The forest of North America were generously supplied to the early settlers and builders of our nation; there was no need to conserve them. Always just beyond their settlements, to the west lay vast forests still to be harvested. But as the pioneers and northward, they used the resources, wasted them and thought little of the consequences. The practical frontier farmer learned that sugar maple and walnut meant rich loam, prized as cropland. Trees would be left at the ends of plowed for the horses to rest in shade. was lost with the arrival of the European colonists who replaced it with farms and pastures.
Concern for conservation began in the 1870’s. Our national parks system was created by President Grant in 1672 when Yellowstone was made the world’s first national park, From Theodore Roosevelt, who appointed a National Conservation Commission and set aside 148 million acres as forest reserves, every President until possibly Reagan has taken an active interest in conservation. The U.S. Forest Service, the first conservation bureau in the government, _ a created in 1905, in order to care for our public forests; in 1916, Congress created the National Park Service. Our national forest today consist of 183 million acres or an area greater than the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and California. However, this public forest reserve makes up only 17 percent of the forest in our nation.
Our total forest area would cover all the states east of the Mississippi River with 120 million acres left over. Besides the U.S. Government, state and local governments own ten percent of the forests; timber companies own thirteen percent and private individuals own the remaining forest or 60 percent, that is about 400 million acres. So much forest! About one-third of our nation is forest. Another third is used for grazing land. Cropland makes up 23 percent with the remaining land used as recreation, urban centers and as wilderness. There seems to be such a quantity of available land for our growing needs. By this century’s end, the need. for cities (1%) and recreation land (2%) will double. Where will the land come from?
The question of balancing the forest with urban growth and the question of planning for recreation for urban dwellers must be considered. One view simply states that each acre should be given over to its highest and best use in economic terms. As former Governor Reagan stated, “If you’ve seen one redwood, you’ve seen them all.” (p. 177,
Living in the Environment
by G. Tyler Miller, Jr.) Materials, it seems, should serve our needs; forests are renewable and the land must be used for human development and gain However, to regenerate the forest, it takes from 30 to 200 years depending on the species and the environment. To be a renewable resource, the forest must be harvested and managed wisely.
For the strict conservationist, the land maintained for its ecological balance. Keep the hand of mankind out and leave the land alone. In 1964, Congress passed the Wilderness Act and since then more than 21 million acres have been set aside as wilderness. This acreage is found in 41 states and 80 percent is within the National Forests. Access is by foot, horse or boat only and nothing can be planted or harvested. However, conservation according to Gifford Pinchot, the first Chief of the Forest Service, had a larger meaning. He the foresighted utilization, preservation, and/or renewal of forests, waters, lands, and minerals, for the greatest good of the greatest number for the longest time.” (“Green America”, American Forest Institute, 1980).
This definition raises the issue of multiple use of the land, implying some preservation with controlled use. This economic-ecological view was translated into federal law—the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act of 1960. As the National Forest is of economic value to the nation, the products people need must be balanced with recreation interests, wildlife needs and watershed concerns. The economic timber value is supposed to be balanced against the others with assurances that the cleared land will be replanted for the future. This position can be easily accepted by many urbanites because they are removed from our great forest. Unfortunately, those insulated
the land, per se, can develop an attitude of “plenty more out there”.
In New England, there are plenty; 80 percent is forested, ranging from 90 percent of Maine to 60 percent of Rhode Island. Spruce and northern hardwoods grow in the north; there is a mix of firs and hardwoods in Vermont, New Hampshire, southern Maine and in eastern Massachusetts. Southern New England has mixed hardwoods and pine; pitch pine and oak grows OD Cape Cod. There are twenty-seven major tree species in our region. This forest has changed over the centuries; it has been
used, abandoned, yet recovered. This forest serves 12 million New Englanders and visitors who use it for recreation. More importantly, it helps sustain our quality of life. Our trees act as watersheds to absorb, hold and release water thus preserving the soil and life systems. The trees produce oxygen, absorb heat, some air pollutants and noise. Habitats are provided for a diverse wildlife and many forms of vegetation. The forest’s products are found all around us and our trees continue to provide a source of beauty and pleasure.
However the New England forest potential in terms of products, services and beauty because of a lack of regional planning and public awareness. A large part of the problem stems from the fragmentation of ownership. New England forest is divided among a half million people with most possessing less than 100 acres. These small tracts mix-managed due to lack of information, careless logging and increasing property taxes which result in a decrease of value as forest. With a decline of farms, the lands are being sold to non-farmers who subdivide and change the landscape. The changes could bring our region to the point where it presents a less attractive picture for tourists. Also, as the forest is cleared, the watershed is changed. water supply, quality and flood control thus become problems to be considered. Full utilization of the forests with proper management could mean new jobs and preservation of our quality of life. The state of Connecticut only owns 180,534 acres of parks and forest; seventy-five percent of our forest is in private hands.
productivity of our forest is a shared responsibility by those who own and manage forestlands and by the public whose support should be based on knowledge.
Then what is a tree? It is a It has a main stem or trunk, crowned by leafy branches and usually attains a height of at least eight feet. Like all living organisms, a tree requires food, water and light.
The growing parts of a tree are the tips of its roots, the leaves and a layer of cells inside the bark called the cambium which makes new wood. Next to the
Iayer is the sapwood which carries sap from roots to leaves. At the center, there is heartwood which is inactive but gives strength to the tree. Water travels from the roots into the leaves where it is combined with carbon dioxide from the air. The energy of light changes these into food which is carried from the leaves back to the branches, trunk and roots through the inner bark. The tree’s life can be read after harvest from its rings; in middle climate areas, one ring is added for each year of growth.
In the United States, over a thousand species of trees grout They can be generally divided into woods or broad-leaved and narrow-leaved trees. The trees most people call “evergreens” and lumbermen call “softwoods” have leaves like needles. The pine for example, has tough needles, weatherproofed with wax and stay green through the winter; thus they are referred to as evergreens. The seeds are carried in cones which gives them another name, “coniferous” meaning cone bearers. The seeds fall when the cone opens and since they are not encased in a protective covering, they are called “gymnosperms”
means naked seeds. Evergreens grow generally symmetrical with a straight trunk and branches coming out at right angles. At the top of the trunk is the “terminal bud” that does all the growing, adding height each year. The wood has a simple cell structure and it is softer and lighter than broad-leaved trees.
The broad-leaved trees require a during winter, when moisture is sealed in snow or frozen ground, they shed their leaves and seal themselves in. The name “deciduous”, given to these trees, means “to fall.” In warmer climates, the leaves of some species stay on all year but are replaced yearly. Their seeds are protected or encased, like the apple tree or the nut in an acorn. These trees are called “angiosperms” meaning “Vessel seeds.” The broad-leaved tree’s growth is complex; the trunk may grow directions. Branches increase the splitting, growing out and upward at the same time. The broad-leaved trees are called “hardwoods” yet some such as aspen and basswood have a soft wood.
The trees of America are grouped in forest regions and they differ according to climate and elevations. Different trees have made themselves at home in different areas and no one forest is the same as the others. The forest is a family trees, plant and animal species that are part of a larger ecological system which maintains a continuous flow of energy and nutrients necessary for its life. In the forest ecosystem, plants capture the sun’s energy, use it for growth and even when dead, the decay releases nutrients for reuse. Animals further enhance the energy flow, building complex food chains; all based on plant energy.
The forest ecosystem is an interplay of strategies and its diversity make it resilient to change. As plants and trees differ, their roles in the ecosystem vary. Wild cherry and tulip trees may grow in forests with beech and maple; they differ from those because of the amount of sun required for producing sugar by The beech and maple have found their place in the ecosystem as late or early comers to forest development or succession. They are quick to occupy forest sites cleared by fire, wind or man. The beech and maple require low light intensity and can grow in the shade of other trees. The complex interaction of climate, soil, diversity of species, temperatures, light, dormancy in deciduous trees, the kind and distribution of other living species are all part of the forest ecosystem’s strategies to survive. Solar energy drives the forest ecosystem through photosynthesis by which organic compounds and living protoplasm are formed from carbon dioxide and water. The balance in nature, cycles and preserves itself; the forest stores energy from the sun and fires part of the food change that supports all animal life on the earth. The forest is complex yet it appears so simple that it can be taken for granted.
As the forest uses energy to stay alive and support the ecosphere, it in turn, has been a provider of energy. The use of wood as an energy source is as old as mankind. Even today, one and a half billion people in developing nations get at least 90 percent of their energy needs from wood and charcoal. Yet another billion more people depend on firewood as fuel for cooking and heating to supply 50 percent of their needs (
, April 1981). For more than a third of the world’s population, the real energy crisis is the search for firewood to cook their food. Despite thirty percent of our earth being covered by about 9,884 million acres of forest, there is a growing worldwide fuel wood shortage.
In New England, we tend to view the energy crisis as a petroleum shortage. As costs of imported fuel rise, some people have turned back to the forests to supply their needs. What would be the pressures on Connecticut’s forests? First, if all Connecticut householders used only wood
to stay warm, we would have enough for four to five years. That would mean using every stick and branch in the state and dividing it equally. Then, we would wait until the forest grew back; wait for years. Instead of cutting all the trees, we could cut only what would grow back each year. This would provide 800,000 cords a year.
would give Connecticut’s 800,000 households one cord each year; unfortunately each house needs three or more cords a winter. Using the forest as fuel on a large scale would affect the raw supply for other uses. Much of our state’s maple and oak goes to furniture makers, for shipping pallets and as piano parts. The high value of commercial use increases competition for wood, even wood waste, and just to burn our timber is to burn our choices. full choices must be made regarding productivity, management, land use, ecology and alternative energy sources, Being aware of the forest’s heritage, we must learn to use it and be willing to pass it on.