outbreaks of forest insects and diseases. Federal and State extension services are carrying on a program of forestry educational work with farmers.

During the past fifty years most of the individual States have developed forestry departments. Today, nearly all of the 48 States, as well as Hawaii and Puerto Rico, are conducting forestry programs. With federal co-operation, the States have extended organized protection against fire to more than 374 million acres (151,350,000 ha.) of State and private forest and watershed land. In 1953, State protection forces held the area burned to be only 0.7 percent of the area protected. Of the 53 million acres (21,450,000 ha.) that still lacked organized protection, fires burned 13.5 percent.

State forest nurseries in 1954 distributed 465 million trees for planting on private lands. Technical assistance was given to 32,224 owners of forest land, whose total holdings amounted to 2,558,000 acres (1,035,000 ha.). States, counties, and municipalities maintain about 26.5 million acres (10,724,000 ha.) of State and community forests and parks.

Privately-owned forests

The past fifty years have brought notable advances in private forestry in the United States. Today, large numbers of owners are managing their forests for continuous crops of timber. Many of the big lumber and pulp and paper companies now employ their own forestry technicians to aid them in developing sound forest management practices. A number of private companies and forest industry associations also distribute free seedlings and give forestry advice and assistance to small owners.

On the smaller private holding, forestry has not made as much progress. About 4.25 million persons are owners of small woodland tracts. Three of every four of these are farmers. The small holdings, farm and non-farm, comprise three-quarters of all the privately-owned commercial forest land in the United States. Continued educational efforts and assistance by the Forest Service, the State forestry departments, the forest industries, and private conservation associations have helped to give impetus to the application of forestry management to some of these small woodlands. But, on many more, forestry measures are not yet being applied.

Training foresters

Half a century ago, there were in the United States only a few dozen men with professional training in forestry. Not until 1898 had any American college offered a full course of professional training in the subject. Cornell University was the first to offer such a course. The Forest School at Yale University was established in 1900.

Today, more than 30 universities and colleges in the United States are giving full professional instruction in forestry. More than 21,000 students have completed regular four-year courses in forestry in the past 50 years. More than 4,000 have earned Master's or Doctor's degrees in forestry.

The Forest Service was the principal employer of professionally trained foresters in the first two decades of this century. In 1912, about 60 percent of the professional foresters in the United States were in Federal government work, and it was estimated that fully 95 percent had been so engaged at one time or another. The Forest Service is still the largest single employer of trained foresters, but it now employs only a part of the total. The States, municipalities, educational institutions, trade associations, and private corporations also employ large. numbers of graduating foresters. Forest industries now employ nearly 6,000.

Foundation of American forestry

Whereas forestry in Europe evolved over a period of centuries, American forestry started little more than half a century ago with almost no background of technical knowledge.

European forestry contributed a great deal to the early development of forestry in America. When, in 1876, Congress made a small appropriation for the appointment of a man to study and report on the forest situation in the United States, one of his assignments was to ascertain "the measures that have been success fully applied in foreign countries... for the preservation and restoration or planting of forests." The man appointed, Dr. Franklin B. Hough went to Europe a few years later and made a study of forestry in the continental countries. His third report, submitted to Congress in 1882, covered the results of that study. The small Division of Forestry that preceded the Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture had as its chief for many years a European-trained forester, Dr. B. E. Fernow, a native of Prussia. Dr. Fernow served in this position from 1886 to 1898, when he became head of the first American forestry school at Cornell. In 1903, he became Dean of the Faculty of Forestry at the University of Toronto in Canada.

Gifford Pinchot, who became the first Chief of the Forest Service when it was established in 1905, obtained his forestry training in France, Germany and Switzerland. Henry S. Graves, who succeeded Mr. Pinchot in 1910, also studied forestry in Europe. For some years prior to and subsequent to his period as Chief of the Forest Service, Dr. Graves was Dean of the Yale Forestry School.

But European forestry could not supply ready-made answers to America's forest problems. In the western hemisphere the trees were different, soils and climate were different, the economic background and the attitude of the people toward their forests were different. There were hundreds of commercial species and scores and scores of forest types for which no information was available in the existing scientific literature of forestry. In the western United States numerous inter-related range forage types brought new problems involving forest grazing and wildlife uses. It was necessary for American forestry to build its own foundation of technical knowledge.

Contribution to world forestry

Considering that it had to start almost from the beginning, the progress made in American forestry during the past fifty years is most encouraging. Half a century of research and experience has provided many sound guidelines for good forest and range management in the United States.. Forestry has become an actual on-the-ground practice on many millions of acres of public and private land.

It is particularly gratifying that in recent years, American forestry has been able to contribute. something to the advancement of forestry in other parts of the world. American foresters had a part in bringing forestry into the program of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The late Henry S.

Graves, the Dean Emeritus of the School of Forestry, Yale University, was chairman of the Technical Committee on Forestry and Primary Forest Products that defined the objectives and suggested the structure of a permanent international forestry organization. FAO had its Headquarters in the United States until 1951, when it moved to Rome. A number of American foresters, including former members of the Forest Service, have served or are now serving on the staff of the Forestry Division of FAO at its Headquarters or on its Technical Assistance missions to member countries. American forestry specialists also have served in the United States Point Four program, in response to requests for technical assistance from various countries.

The United States has been host to many visitors from other countries who came here to observe American forestry activities. The Forest Service, forest industries, forestry schools, and other agencies have co-operated in arranging tours and providing courses of study for our foreign visitors.

It is very much to be hoped that such foreign assignments for American foresters and aid to foreign visitors to the United States are substantially helping the forestry programs of other countries. It is certain that the exchange of information and development of better understanding that results from such international co-operation is of benefit to forestry in the States.

The next fifty years

Remarkable as has been the advance of forestry in the United States in the past fifty years, only a beginning has been made. There is still a long way to go in developing and properly using forest and range resources. Good forest management needs to be extended to many more millions of acres. There are large areas of depleted land that need to be made more productive. Through research and experience answers must be found to many problems in timber growing, watershed protection, range use, wood technology, and many other phases of forest management and utilization.

A growing population and expanding economy are certain to make increasing demands on the forests.

There is opportunity, therefore, for even greater progress in American forestry in the next half-century than has been made in the half-century just completed. May the United States also contribute its full share to the continued advance of world forestry, and thus help toward sounder economies and improved living conditions for all the peoples of the world.

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