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FORESTRY AND THE NEWSPAPERS
Royal J. Davis
Paper read before New York State Forestry Association
Forest Week at the Lake Placid Club.
UR publicly-owned national forests alone contain enough pulp
wood to supply our need for paper for the rest of the century. Yet we are already depending upon Canada for a third of our
news-print paper, in the form either of raw material or of finished product, and this dependence is rapidly increasing. What is the explanation of this paradox? Partly the natural tendency to follow the line of least resistance. It is easier to slip across the border and begin on the virgin forests of the Dominion than to exploit further some of our own.
The lumberman has taken literally Milton's words, “To-morrow to fresh woods." But this is not the whole truth. In many of our papermanufacturing States the work of destruction has proceeded so rapidly and so recklessly that the end is in sight. The available private supply of pulp wood in these States is not enough to last for more than a decade or so longer. Even this reduction in our resources, however, seems trivial when we look at the immense wealth we have left. The Forest Service has estimated the pulp wood in the national forests at three hundred bil lion feet. This means six hundred million cords, and, according to Secretary Houston, in his notable statement of last March on conditions in the paper industry, we are using for all kinds of paper only seven million cords a year.
Three million of these go into news-print, the other four million being required for magazine and book paper, stationery and business papers, wrapping paper, wall paper, cardboard, fiber board, and the like. Beside the national forests are privately-owned lands in the West, with large amounts of pulp wood, to say nothing of the waste in the manufacture of lumber, which is estimated to run to sixty million cords annually, a part of which, as from spruce, hemlock, etc., can be col
lected and shipped with profit to news-print mills. Why, then, our increasing dependence upon Canada?
The mystery is to be explained by two considerations: cost of transportation and investment in existing paper-plants. The pulp wood in the West is much cheaper than the woods now being used by paper mills in the Northeast. While, according to Secretary Houston's figures, pulpwood stumpage in the northern States costs from $2.50 to $5 a cord as it stands in the forest, first-class western timber is obtainable at prices ranging from 25 cents to $1.50 a cord, or from a tenth to a third of present prices. Again, experts of the Forest Service have reported that it is entirely practicable to manufacture news-print in Alaska and deliver it in New York through the Panama Canal at a cost of not more than $35 a ton. To quote the Secretary of Agriculture once more, “When it is considered that recent prices have ranged from $60 a ton upward, it is evident that an excellent competitive basis exists for the introduction of western papers.
But it is only a basis. The distance to these western forests and still more the distance to those in Alaska means a comparatively high cost for shipping. A more serious obstacle to the utilization of these sources of supply is the necessity of a transfer of capital from existing plants to new ones, inevitably a slow
process. But suppose these difficulties overcome, and all our vast forestresources at the immediate disposal of makers and users of paper. How many generations should we be able to enjoy them? In 1914, we were using about five thousand tons of news-print every day. later, the quantity has grown to six thousand tons, and appears to be increasing at the rate of ten per cent a year. We are not likely to see a slowing up of that speed. On the contrary, the probability is for its acceleration. If there is one thing for which Americans display an insatiable appetite, a limitless capacity for absorption, it is printed matter. Nature herself must stand aghast at the ceaseless conversion of her sturdiest creations into a Alimsy product that to-day is and to-morrow is cast into the oven. What appalls one is the velocity of the transformation. A giant that has weathered the storms of three score years and ten is cut down and turned into Alimsy sheets that the lightest wind can flutter away, almost between sunrise and sunset. What storehouse can supply the demands of so voracious a hunger?
The answer is obvious. Nature will ultimately be an empty granary unless some means is employed to put in as well as to take out. The interest of this fact, not only to the manufacturers of news-print, but also to the makers and the readers of newspapers, needs no stressing. Without trees there can be no wood pulp, and without wood pulp there can be no newspaper. How are we to get the new trees? Manifestly, by reforesting Without reforestation, the American newspaper has no future and not a very extended present. It is doomed. Whether this consummation is to be contemplated with rapture or horror is not our affair. We are inquiring merely into the value of reforestation to the future of the newspaper. To us, so inquiring, the desirability of that future is an extraneous question. All that concerns us is its possibility as affected by scientific forestry. And we are bound to find that there is an intimate relation of cause and effect between the two. Whether this relation saddles forestry with responsibility for the sins of which the press will doubtless be guilty in the twenty-first century is a knotty problem that we had better hand over to the experts in ethics.
It is our business to note that the question of an adequate supply of news-print is a double one. The publisher requires sufficient paper to carry his columns of news and especially his pages of advertisements, but mere quantity is not all. He must be able to obtain the amount he requires at a price that he can afford to pay. So with the paper manufacturer. He must have wood pulp in sufficient quantities to keep his mills busy, and he must get it at a cost that will enable him to sell it at a profit. He will wish, therefore, to pay as little as is necessary for transporting his raw material, and to get along without scrapping one plant here and building another there. Both considerations will lead him to seek for wood in the vicinity of his existing mills. Hence he will cross into Canada, or even, wonderful to relate, begin reforesting. The latter step he will not take until he is at his wits' end. Not every papermanufacturer will take it even then. It seems so unbusinesslike to stop to plant trees. What is Nature for if not to attend to that side of the industry? Let me do the cutting, the paper maker says, in effect, and I care not who looks after the planting. Nevertheless, here and there private enterprise is adopting belated measures to undo the mistakes of the careless past. Some of the paper companies of New England are acquiring and protecting large areas of forest land, much of it culled or
cut over, in order to insure a future supply of raw material near at hand and thus to safeguard the huge investments represented by their plants. In a few cases, a limited amount of planting has been done. A considerable acreage of inferior pasture-land, worn-out farms, and the like in New England has been restocked with trees, either by a gradual reversion to forest through natural causes or by artificial planting by owners who have realized that these lands of low value could be utilized most profitably by being made to produce wood.
So keenly are newspapers being forced to realize their present plight and the peril of the future that a few of them are undertaking to work out their own salvation. Occasionally one hears of a newspaper that has bought a paper mill and a forest or two and that can now snap its fingers at paper trusts. Such a newspaper, however, is no more independent of the great law of nature that you cannot eat your cake and have it too than is the most avaricious paper-maker. But the conditions that have led it to make its unusual investment may perhaps be trusted to sharpen its foresight and induce it to follow a less improvident course than that of most consumers of wood pulp. Even so, the stimulus to reforestation from this direction must be small. The number of newspapers making their own paper will never be many more than the number manufacturing their own ink. The largest service that newspapers can render the cause of reforestation is by preaching rather than by attempting to practice.
What the users of wood pulp will not do for themselves must be done for them by the government, State or national, or rather State and national. In some way we must be made to learn in time what the countries of Europe have had to learn. The leading nation of the world in the paper industry is Norway. But this is not because Norway prodigally throws her wealth into the laps of other countries, bidding for preeminence for the moment by the sacrifice of all her capital. Norway is notable among nations for the conservation of her natural resources. Her leadership in the paper industry is solidly based. So thoroughly has she adopted and applied the principles of scientific forestry that she can continue indefinitely to furnish wood pulp to her paper mills. What she takes with one hand she is careful to replace with the other. Almost all the countries of Europe have found that a considerable mass of publicly.
owned forests was essential to regular and continuous supplies of forest products. No arguing would seem to be required to obtain the practice of so advantageous a policy by every country, but the plain fact is that we are practicing it in only a half-hearted fashion.
The national government is far ahead of the State governments in this matter. The timber on the 165,000,000 acres of Federal forestholdings is being used scientifically, being cut according to the demand. while the lands denuded by old fires are being reforested by planting to the extent of 20,000 acres annually. Protection against fire, however, is still far from adequate. Federal holdings are being extended by purchase in the eastern States, under the Weeks law for the protection of navigable streams, and hence the policy of conservation, which is nothing more than the policy of common sense, is also being extended.
Some of the States are waking up to the importance of a similar course for their forest treasure. Pennsylvania has acquired forest reserves aggregating more than a million acres and consisting largely of culled or cut-over lands that it has been able to obtain at a low price. New York has extensive holdings, and Wisconsin and Michigan have each a small area.
Minnesota has adopted a constitutional amendment permitting the creation of permanent State reserves—a noteworthy step. since that State is unique in the value of its public resources. But all of these achievements, taken together, hardly constitute a beginning. There are sixty-five or seventy million acres of cut-over forest lands in the northern States, but the Lake States of the group, where the need for protection and conservation is particularly pressing, are still asleep to their peril. Yet in their early economic development forest resources probably played the largest part.
There is the less excuse for failure to enter upon a comprehensive scheme of reforestation in that this solution of the problem of diminishing returns presents no great difficulties. The very regions now supporting large paper-making plants can do so permanently if, in Secretary Houston's words, “the native resources of these regions are but properly organized and intelligently used." The production of pulp woods, he adds, offers one of the best opportunities for forestry in the United States, because small, quickly-grown material can be utilized for this purpose, and because many of the fastest-growing trees, like poplar or Norway