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The main centers for such mountainous and nonagricultural lands in the Southern Appalachians are, first, the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia; second, the Allegheny Mountains of eastern and southern West Virginia and western Virginia, and, third, the Cumberland Mountains of eastern Kentucky, Tennessee, and northern Alabama. These lands include the main mountain ranges, and the roughest, wildest land of the region. Naturally, they embrace a smaller proportion of agricultural lands than other parts of the region, and those which they do embrace have for the most part been eliminated, as will be seen from the irregular boundaries on the map. Regardless of these eliminations they still include some small bodies of agricultural lands. These areas, though they contain only 40 per cent of the timbered land of the Southern Appalachians, include almost all of the virgin timberlands, because the virgin timber which remains is mostly situated on the high mountains. Even though these lands do produce an inferior grade of timber, their sole use must be for timber production. There is no other crop which will hold the gravelly, stony soil in place and keep it from clogging the channels of streams and covering the agricultural valleys which lie below. These nonagricultural and mountainous lands, approximating 23 million acres, give rise to all the important streams which have their source in the Southern Appalachians. They are therefore the vital portions of these mountains. Whatever work is done to protect the Southern Appalachians must center in these areas. The proportion to which these lands fall into different States and watersheds is shown in the following tables:
TABLE 4.-Area, by States, of nonagricultural and mountainous lands in the Southern Appalachians.
TABLE 5.—Arca, by watersheds, of nonagricultural and mountainous lands in the
While the lands shown on the map are all in need of protection, they are not all of equal importance when all economic points of view are considered.
The lands to be classed as of first importance include the mountain ridges mainly, but extend considerable distances down the slopes in those localities where the soil is particularly subject to erosion and on the watersheds of streams of greatest importance for water power or navigation. The area of such lands does not exceed 5,000,000 acres.
The same class of land for the White Mountain region is shown in Map II. It lies in both New Hampshire and Maine. Excluding the numerous bodies of water, their area in New Hampshire is 1,457,000 acres, and in Maine 700,000 acres, making a total of 2,157,000 acres. The proportion in which this falls in the five water systems included is as follows:
There is also shown on this map an area embracing only the four main ranges of the White Mountains. A few thousand acres of this area lie in Maine. All the rest is in New Hampshire. This principal White Mountain area covers 668,000 acres, and, considering all economic points of view, is the most important part of the region.
TREATMENT OF THE REGION.
The areas indicated in the preceding section, 23,310,000 acres in the Southern Appalachians and 2,157,000 acres in the White Mountains, do not include all the mountainous timberlands of the Appalachians. As is discussed under the heading "Importance of Appalachian forests for hardwood supply," there are probably 75,000,000 acres in this mountain system more important for timber production than for any other purpose. This area will have to be given protection before the hardwood supply is on a safe footing and before the watersheds of the important streams are adequately safeguarded.
It is an enormous undertaking to bring this immense area of 75,000,000 acres under proper conditions of protection and use. the Government owned the land, the problem would be a comparatively simple one under our present forest policy. The Government owns almost none of it, and it can not be expected to undertake the purchase of such an area which at present prices would amount to many millions of dollars.
The land is owned by individuals or companies whose chief interest is immediate profit. Considering past and present conditions one is forced to the conclusion that the individual holders are not going to manage these lands in a way commensurate with public welfare. On account of the difficulty of protecting them from fire, and on account of the high tax rates which are common on cut-over timberlands, the owners consider that it does not pay them to do so.
The several States of the Appalachian region can not protect these lands as a whole. They may control certain areas of them, as the States of New York and Pennsylvania are doing, but as a rule the national or interstate bearings of the problem are such as to make it unreasonable to expect that the States will purchase these lands and put them under management. A few examples make this clear. No State of the group feels it incumbent upon itself to provide the Nation's supply of hardwood timber. The State of West Virginia does not feel keenly the necessity of protecting the upper watershed of the Monongahela River because certain cities of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kentucky are inundated and suffer damage by the Monongahela floods. North Carolina will never purchase and protect the headwaters of the Yadkin and Catawba rivers because the navigation and water-power interests on these streams in South Carolina suffer from the denudation of the mountain forests. In the case of almost every watershed there are complications of this kind.
While none of the three, the Federal Government, the individual holders, or the several States, can be expected to try to solve the problem as a whole, the problem is nevertheless so important that it must be solved, and all three are in a position to be keenly interested in its solution. Therefore it is necessary to consider whether a way may be found by which all three may participate in solving it.
Since the lands are now in the hands of individuals the simplest procedure would appear to be by an arrangement whereby the greater part of the region could be handled by individuals so that the property would not change control. Considering the vast extent of the lands, it seems almost inevitable that if they are to be protected at all, they must be protected mainly by the individuals who own them. Can this be done? It can be done, if at all, only by making it profitable for individuals to hold these lands after cutting them over. It may be stated as the rule that timberland owners would not want to sell their lands and would put forestry into effect upon them if it were not for the difficulty of protecting them from fire and the high rate of taxation which prevails in many parts of the Appalachian region. But individuals alone can not overcome these great obstacles.
What individuals under present conditions can not do, however, can be made possible by the States. It is possible for the States to pass such laws for fire protection as to insure the safety of the most valuable timberlands. This is being done by a number of the States with considerable and increasing success. The problem of equitable taxation for forest lands is a more difficult one and it has not as yet been solved. Its solution is necessary, however, and necessary in the immediate future.
If the States of the Appalachian region would set themselves to the providing of efficient fire laws and the solution of the question of forest taxation, they would do a work of incalculable importance in the protection of the Appalachian forests. They would make it not only possible but profitable to put under protection and conservative management practically all of those lands which are suited to the production of the most valuable kinds of timber, and which are accessible for economical administration and lumbering.
Inaccessible lands, lands where the rate of timber growth is moderate or slow, or lands on which the timber when mature is not of the best quality, can scarcely be affected by this procedure. Something additional must be done to protect them. Such lands in the White Mountains and the Southern Appalachians lie almost altogether within the areas designated in Maps I and II of this report. For the most part, they make up the 668,000 acres in the White Mountains and the 5,000,000 acres in the Southern Appalachians, already mentioned as being of first importance for protective purposes.
In the control of these lands does not the Federal Government have a large obligation and a corresponding opportunity? A careful study of their character and of their relation to the administration of the entire region convinces me that it has, for the following reasons: 1. The safeguarding of these lands can not be accomplished by action of the States in passing fire and tax laws. Some special action taken with a view, primarily, of public welfare is necessary.
2. These lands are of value solely for timber production. They lie above the limits of fruit growing and farming. If not in timber they must come to a condition of absolute waste, the prey of fire and any sort of abuse or mismanagement. Cared for, they will form a valuable addition to the future timber supply, which the Government must take action to secure.
3. These lands form the most important part of the two regions. Having the greatest elevation, they receive the largest amount of rainfall; being steepest, they are most subject to erosion. Therefore their influence on the streams of the region is far greater, for good or ill, than the influence of any other areas of equal extent.
4. Every acre of these lands is on the watershed of a navigable stream on which for the removal of sand and silt the Government is even now spending money in large amounts. The sand and silt which are now in the rivers have come from the cleared slopes of gentler gradient and lower elevation than those remaining in forest. If the forest is destroyed from these higher lands the expense of keeping the stream clear will be multiplied many times.
5. The States can not afford to protect these lands. The timber which they can produce is not valuable enough for the State to protect them for the timber crop. Almost without exception they lie on the watershed of a stream which has its chief commercial importance in another State. Therefore no State is willing to put them under control for the protective value of their forest.
6. By taking control of these lands the Federal Government would be in a position to exert by example and cooperation a far-reaching influence for the safeguarding of the two regions. With relatively small bodies of land on each of twelve or fifteen important watersheds, it could cooperate with other landowners on each watershed in protecting the locality from fire and in the introduction of improved methods of forest management. Advices from timberland owners in many localities justify the opinion that in this way conservative forest management can be effected over millions of acres of private lands. In my judgment it is clear that by the ownership of 5,000,000 acres in the Southern Appalachians and 600,000 acres in the White Mountains the Government can lead the way to the right management and use of the entire areas designated on the maps.