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There are cases in which these clearings have been inclosed with fences built of rails split from prime Black Walnut, with no other excuse than that the walnut happened to be within easier reach than either Oak or Pine. (Pl. XLII.)
Under such methods, in which there is not only an absolute lack of provision for a future crop, but often a marked absence of that forethought, skill, and aversion to waste which go to make clean lumbering, most of the logged-over areas in the Southern Appalachians are only saved from entire destruction of the standing trees by the generally scattered distribution of the merchantable timber.
Fire has done, and continues to do, enormous damage in the Southern Appalachians. This has been the result not only of local conditions, which are exceedingly favorable to fires, but of a very passive sentiment in regard to them. In most great forest regions, with increase in population has grown a more determined attitude toward forest fires and a consequent falling off in the frequency of their occurrence. This has not yet been the case in the Southern Appalachians. The area burned over annually has increased rather than diminished, and the general feeling among the natives is one of somewhat placid resignation to an evil which is not fully realized and which is considered almost inevitable. Inevitable it assuredly is not; but there are several factors which combine to render fires in this region exceedingly difficult to check when once they are started. The absence of snow except for short periods, or of a marked rainy season, makes the danger a generally constant one throughout the time when the trees are leatless. There are seldom in the higher mountains any clearings or natural openings to serve as tire breaks, and the forests contain a large amount of dead timber, which adds power to the fires.
CAUSES OF FIRES.
There is not enough game in the Southern Appalachians to encourage camping during the autumn and winter months, and very few of the forest tires can be laid to campers. The number set maliciously is also small. Some are undoubtedly started each year by carelessness in the lumber camps, from the burning of tops and branches in the recent clearings, or by tourists and cattlemen. By far the larger number, however, are the result of the long-established practice of burning over the woods in the autumn under the belief that better pasturage is thus obtained the following year. These tires are set by the farmers on the area upon which they expect to turn out their sheep and cattle during the next season, and there is rarely an attempt made to contine them unless a neighbor's house or barn should be endangered. The consequence is that, except when isolated by roads or clearings, they