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often spread from the wood lots of the valleys and foothills in which they are set out to the forests of the higher mountains, where they burn unmolested for days or even weeks, until finally extinguished by rain, snow, contrary wind, or lack of inflammable material in the sparse forests of the stony upper slopes. These fires are set year after year upon the same areas. They decrease annually in heat and power on the areas already burned over, until finally, with almost every vestige of the humus destroyed and the mineral soil baked and hardened, there is but little left upon the ground to burn except the leaf-fall of the preceding season.
It would seem that so common and ancient a practice as the burning over of forest land in the Southern Appalachians in order to improve the pasturage would long since have been abandoned had it not proved successful. However, apart from the damage caused to the forest, doubt has already arisen among some of the farmers themselves as to whether it is not, after all, a short-sighted policy. The result of burning over forest land the first time in this region is undeniably to destroy shrubs and seedlings and to stimulate the growth of weeds and grasses which afford good grazing. On the other hand, there are many localities which owe their unfitness for grazing to repeated fires. The final result is a sparse, unhealthy forest, entirely insufficient to protect from sun and wind the hardened and impoverished soil beneath it, which is generally covered with a straggling growth of broom sedge or wire grass, and is practically bare of other herbage. On slopes, where the admission of light and the destruction of the vegetable inold has been followed by more or less excessive erosion, the mineral soil is sometimes exposed, or even worn down to the underlying rock, where it is near the surface.
The whole matter awaits thorough and systematic study before it can be authoritatively stated whether, disregarding the damage to the timber and with a view to grazing only, it is best to exclude fire entirely from forest land in this region or under what conditions and restrictions to make use of it. The local grazing interests are important, and the annual fires will continue until it has been established to the satisfaction of the natives that they fail of their prime object in the long run. A detailed investigation on the ground of this matter by unprejudiced men, with the publication of its results, will be the first and most important step toward the protection of these forests from fire.
DAMAGE BY FIRES.
The immediate damage done by fire in the Southern Appalachians is much slighter than in the evergreen forests of the North and West. Crown fires are rare except in particularly dry seasons and under a high wind, and it is seldom that trees are consumed or even killed outright, except in second growth and young woods. The chief harm
done is in the killing of young tree growth and in the decay which starts from the scars left at the base of the trees, to which the Yellow Poplar, the White Oak, and the Hickories are particularly susceptible. The first thing for the timber cruiser here, after he has satisfied himself of the size and quality of the merchantable stand, is to look for traces of severe fires. Should they have run over the area, it is possible that the labor and loss in timber of butting off the decayed portion at the base of the tree may seriously impair the profit from the lumbering.
Apart from damage to the merchantable stand, the result of fire is here also greatly to disturb the balance between the different trees, a matter of some importance where there is so large a number in mixture, many of which are practically worthless. For example, the Dogwood, Sourwood, Black Jack, and Scrub Oak offer great resistance to fire, and are characteristic kinds in the young growth on burned-over lands. Repeated fires on White Oak and Poplar land will soon so dry out and impoverish the soil as to render it unfit for the reproduction of those species, to which a moist, rich soil is necessary. On the foothills and in the larger valleys where the Shortleaf Pine enters prominently into the mixture, oak forests are constantly being converted into pine forests through the agency of fire. A dense growth of Kalmia is frequently the result of repeated fires on south slopes and renders the growth of the seedlings difficult or even impossible.
SUGGESTIONS FOR MANAGEMENT.
There are two problems presented to practical forestry in the Southern Appalachians: The one, the management of the cut-over lands of the foothills and larger valleys, which have suffered from excessive grazing and repeated fires, and have been lumbered heavily, not only for timber, but also for fuel; the other, the management of the forests of the higher mountains, which still contain large bodies of virgin timber, and in which fire and grazing have done comparatively little damage. These are the two great classes of forest land in this region. They differ not only in past treatment and in the character, quality, and amount of the stand, but also in the demands which are made upon them. The forests of the foothills and lower valleys constitute the wood lots which must supply the farmer with his firewood and fencing. The mountain forests, on the other hand, are usually so difficult of access that they are as yet of value only for saw logs.
It has already been mentioned that the cut-over lands characteristic of the more accessible and thickly populated districts consist largely of uneven-aged second growth, chiefly of Oak and Pine, with scattered old trees of the same kinds standing above it. The density is generally
low and the quality of the old trees exceedingly poor, while the second growth is often characterized by the presence of worthless species, by injuries due to fire and grazing, and by a lack of vigor which is the result of excessive shade. In some localities, where the young trees have been killed off by fire and there is left only a scanty remnant of the old stand, cuttings can do no good, and would be likely still further to impair the meager chances for successful reproduction. The larger part of these forests, however, is in urgent need of improvement cuttings, with the object of producing a denser and healthier growth, and of removing the trees of worthless kinds which have sprung up after lumbering or form a part of the old stand. The cutting out of undesirable species, such as Dogwood, Sourwood, and Scrub Oak, of branchy advance growth which is suppressing promising seedlings and saplings, and the gradual removal of the old trees, would be in line with this policy. These cuttings would entail no more than a thorough understanding of their purpose and a reasonable amount of care in their execution. They could be carried out successfully by the farmers after the principles had once been illustrated and explained by a forester. Their entire practicability has been forcibly illustrated upon the Biltmore estate, near Asheville, N. C., where about 4,000 acres of woodland, formerly owned by a number of small farmers, are made to produce annually about 3,000 cords of firewood, with a steady and marked improvement in the general condition of the forest..
It is often urged by the farmers that these careful cuttings would cost more than would be brought by the sale of their produce. The Biltmore experiment, in which a rule has been made that all cuttings shall at least be self-supporting, has satisfactorily established the fallacy of such a view. The firewood cut upon the Biltmore estate is sold in the open market in competition with that taken by the farmers from their own lands and under their own methods, and it realizes a fair margin of profit above the cost of cutting and hauling. It is to be remembered, however, that the good results of these improvement cuttings in the forests of the Biltmore estate would have been seriously impaired had not cattle and fire been kept out since the institution of systematic and conservative management.
The mountain forests of the Southern Appalachians are silviculturally the most complex in the United States. They contain many kinds of trees varying widely in habit and also in merchantable value, and the forest type is constantly changing with differences in elevation, exposure, gradient, and soil. Their proper management is difficult, because the lack of uniformity in the forest renders it necessary constantly to vary the severity of the cuttings and to discriminate in the kinds of trees which are cut, instead of following only those general rules
which suffice where there are fewer species represented and the forest conforms more closely to a single type. In order to reproduce these forests successfully and to minimize the damage done by lumbering, first of all it will be necessary to have a radical improvement in the fellings. Such an improvement is entirely practicable, without additional cost per 1,000 feet B. M. of timber felled. It often requires no more labor to fell a tree up a slope than down it, or upon an open space rather than into a clump of young growth; and it is in just such cases as these that unreasoning disregard for the future of the forest is commonly manifested in the Southern Appalachians.
In the selection of trees to be felled, the small farmers, who for a long time were the only lumbermen in the Southern Appalachians, have been governed by the same considerations which govern lumbermen elsewhere. They have taken the best trees and left uncut those of doubtful value rather than run the risk of loss in felling them. Furthermore, the fact that they have lumbered generally on a very small scale and have often had great difficulties with which to contend in the transport of logs has led them to extremes in this respect. The result is that they have reduced the general quality of their forests in a measure entirely disproportionate to the amount of timber cut. As a rule, only prime trees have been taken, and those showing even slight unsoundness left uncut, except where the stand of first-class timber was insufficient. Diseased and deteriorating trees remain, to offset the growth of the forest by their decay and to reduce its productive capacity still further by suppressing the younger trees beneath them, while in the blanks made by the lumbering worthless species often contend with young growth of the valuable kinds. In other words, the lumbering has closely followed the selection system, but the principles governing the selection have usually been at variance with the needs of the forest.
In order to bring about successful reproduction of the desirable species and to maintain the quality and density of the stand, lumbering in the mountain forests of the Southern Appalachians must be governed by the following main considerations:
(1) Remove all diseased, overripe, or otherwise faulty trees of a merchantable size where there is already sufficient young growth upon the ground to protect the soil and to serve as a basis for a second crop of timber. In extreme cases, where the condition of the forest is greatly impaired by the presence of a large number of such trees, or where they overshadow and seriously retard promising young growth, their removal may be financially advisable when the sale of the produce no more than pays the cost of logging.
(2) So direct the cuttings that the reproduction of the timber trees may be encouraged in opposition to that of the less valuable kinds. This can not be successfully accomplished in the Southern Appalachians
by cutting to a diameter limit merely. A limit will by all means be advisable for each species, based upon a study of its rate of growth and the proportion which different diameters bear to its contents in board feet. It will be frequently necessary, however, to leave trees of a merchantable diameter where their removal would seriously impair density or where seed trees are necessary. In the leaving of seed trees many considerations are involved, only a few of which can be mentioned here. The Oaks, Hickories, Walnut, and Chestnut should be favored, since their seed is too heavy to be carried by wind, and much of it is eaten by animals. (Pl. XLIII.) The marked tendency of the Hemlock and Yellow Poplar to reproduce by groups must be encouraged. On south slopes and in dry localities generally, where Dogwood, Sourwood, and Scrub Oak contend with the timber trees, great care must be taken not to disturb the balance between them. The rich, moist soil of the poplar coves is particularly likely to produce a luxuriant growth of weeds and brambles instead of tree seedlings if too much light is admitted to the soil; while the Ash, Cherry, and Basswood, which are only sparsely represented in the mature stand and are further handicapped among the young growth by their strong demands upon light, would require an exceedingly conservative method of management.
NEED OF PRACTICAL FORESTRY.
The degree of care which is justified in the lumbering of any forest depends primarily upon the value of the timber which it produces. The higher the margin of profit on lumbering the larger the capital which is represented by the immature trees and the more important the financial considerations involved in their protection. Stumpage values are not sufficiently good in the Southern Appalachians to warrant the application of an elaborate system of forest management, but they are high enough to make a sound business measure of practical forestry. The production of repeated crops of merchantable timber is here advisable, not only on account of the price this timber commands at present, but because it is rapidly increasing in value for the lack of satisfactory substitutes, notably in the case of the Black Walnut, Cherry, Hickory, White Oak, and Yellow Poplar.
From the point of view of the State, further considerations are involved in the preservation of the forests of this region. They constitute the drainage basins of several important rivers, there is no other great forest region except the Adirondacks of northern New York which is within easy reach of so large a number of people, and its healthfulness is sufficient to have transformed it in the last twenty years from what was practically a wilderness to a deservedly popular health resort.