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IMMEDIATE ACTION DESIRABLE,
If this is a good programme of action, the Government should undertake its part of it without delay. Some of the States already show a tendency to act in line with it. Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland have already fire laws nearly, if not quite, adequate for the situation. Alabama, in a special session of its legis
. lature, has just enacted a similar law. Other States are showing an interest which indicates action within the next year or two. The Government should not delay. It will clear the situation immensely if the Government will say how far it will undertake to go, and immediately enter upon its work.
If the Federal Government is willing to purchase land in the Southern Appalachians to the extent of 5,000,000 acres, and in the White Mountains to the extent of 600,000 acres, it should choose these lands in situations where they will have the most influence upon the protection and management of the two regions. In the Southern Appalachians these lands would not lie in one body. They would lie in no less than ten or twelve bodies, and on different watersheds. In the White Mountains the lands would lie for the most part in one body, which would include the Presidential, Franconia, Sandwich, and Carter-Moriah ranges of mountains.
METHOD OF ACQUIREMENT AND COST OF LANDS.
The timberlands of the White Mountains are in the main held by a few large companies, nearly all of whom are cutting extensively on the spruce stands for pulp or lumber manufacture. The plants of some of these companies represent an investment of several hundred thousand dollars. Manifestly, in negotiating for these lands, in so far as they bear uncut timber, the ralue of the plant must enter into the consideration. In addition, the stumpage value of spruce ranges from $4.50 to $6 or $7 per thousand. This would give the best stands a value of $75 to $125 or more per acre. It is useless for the Government to attempt the purchase of virgin stands of spruce in these mountains, except on small areas surrounding points of especial scenic interest. These in the aggregate will not exceed 5,000 acres.
The hardwoods of the White Mountains, of which there is a large area, have not the value of spruce, nor are they as yet being extensively cut. Their stumpage value is from $2.50 to $4 per thousand, depending upon location, stand, and quality.
It is clear that in the main any purchase made by the Government in this region must be on the basis of cut-over lands with respect to both spruce and hard woods. As a rule the spruce has been cut clean. The hardwoods, where cut at all, are culled so that a considerable stand of young timber may remain after cutting. A considerable portion of the cut-over land has been burned over, some of it so severely as to destroy all possibility of a future stand of timber for many years to come.
The cut-over lands have a value ranging from $1 to $6 or $S per acre, depending upon the condition of the timber growth upon them. The question of the acquirement of timberlands by the Government has been considered with the principal owners of the region. While unwilling to dispose of their virgin timberlands except at very high prices, they are willing to consider the sale of their cut-over lands, the lands lying too high for lumbering, and the mountain tops.
A careful study of the situation leads to the conclusion that most of the lands of these classes can be bought at an average price of $6 per acre.
Although it may be necessary to make cut-over lands the basis of purchase, so far as possible purchase should be made of uncut lands under an arrangement whereby the owner may cut the timber under the regulations of the Department of Agriculture. This would leave the land in far better condition than the average cut-over land, and the Government could well afford to pay a higher price for land under this management.
SOUTHERN APPALACHIAN MOUNTAINS. In the Southern Appalachians the timberlands are owned by large companies to a less extent than in the White Mountains, but even here as much as 50 per cent of many localities is under such ownership. Likewise lumbering is going on less vigorously in the Southern Appalachians than in the White Mountains. This is accounted for by the fact that the Southern Appalachian region is large and many localities of it are very inaccessible. Logs can not be driven downstream as in the North, and railroads are lacking. Consequently, the price of timber all along has been and is now lower than in the North. For instance, spruce which in the White Mountains is worth on an average about $6 per thousand on the stump is in the high southern mountains worth only $2.50 to $3 per thousand.
Timberland owners in the Southern Appalachians are generally inclined to sell their lands to the Government at a reasonable price, regardless of whether the lands contain virgin timber or are cut over. Furthermore, many of them are favorable to the transfer of their lands, themselves retaining the right to cut and remove certain kinds of timber above specified sizes.
In considering the practicability of the Government's purchasing land for national forests in the Southern Appalachians conference has been freely had with timberland owners, lumbermen, real estate dealers, and title examiners. Moreover, attention has been paid to the sales which have been made during the past two years and the prices which have been paid.
The price of virgin hardwood land varies from $5 to $12 per acre, depending on accessibility and kind and quality of timber. Cutover lands are worth from $2 to $5 per acre, their value likewise depending upon their location and the condition of the timber growth upon them.
In the Southern Appalachians, as in the White Mountains, it will be inadvisable for the Government as a rule to attempt the purchase of virgin forest lands. It should make cut-over lands the basis of purchase, and for such lands it should not exceed an average price of $3.50 per acre.
Neither in the White Mountains nor Southern Appalachians is it true that the Government will have to pay higher prices than would have to be paid by individuals in purchasing the same lands. Some landowners might attempt to charge the Government more, but, on the other hand, there are those who appreciate the advantages of the Government's going into this work, and they would rather sell to the Government than to any other purchaser.
To purchase land economically in either region the Government should not limit itself closely either as to time or locality. Purchase should be undertaken in several localities at once, as in this way competition can be induced.
There should be no undue anxiety or haste to acquire land in any particular locality. Haste would mean the fixing of too high a standard of prices and result in waste of money, and besides would certainly involve the Government in difficulty with respect to titles, which in both regions present complications. The acquirement of the necessary lands in either region can best be accomplished by a steady process worked out through several years of purchasing those lands which are desirable, which are offered at the most advantageous rates, and to which valid title can be secured.
The right to take lands under condemnation proceedings would be helpful, especially, in some instances, to perfect title, but the condemnation right must be handled with the greatest care and judgment and should be used only to clear title and in other cases of extreme necessity.
RECOMMENDATIONS. In view of the conditions described on the foregoing pages, it is clear that the Government should undertake without delay the acquisition of a definitely restricted amount of land in specified watersheds in the White Mountains and in the Southern Appalachians for the establishment of national forests.
In the White Mountains it is recommended that the Government acquire an area of not to exceed 600,000 acres within the area designated on the accompanying map and so situated as to embrace as much as possible of the Presidential, Franconia, Sandwich, and Carter-Moriah mountain ranges; that a limit of $6 per acre be fixed as the average price to be paid for cut-over lands; that an appropriation of $1,250,000 be made immediately available for such purchase: furthermore, that $250,000 additional be appropriated for the purchase of the timber in its present condition, surrounding the five important recreation points described on page 30.
In the Southern Appalachians it is recommended that areas aggregating not more than 5,000,000 acres be purchased within the limits designated on the accompanying map, and distributed, as may seem advisable, over the higher watersheds of the following rivers: Potomac, James, Roanoke, Yadkin, Catawba, Broad, Saluda, Savannah, Chattahoochee, Coosa, Tennessee, New, Cumberland, Kentucky, Monongahela; that the limit of average price be fixed at $3.50 per acre; and that an appropriation of $3,500,000 be made immediately available to begin the purchases.
It is recommended also that the Government adopt in both regions a policy of cooperation with timberland owners in order to bring about the protection of private forests from fire, and the general adoption of improved methods of cutting.
NATIONAL FORESTS WOULD AID LOCAL INDUSTRIES.
If established, national forests should in every way benefit the industries of the Southern Appalachian and White Mountain regions. Their influence upon the lumber industry would be to make it permanent rather than temporary, because its supply of raw material would be made permanent. As rapidly as the timber on the forests became large enough to be used it would be sold, but the young timber would be reserved from sale, protected, and held for a future crop.
The action of the Government in protecting from fire large areas of forest would largely solve the fire problem in the two regions. Forest fires are the greatest obstacle to private forestry throughout the Appalachians. Let this be removed, and private forestry in many localities will become not only entirely practicable but relatively simple. In this result alone the national forests would be of great help to the lumber industry.
To mining and prospecting the national forests would introduce no obstacles, as both operations could go on within the forests unhindered, just as they do in the Western States. In general, the Government should purchase the land without the mineral rights, and where the mineral rights were obtained regular provision should be made for their disposal. On the other hand, by insuring a future timber supply the reserves would be of the greatest value to the mines, which consume great quantities of wood. Often the profitableness of mining is determined solely by the presence or absence of a good supply of mining timbers.
To farming and fruit growing the national forests should give material stimulus. The protection of the higher mountain slopes would greatly increase the safety of farming and fruit growing in the valleys below. No agricultural lands should be included. Should it be necessary to purchase small tracts of farming land in order to obtain large areas of important mountain land, protision should be made for reselling or otherwise utilizing them. The forests need not interfere in the slightest degree with the settlers who own and cultivate small areas of farm land along the mountain streams. Neither would they stop the use of the mountains for grazing where there is proper food for stock. The high mountain tops or balds” which sometimes would be included, and other good grass lands, could be grazed without interfering with the purposes of the forests.
The many other uses which can be made of the mountains would be facilitated rather than hindered. Such uses are for power development, hotel and residence sites, rights of way, and sawmills. The forests would not reduce the population of the region; on the contrary, they would increase the population by increasing the demand for labor and making more stable and permanent the local industries.
It has been raised as an objection against the proposed forests that they would reduce the funds of the counties affected by cutting down the taxable property. This should not be the case. In the West the Government returns to the counties 10 per cent of all revenues received from its forests in them. This more than compensates for the loss of taxes. The same should be done in the East.
To the local residents of the Appalachian region the forests should be of great benefit. In addition to the protection they would give to farming and the permanence they would give to the lumber industry, they would materially improve the opportunities for labor. In the first place, the management and protection of the reserves would be largely in the hands of local men, the best men obtainable being selected, just as is now done in the West. As the prevention of fire would be very important, a considerable force of men would be required in summer; and as there would always be more or less logging and construction work going on, there would be winter work as well. In the second place, a large amount of planting should be done as quickly as arrangements could be made for it. Many thousand acres of cut-over and eroded lands ought to be planted up, which will mean a large force of men working through several years.
National forests would mean the development of the Southern Appalachian and White Mountain regions beyond any point which would be possible without them. More and better roads and trails would have to be built, bridges constructed, and telephone lines put up. In all of this work the Government should cooperate with the local people just as it does in the West. During the present year $500,000 will be expended in such improvement work on the western national forests, and more will be required in the future. The East needs similar help from the Federal Government in the development of its mountain forest lands.
The policy here recommended, if carried out, will with certainty have as its ultimate effects the conservation, improvement, and increased use of the wood, water, and other resources of the Appalachian region. The benefits which accrue, while they will be direct and distinct for the local region, will be in their largest degree national. Every section of the United States will share in them.