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NORTH AMERICAN FORESTS
MODERN civilization attains its height, and produces its blossoms and fruits, such as they are, for good and evil, in the artificial life of the great cities; but its roots are sunk deeply into the soil prepared by nature herself. Millions of years before the first spark of intellectual life in a humanlike being made the beginning of a rude culture possible, that mysterious earth-life which throbs in the multitudinous surges of the ocean, the stormy atmosphere enveloping the crags of the Sierra, the torrid sunshine of the desert, the splashy brook of the meadow, and the soughing pines of the forest, had laid deeply and lovingly the foundations without which there could have been none of the rich, full, invigorating activity of city life. Cut the threads which connect the humanity of New York and Chicago with the remotest solitude, and civilized life must wither and die.
To him who tries to understand with head and heart the subtle cords joining his own individuality to the natural conditions about him, as well as to him who takes his place as one of the fighters in the struggle that lifts mankind to ever greater heights, to the thinker as well as the doer, the connection between civilization and nature cannot fail to be of never-ceasing interest. To show in a comprehensive glance how this connection is formed in the case of one of the most important of the great forms of earth-life, the forest, is the object of this little volume.
It is a subject worthy the attention of the philosopher, the statesman, the economist, the man of science, the business man, the lover of mankind and of nature. But let no one imagine that it is a subject for the idler, the dreamer, the selfish dilettante who is a mere looker-on in life's battle. To that false theory of life which cannot find in the common activities of man anything but sordidness, which cannot discern the dignity at the core of the laborer's task with axe and saw, or concealed under the dust and chaff of the market-place, forests and forestry are incomprehensible. Nor is it a subject for sentimentalists to play with, and tickle their pretty fancies and emotions. Forestry is a subject for men who stand in the midst of the world's struggle doing their part with brain and brawn, and feeling the joy which is the heritage of the strong in victory or defeat.
With the heart-life of the wilderness the forester has a sympathy so deep and true that the poetaster who sings his dainty elegy on the death of a tree cannot even imagine it. This very depth and truth help him to realize that the primeval wilderness is but one of the changing forms of life, which plays its part and does its task, and presently must give way to other and better developments. Nature untouched by human hands is beautiful and grand, but grander and more beautiful is the life of man, with its constant striving for a more complete subjection of the forces and matter of nature to the aspirations of the human spirit. Nothing could be farther from the intention of the author, as it is from the mind of the forester who loves his work, than to swell the chorus of those who ignorantly, although often in imagined superiority of knowledge, cry out against the activity of those sturdy and simple men who are adding untold millions to the national wealth by utilizing the stores which nature has prepared for us by the patient work of untold ages.
But the author, like the true forester, would fain do his share to combat, wherever he finds them, the ignorance which wastes instead of using the riches kind nature has prepared for us; the heedlessness that does not take the trouble to do its best; the greed that overreaches itself in its haste to get all; the selfishness which cares not for its neighbor, though he suffer and perish. The professional forester will not find in this book anything that is not already familiar to him, and will miss much that he may deem important. But to him these pages are not addressed. They desire to be read by the many who take a living interest in all questions affecting the welfare of the nation, and by those who love the life of nature without standing apart from the more strenuous current of human existence. To such the book may be a convenient help to obtain a comprehensive knowledge of a subject that has already engaged the attention of many of the leading minds of the coi ntry, and must soon come to the front as one of the great questions demanding solution by the American people and putting to a severe test the efficiency and permanence of its democratic form of government and society.
THE NORTH AMERICAN FOREST
THERE are in the northern temperate zone three great forest regions: The eastern Asian, including principally the eastern portion of Siberia, Manchuria, and the Japanese archipelago; the European; and the American forests, including great portions of the United States and Canada. ""The American forest may be subdivided into three groups: The great eastern forest, which originally covered nearly all the territory on the Atlantic side of the Mississippi, and in several places extends considerably beyond that river; the forests of the Rocky Mountain regions, including the minor mountain ranges of the great basin ; and the Pacific coast forest. The immense areas lying between these subdivisions are occupied by the grass plains of the eastern slope and the alkali and sage-brush deserts of the interior, both of them distinguished by the almost total absence of tree growth. On the northern edge these three forest zones converge, so that there is a subarctic forest belt stretching from ocean to ocean. We have before us the task of describing the relations existing between the life of the American people as a social organism, and