American Forestry Association


The American Forestry Association, whose headquarters are in Washington, acts as a clearing-house of all such useful knowledge of progress, and through the daily press and its own very interesting and beautifully illustrated magazine, American Forests and Forest Life, and in other ways, gets this information before the public. Of equal importance is its great service as a centre of organization for the development and support of needed legislation in Congress and in the State legislatures. Its nation-wide membership includes such men as your own Scout Commissioner Dan Beard, railroad officials, the president of the American Federation of Labor, officers of farmers' organizations, deans of forestry schools, governors, the presidents of the American Federation of Women's Clubs and of the National League of Women Voters, the chief forester of the National Forest Service, and the secretary of agriculture.

To help solve our greatest problem, how to get people to stop setting the woods on fire, the association has just started to raise a fund which will provide $50,000 annually for a period of three years for the purpose of waking the people up to a realization of the frightful business in which they are engaged, that of burning up their own woods. This will be done through educational movie films, lectures, and other material for public schools, summer camps of boys and girls, women's clubs, the establishment of prize contests for speeches and essays on forest protection by pupils in the schools, particularly in forested regions.


Doesn't sound like much, does it, only $50,000 a year to fight an enemy that is spending $500,000,000 a year--of our money!--in the losses it causes us, in one way and another? But you saw for yourself, in a previous chapter, how the French were finally awakened to the disasters following the destruction of their forest resources, and we are certainly, in many ways, as intelligent as our friends of this sister republic. Another point, and a very important point, is that $50,000 a year for three years, directed by the experience and skill of such an organization, will set other organizations and large groups to going in the same work--the schools, Boy and Girl Scouts, women's clubs, city commercial clubs, and so on.

In a movement of this kind, in popular movements of all kinds, funds do the most good when they are contributed in moderate amounts by a great number of different people, rather than in large amounts by a few people, and the bulk of this forestry campaign fund is being raised mainly in small subscriptions from a dollar up. This fund may all be raised before you ever read these lines, but one of the most valuable features in the conduct of good citizenship and an interesting and useful life is a knowledge of what big things can be done when we act in an organized way--when our good intentions and our good dollar-bills march together, under a common leadership.


Just to bring it all down to a focus, to give us a picture, on a small scale, of what would happen to the life and business of our country with its woods all gone, take this description of a "sawmill town" after the timber in the region roundabout had been used up and none left to take its place:(American Forests and Forest Life.)

The big plate-glass windows of the company store were boarded up. Dust whirled in little eddies around the billboard of the empty movie theatre, and drearily flapped the fading poster of a long-departed Chautauqua. On the barred door of the town bank was a sign--"Closed." A dusty wooden hand pointed up the stairway to the Chamber of Commerce, where the go-getters used to organize their campaigns to boom the town.

No wonder the hotel was empty, the bank closed, the stores out of business, grass growing in the streets; for, on the other side of the railroad, down by the wide pond that once held beautiful fine-grained logs of Long-Leaf Pine, the big sawmill that for twenty years had been the pulsing heart of the town had stopped for good, its boilers dead, the deck stripped of all removable machinery. A few ragged piles of graying lumber were huddled here and there along the dolly-ways in the yard where for years lumber had been stacked by the million feet, waiting to be sent into thirty States and half the countries of the world.

Now compare that picture with the kind of town that is growing up around the mills of the lumber company that started the prize contest among the boys, a town of over 10,000 inhabitants, with flourishing business houses, clean, well-paved streets, good schools, and attractive homes. With all our forests gone, the whole country would be pretty much like that little dead sawmill town--dead as a door-nail--no place for boys and girls to grow up in or do anything or be anything.

Building up a community or a forest or a nation or letting it run down is a sort of chain process; lumber companies don't replant because of tax laws and fire hazards; members of Congress and of State legislatures don't make needed appropriations for forest service or enact proper tax laws because of indiscriminate complaints about taxes or because their constituents are wrapped up in their local affairs. The actions of Congress and of all lawmaking bodies depend on public sentiment, and we're public sentiment--you and I and our parents and our neighbors; and if we're more interested in getting a new post-office building or something else for our town than we are in appropriations to protect our forests, our representatives in Congress will, naturally, vote money for the local things and leave the more important thing undone.

"Duty," said some witty chap, "is our feeling of what somebody else ought to do."

There is a great truth hidden in that light remark; but, as I have already said, if I knew such things as we have been talking about, what the country is losing every year through "bad housekeeping" in the privately owned timber-lands and in the industries immediately connected with the forest and, worst of all, the incredible annual destruction caused by carelessness with fire, and how well the Forest Service people and others are doing their duty, I'd be ashamed not to do mine, wouldn't you?

We young people will be voters ourselves before we know it, and one of the things we'll have the opportunity to do will be to support and advance, by word and vote, the forest policies of our State and nation. But there's a still bigger thing we can do, long before we are old enough to vote. Perhaps you've heard of the small boy who said pins had saved thousands of people's lives, and when asked how, replied:

"By their not swallowing them!"

So we young people, and there are 22,000,000 of us in the public schools right now, can save thousands of acres of forest-trees by not setting them afire; and by seeing to it that our parents and other close friends and relatives are equally thoughtful. I'm sure you're not going to let all we have been learning, in the 30,000 words or so of this book, go in one ear and out the other, and I hope one of the best qualifications for co-operation in useful private enterprises, as well as for the high privilege of partnership in conducting the affairs of this great country of ours, will be the good business sense and sense of citizenship we have found to be so essential a part of our study of forestry in our year together in The Wonderland of Trees.

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