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History of the Lumber Industry of America
Chapter XIV. Ontario—Revenues and Resources


In 1871 there was an extensive sale of limits in Muskoka and Parry Sound districts, fronting on Georgian Bay. The dues at this sale were double those of the previous one, white pine and red pine being two and one-half cents a foot, or thirty cents a standard. The area disposed of was 487 miles, and the price was $117,672. A still more extensive sale was the one which took place in 1872, when 5,301 miles on the north shore pf Lake Huron was disposed of for $602,665. More than three-fifths of this area had previously been under license, but, with the exception of thirty square miles, all had been allowed to lapse.

Legislation was enacted gradually settling the settlers’ rights and then came the great river and stream bill suit. This occurred in 1881, when the Ontario government passed an act permitting lumbermen on the upper reaches of streams to use slides and other improvements lower down upon the payment of reasonable dues. Peter MacLaren, the great Ottawa lumberman, who had made improvements on the Mississippi River in Lanark County, claimed the right to prohibit the lumber of the limit holders above him passing through his improvements. The Dominion government took the side of Mr. MacLaren and disallowed the Ontario act, but the case was finally determined in favor of Ontario, and since then lumbermen have had full right to use improvements upon paying tolls fixed by law.

In 1887 standing timber had so increased in value that the dues on sawlogs were increased to $1 a thousand and upon square timber to two cents a foot. The ground rent was increased from $2 to $3 a mile. Under these regulations extensive sales were made on the Muskoka and Petawawa rivers. A new principle was introduced in 1892 when the lumbermen were restricted to the cutting of red pine and white pine, leaving spruce, cedar, hemlock, basswood and other woods to be disposed of otherwise by the Government. It was under these regulations that extensive sales were made in the districts of Nipissing, Algoma, Thunder Bay and Rainy River. The dues were increased to $1.25 a thousand feet on sawlogs and $25 a thousand cubic feet on square timbers. Notwithstanding this, higher prices were realized than ever before. The mileage sold was 633, for which $2,315,000 was realized, an average of $3,657.18 a square mile.

The fluctuating state of the trade was shown in a return made to the Ontario Legislature in 1878 of the sawlogs, square and waney timber cut each year from 1868 to 1877:

The Commissioner of Crown Lands figured that the waste of material in the shipping of square timber instead of sawlogs in the above meant a loss of revenue of. $3,577,500, or $357,750 a year, and he urged changing over from square timber to sawlogs.

While for many years the cry has been heard that Ontario is at the end of her timber resources, this is not the view taken by certain well informed men. The late John Bertram, of Toronto, who was one of the best informed practical lumbermen and foresters in Canada, stated in an article published shortly before his death that, while there was a much increased demand for home consumption both in Ontario and in the prairie country in western Canada, he did not look for an increase in the quantity sawed in Ontario or Quebec because, “ while there is a large quantity of pine and spruce still available, the forests are beginning to show signs of exhaustion, and it is a fortunate circumstance that many lumbermen are showing interest in the question of reafforestation. The Ontario government has shown wisdom in its system of fire ranging and in setting apart forest reserves in the territory not fit for cultivation. This will prolong the business indefinitely.” The most noteworthy feature of the lumber industry of recent years has been its rapid development in the northwestern portion of the Province. This has been stimulated by the growing demand for the output in Winnipeg and other parts of Manitoba, which look to the mills of Rat Portage, Rainy River, Fort Frances and other centers in the Rainy River district as their nearest source of supply. The continued migration to the West and the growth of Winnipeg have given a remarkable stimulus to the production of lumber in . this portion of Ontario.

The income derived from timber forms a considerable portion of the revenue of the Province which, owing mainly to the large receipts from this source, is in the fortunate position of being entirely free from debt and able to meet all the expenses of administration, in addition to spending a great deal of money in public services, such as elsewhere are sustained wholly by the municipalities, without resorting to direct taxation. In 1903 the total revenue collected from timber was $2,307,356, the amount being exceptionally large, however, owing to the holding of an extensive timber sale, at which high prices were realized.

The increase in the value of this source of national wealth of late years was indicated by the result of this sale, at which about eight hundred and twenty-six square miles was disposed of. Notwithstanding that the timber dues were raised to $2 a thousand feet board measure on logs, and to $50 a thousand cubic feet on square timber, and the ground rent increased from $3 to $5 a square mile, the amount realized as bonuses was $3,687,337, or an average of $4,464 a mile. The highest price paid per mile was $31,500. The new record this sale established as to the great and increasing value of the pine-bearing lands of Ontario has contributed much to educate public opinion as to the need of forest preservation and to strengthen the hands of the Government in its policy in that regard.

The total area now covered by timber licenses in Ontario is 17,033 square miles, of which 9,231 are in the western timber district and 6,637 in the Ottawa district. The total production of sawlogs in 1903 was 679,966,835 feet board measure, of which 549,488,617 came from the western district as against 104,576,242 from the Ottawa district. In pine boom and dimension timber the total output was 39,834,442 feet, the West leading in about the same proportion.

As the entire forest area of the Province is estimated at 102,000 square miles,1 it will be seen that the territory now under license forms but a comparatively small proportion of the timber resources yet available.

It is customary in taking stock of the available assets in the way of pine timber, to ignore the territory already disposed of and under license, but some of this territory has been under license for over forty years, is still being operated and is contributing yearly to the provincial treasury, and, so long as this territory escapes the havoc of forest fires and is free from the settler’s plow, so long will it continue a source of public revenue.

As to the available white pine supply in the Province outside the present licensed area, no attempt at a careful estimate has yet been made. E. J. Davis, Commissioner of Crown Lands for Ontario, speaking in the legislature February 18, 1904, gave an estimate prepared by his department. In this he estimated the amount of white pine still standing in Ontario at 10,000,000,000 feet, which would suffice for twenty sales such as that of December 9, 1903, when limits were sold for about $3,500,000 in bonuses. This 10,000,000,000 feet should realize, he said, in bonuses $75,000,000. The dues had been increased previous to the last sale from $1.25 to $2 a thousand feet, and the dues on this pine would produce at least $20,000,000. The surveys of the north country had shown that there were at least 300,000,000 cords of pulpwood standing, which, with dues of twenty-five cents a cord (the present dues are forty cents) would produce $75,000,000 for the provincial treasury. There was in sight at least $200,000,000 of revenue, which at $2,000,000 a year would last the Province for one hundred years. The average revenue in recent years from the forests, he pointed out, was between $1,250,000 and $1,500,000 a year, of which $800,000 was dues. This was assuming that the forest was all used up as time went along; but he then explained what the Province was doing to keep up a perpetual supply. Passing over the small timber preserves where the Government, to allow the timber to grow again, has taken back into possession lands cut over or partly cut over under licenses, he described the reserves made in the virgin forest which had been rendered accessible by the building of the new government railway from North Bay to Lake Temagami and northward. The original Temagami Reserve around the lake of that name consisted of 2,200 square miles. This had been increased to 5,900 square miles and, when he spoke, it had just been decided to set apart 3,000 square miles in Algoma district to be known as the Mississaga Reserve. The old plan of license by which the lumbermen handed back the land to the Government when they had cut off the timber was probably the best that could be devised where the land was arable, for the Government could then grant it or sell it to the settlers; but in these reserves where the land is unsuited to agriculture another plan would have to be devised, which would probably take the form of a government forester marking the trees to be cut, which would then be sold by auction, the lumbermen agreeing to cut and carry away the timber in such a way as to reduce fire risk and give undeveloped trees a chance to grow. From the cutting of continually recurring crops of ripe timber on these reserves he anticipated a revenue of several million dollars a year to the treasury, and further reserves are to be made from time to time.

In a speech delivered March 12, 1901, in the Ontario Legislature, Hon. William A. Charlton (who has since assumed office as commissioner of public works) stated that the average yearly cut, including logs, boom and square timber, from 1867 until that date amounted to 549,141,408 feet. The largest cut of any one year was that of 1896, amounting to 952,000,000 feet. He estimated the total quantity of pine timber on lands then under license at 8,000,000,000 feet, and the quantity not under license at that time at 26,000,000,000, making in all 34,000,000,000 feet of pine timber then standing. He considered that, without reference to regrowth or reforestry, the supply was sufficient to last one hundred and fifty years.

The story of the westward movement of the trade is told in the report of square miles under license, although it is to be remarked that an immense area in the Ottawa district remains under license, showing that much of this district will permanently remain under timber.


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