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History of the Lumber Industry of America
Chapter XV. Ontario—Forest Reserves


At the outset the business of lumbering was regarded as an essentially transitory feature of the process of clearing and settling the country. In the older portions of Canada the greater part of the land denuded of its timber was suitable for agricultural settlement, and needed for farms by the incoming population. It was regarded as desirable to have the country cleared as quickly as possible for the plow. As lumbering operations were pushed farther back, a large territory was reached where most of the land was broken and sterile and not suited for farming, but where much of it was covered with valuable pine timber.

If the policy which was followed in clearing the agricultural lands of the southern part of the Province had been pursued in the newer territory, large areas, when stripped by the ax and the bush fires usually attendant on lumbering operations under old time methods, would have been practically worthless, their only value consisting of their timber-producing capacity.

The increase in the value of timber induced more conservative methods of cutting and led to the adoption of the system of fire ranging by which the danger of destruction of standing timber by bush fires has been greatly lessened. The large lumber operators realize that, instead of making a thorough clearance of their limits within the shortest possible time, it is often more profitable to treat the forest as a farm, reaping a periodical crop, with as little injury as possible to its reproductive capacity.

As large tracts of country in New Ontario were opened up for settlement and travel by the building of railroads, the question of what action to pursue regarding the large areas of valuable pine land, which if unprotected would be liable to destruction by bush fires, became one of increasing urgency.

An advance in the direction of establishing forest reserves from which settlers would be excluded was made in 1893 by the setting aside of the Algonquin National Park in the Nipissing District. This territory being under license, however, is not, strictly speaking, a forest reserve, though it serves some of the purposes of such. In June, 1897, a royal commission was appointed, consisting_of E. W. Rathbun, of Deseronto; John Bertram, Toronto ; J. B. McWilliams, PeterboroAlex. Kirkwood, chief clerk of the lands branch of the Crown lands department, and Thomas Southworth, clerk of forestry, to investigate and report on the subject of restoring and preserving the growth of white pine and other timber trees upon lands not adapted to agricultural purposes or to settlement. The two first named gentlemen were practical and experienced lumbermen. After a personal investigation extending over considerable tracts of country they presented a report, the most important feature of which was a recommendation that the Government take the power to withdraw from sale or settlement and set aside to be kept in permanent forest reserves such areas of territory as are generally unsuitable for settlement and yet valuable for growing timber.

In accordance with this recommendation the Ontario Legislature in 1898 conferred the requisite authority upon the administration by the Forest Reserves Act. The first action taken in pursuance of this policy was the creation of the Eastern Forest Reserve, consisting of 80,000 acres in the counties of Frontenac and Addington, in 1899. The following year the Sibley Reserve, comprising about 45,000 acres on the north shore of Lake Superior, was set apart. A more important step was taken in 1901 when the Temagami Forest Reserve was constituted, comprising an area of 2,200 square miles around Lake Temagami in the Nipissing district. This contains one of the most valuable of the pine forests in Ontario, the quantity of standing timber being roughly estimated at from 3,000,000,000 to 5,000,000,000 feet. This reserve was subsequently enlarged by the addition of territory to the north and west, bringing its area up to a total of 5,900 square miles. The Missis-saga Reserve in the Algoma district was added to the list in 1904. It comprises about 3,000 square miles of virgin timber. It is altogether probable that as settlement advances in New Ontario, only the fringe of which has so far been touched by civilization, further areas will be set apart as forest reserves, wherever timber covered tracts of importance are found to exist on non-agricultural lands.

Of recent years, the forestry work of the Province of Ontario has been under the management of Thomas Southworth, spoken of above, with the title of Director of Forestry. His extensive studies and practical experience have qualified him to speak with particular authority of all the phases of this general subject of forest preservation and its financial aspects. For this reason we reproduce in this chapter an article prepared by him at a recent date.1 This article to a certain extent is a reproduction of what has been said elsewhere, but it so clearly explains and logically summarizes the whole subject that it is reproduced, as follows:

The Province of Ontario is one of the greatest business corporations in the world. Whether viewed in the light of an inheritor having a vast estate to dispose of, or as all this and a trading company as well, Ontario is an extensive corporation doing business in a very large way.

Its shareholders are the individual people of the Province, and handsome dividends are yearly paid to them in the form of the support of public services, charity and education, that would otherwise be paid for out of their private pockets In the form of taxes.

I presume it may be stated that the working capital of the Province is, through the right to levy taxes, only limited by the ability of the citizens to pay, as is the case with other similar corporations having more and richer shareholders, but it is proposed to refer only to the estate or inheritance common to us all in our land and water areas, and what they contain or produce. This includes land, forests, minerals, game, fish and water powers, all of which supply an income that could be increased if desired.

Unlike many corporations or trading companies, however, the Province realizes that there are ways in which the “greatest good to the greatest number” of the shareholders in this enterprise may be reached other than in the direct payment of cash dividends, and it has been deemed for the general good that the forest should be worked as the chief producer of cash dividends.

Therefore for the purpose of this article we will eliminate any consideration of any of the provincial assets other than that of the Crown forest.

The forest wealth of the Province has until recently been classed under two divisions: That still remaining the property of the Crown partly sold under license to lumbermen and partly without any claim at all; and that part held by settlers to whom lands had been allotted or sold by the Crown.

In the development of the timber trade in Ontario the idea gradually evolved was to dispose of the merchantable timber, principally pine, for cash revenue, before handing over the land on which it grew to individuals to be converted into farms. Having this idea in view, the business was not regarded as one of our permanent industries. The lumberman was considered as but the forerunner of the farmer, and no attempt was made for many years to do any more than harvest the standing crop of pine and other coniferous trees to the best advantage. No idea of taking off another crop than the original one was thought of. For many years this process worked well. As lumbermen established camps, and cut over their limits, the shantyman often become a farmer, squatting upon a tract of good land as he found it in the limit, and he was soon followed by his friends. This process has settled many townships in the Province, and where the land included in the limit was good for farming, no better plan could probably be devised. The hardwoods and enough pine for building purposes were left on the land for the settler, and from the money received from the largest pine, roads were built for the settler and the whole people of the Province shared in the dividends.

As the lumberman pushed farther north in search of pine, however, the character of the country changed. Large areas were placed under license to lumbermen'in which the land was unsuited for farming. The settler still followed the lumberman and tried to make farms where nature had provided that forests only could be profitably grown, finding out only after their capital and the best years of their lives had been spent, that they had made a mistake.

While these men have been wasting their efforts dragging out a bare existence, the Province has lost large sums in cash that might have been derived from these same areas had they been left to produce a second crop of pine timber.

In addition to the encroachments of settlers upon the forest area, fire proved a prominent factor in emphasizing the ephemeral character of the lumber industry; large tracts were burned over, until it began to be recognized as the natural thing that fire followed the lumberman. The success of the fire ranging system adopted in 1885 showed that this danger could be largely removed.

This partial immunity from forest fires led our legislators to consider the possibility of giving the forest industries a more permanent character, and in 1895, when

I was appointed to the forestry work under the Government, I was directed by the then Commissioner of Crown Lands, the Hon. A. S. Hardy, to submit a report on the best method of reafforestating these burned areas with pine; to ascertain the comparative cost of planting and of sowing tree seeds, with plan of operation.

Estimates of the cost of seedling trees for replanting were secured, and in the process of investigating the burned over areas to ascertain the probable cost of getting them in condition to replant or sow, I concluded and so reported that neither was necessary except in a few places. The cost of replanting or even of seeding successfully would be so great per acre that the directors of the corporation, the Legislature, would never vote the money necessary to accomplish the work over so large an area; and they would be right, for it is very likely that the initial expense compounded even at three percent, for the number of years necessary for the plantation to reach a merchantable age, plus the annual expenditure for protection and care, would exceed the amount realized from the crop even at the enhanced prices likely to be obtained at that time.

It may be said that even so, for the sake of the incidental or indirect benefits in the way of climatic effect and water supply the investment would be worth while, but it was found that planting was not at all necessary, that practically all the investment required was time and freedom from settlement or fire. On burned over territory a new forest was growing, and in nearly every case, where pine was present in the previous crop, pine was growing again, not at first perhaps; the first crop after the fire was usually birch, poplar or other trees that seed yearly and whose seeds carry immense distances, but nearly always pine followed where the fire had left any parent pine trees within a wide radius, and would be found growing up under the shade and protection of the broad leaved trees, under the exact conditions required to make good timber.

This condition of affairs simplified the problem of reafforestation on Ontario Crown lands, and in my report to the Government in 1896 I recommended that areas found unsuited for general farming should be permanently withdrawn from settlement and placed in forest reserves.

In the following year the Government appointed a royal commission to report on the same subject. This commission included among its members two of the ablest lumbermen in Canada, the late E. W. Rathbun and the late John Bertram, and this commission indorsed this recommendation as follows:

“A large portion of the central division of the Province is more profitable from the standpoint of public revenue as forest land than under cultivation for farm crops, and as in addition to this it contains the headwaters of all our principal streams, all that part of this division found upon examination to be not well adapted for farming should be added to the permanent Crown forest reserves.”

In 1898 the legislature passed an act entitled “An Act to Establish Forest Reserves,” the first specific action by legislation toward the creation of a permanent Crown forest. This act was submitted to the legislature by Hon. J. M. Gibson, then Commissioner of Crown Lands, and was passed without a dissenting voice.

The passage of the forest reserves act, and the creation of reserves thereunder, is the formal announcement of the Government policy of gradually separating the non-agricultural from the agricultural lands, and is the first organized and definite attempt to create a permanent forest estate to be owned in perpetuity by the Crown and operated for timber crops. Under the act there have so far been created four forest reserves, amounting in all to 5,821,000 acres. These include the Eastern Forest Reserve of 80,000 acres; the Sibley Forest Reserve of 45,000 acres; the Temagami Forest Reserve of 3,776,000 acres, and the Mississaga Reserve of 1,920,000 acres.

There should be added to this Algonquin Park, created in 1893 mainly as a game preserve, with an acreage of 1,101,000 acres,2 making a total of permanent forest reserves of 6,922,000 acres.

These reserves are of different character. The two former, the Eastern Reserve in Frontenac County and the Sibley Reserve, which takes in the township of Sibley including Thunder Cape on the north shore of Lake Superior, have been lumbered, and in most cases burned over, and now contain a very thrifty growth of white pine and other trees. It will be some time before they are ready again for lumbering operations, but the growth is very rapid and the time when they may be again operated for pine and other timbers will be much less than would be imagined in the absence of definite information and measurements of the rate of growth of this young timber.

The Temagami Reserve lies in the district of Nipissing and contains 5,900 square miles or 3,776,000 acres. This reserve besides including some of the most picturesque and beautiful lakes in the world, of which Temagami and Lady Evelyn might be mentioned, contains a very large quantity of pine timber now ready to be cut. About forty years ago the band of Indians living in the territory, alarmed at the incursions of the lumbermen who were operating on Lake Temiscamingue and at the suggestion, it is said, of a Hudson Bay officer equally interested with them in the preservation of this country as a hunting ground, started a fire that swept over a good many hundreds of square miles, including the northern part of Temagami, Lady Evelyn, Anima, Nipissing and other lakes. Over this burned territory there is now a thrifty growth of poplar, birch, as well as pine and other coniferous trees, the pine making growth at the rate of one inch in diameter in about two and a half to three years. Of the timber now sufficiently large to cut or what would be estimated by a lumberman in buying the territory for lumbering, I believe there is about five thousand millions, or five billions of feet board measure, exclusive of spruce, tamarack and hardwoods.

The Mississaga Reserve is included in the territory drained by the Winnebago and Mississaga rivers in the district of Algoma, and lies between the main line of the Canadian Pacific railway and the Sault Ste. Marie branch of the same line. It comprises a territory of 3,000 square miles, or 1,920,000 acres, and is estimated to contain over three thousand millions of feet of merchantable white pine besides other timbers.

In giving these figures of areas of forest reserves, it must be borne in mind that the Government has only recently entered upon this policy, and it requires time to properly investigate the different areas before having them come under the provisions of the forest reserves act. By the act a reserve can be created by order in council, but if on further investigation it was found desirable to open this land for agricultural purposes, a subsequent act of the legislature would be necessary in order to take it out of the reserves. In a general way, however, we are aware that there is a very large territory in the Province of Ontario peculiarly suitable for permanent forests.

So far as the question of future timber supplies and the consequent effect on climate and industrial conditions are concerned the Province of Ontario is in a peculiarly fortunate condition. The southern part of the Province which extends almost into the middle of the United States is a very rich agricultural section, now entirely settled up, and the home of a prosperous agricultural community. North of this agricultural belt, stretching across the Province from east to west, lies the watershed separating the streams flowing south into the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence from those flowing north into our great Canadian sea. This height of land or watershed is not a mountainous ridge, but a more or less level tableland, rugged and rough in character, for the most part quite unsuited for agriculture, but the natural home of the white and red pine, spruce and other coniferous trees. True, in this belt there are occasional valleys of good land. In the Temiscamingue district for instance, there are nearly a million acres of rich alluvial clay soil. There is also a good agricultural section in the Rainy River Valley and another one at Wabigoon on the main line of the Canadian Pacific railway. But generally speaking, that is the character of this immense watershed stretching hundreds of miles across the Province from east to west.

North of this territory again, on the slope running to Hudson Bay, lies another agricultural district, estimated to contain over sixteen millions of acres of 'first class farming land, but covered at present with a very valuable growth of spruce and other timber.

In estimating the annual dividends possible or likely to be derived from this forest asset, a good many things have tb be taken into account. While the reserves so far created are pine-bearing, not all of the territory suitable for reserves contains pine at present though it may be made to do so. Some of this territory is rocky and has been so severely burned over, notably on the north shore of Lake Superior, as to have no soil left, and we need to figure on long periods of time before those small areas will become productive. There must also be eliminated the water areas, and fire must be counted on as a contingency.

The present forest reserve area includes distinctly pine-bearing lands, and for purposes of computation over the whole area, I will take this area 6,922,000 acres as a basis. In a country where we have no large artificial plantations that have reached maturity from the seed, it is difficult to form definite conclusions as to the annual growth of timber, but from measurements obtained by the Washington Bureau of Forestry over many parts of the northern or pine-bearing states, they have adopted nearly sixty cubic feet as the normal annual growth under ordinary forest conditions on an acre of forest land. This includes the whole of all sorts of trees, not pine alone. This in board measure would be 720 feet per acre per year. In our pine-bearing land, particularly in the reserves referred to, white pine is not the only tree, but it is the dominant tree, and a large proportion of this annual growth will be of that variety of timber.

Pinchot and Graves, in their exhaustive study of the white pine in Pennsylvania, estimate that a pine tree ten inches in diameter will yield 84 percent of merchantable timber, and in a tree twenty-six inches diameter only seven percent is waste. Under continuous operations, 10 percent would be a fair allowance for waste in all kinds of timber, but there should also be eliminated much solid timber not now merchantable. With allowance also for water areas and spots not well seeded, I do not think 300 feet board measure per acre art unreasonable estimate for the annual growth of pine on an acre of land in the areas. That it is not unreasonable is shown from yields on lands that have been cut over. There are numerous instances where 50,000 feet of pine per acre have been cut, and this where only the merchantable trees were removed, leaving many others on the way to a merchantable size, while our estimate is for the total annual growth.

An ordinary forest well seeded to pine would produce this 50,000 feet in about one hundred years or at the rate of 500 feet per year. One other deduction must be made, however, for fire, for while we have greatly lessened the damage from this source, it must be counted on, and we will reduce this estimate 50 percent or 150 feet board measure an acre a year for the pine timber only. This estimate applied to our present reserves would give an annual production of 1,038,300,000 feet.

As to the value of this timber, much depends on its location and ease of access to market. On the basis of the recent timber sale, $7 per thousand feet would be a fair average as applied to the reserves in question. This would return annually $7,268,100. This sum appears large, but it must be borne in mind that the territory now being operated each year, probably not so large as this, returns $1,000,000 to the treasury, and at $1.25 instead of $7 per thousand feet.

It would, perhaps, be unfair to apply the prices realized at the recent sale to the whole of this area, but to reduce it to $5, a very modest estimate, the annual increment in pine would reach a value of $5,191,500, and besides the other timbers growing on the reserves, spruce, cedar, birch, larch, maple, etc., have a commercial value that is rapidly increasing.

One hundred and fifty thousand feet board measure at $5 per thousand would be worth 75 cents as the annual rental value of this land. It may at first sight appear high, but the Prussian Crown forests under a most expensive semimilitary system of management, including the cost of maintaining several forestry schools and colleges, yield a net income over all expenses of about $1.45 an acre a year over the whole territory good and bad. I am well aware of the difference in conditions as to markets, etc., but surely if the Germans can obtain a net revenue of $1.45, we can, in time at least, under proper management, realize half that sum as our gross revenue. I might also add that the Crown forests of Saxony yield about $4.50 an acre a year, net.

A recent concrete instance of the growth of pine under somewhat adverse circumstances is shown by the result of a small plantation of pine trees on the sand plains of Nebraska. This plantation covers .52 of an acre on the ranch of Bruner Bros., in Holt County, Nebraska. It is rectangular in form, measuring 70x192 feet, and is located in sand hills bordering a dry valley. The trees on this plantation were set out in the spring of 1S91 as three-year-old seedlings averaging about eight inches in height. Furrows were turned two feet apart, and the trees were planted two feet apart in the furrows. Since planting, the trees have received no cultivation whatever, but they have been protected from fire and stock. The altitude of the location is 2,200 feet.

This sand is what is ordinarily called blow sand and covered some of the small seedlings. Last year the Bureau of Forestry at Washington had these trees counted and measured, when it was found that the total volume of wood in the plantation was 586.02 cubic feet, with a total annual growth of 50.6 cubic feet. This, converted into board measure, would be over 600 feet a year on a fraction over half an acre, or 1,200 feet an acre a year.

It is true these trees were planted at regular intervals, and would therefore have a better chance for growth than trees reproduced by nature with her wasteful methods, but it must also be remembered that the soil was very bad and of such a nature as had been considered hitherto quite incapable of growing trees at all.

Hence it will be seen that my estimate of 150 feet board measure an acre a year in our peculiar pine-bearing country is a very moderate estimate. Applying this estimate to say 40,000,000 acres of permanent reserves, which I hope to live to see, we have a yearly growth of 6,000,000.000 feet, which at $5 per thousand would represent a value of $30,000,000.

This is not a rosy picture, but a very conservative estimate, and if the timber other than pine is considered, it will be found low.

And now, having definitely adopted the policy of separating agricultural from , non-agricultural lands, placing large areas of non-agricultural lands in reserves to form a permanent Crown forest to be operated in perpetuity for timber supplies and the payment of cash dividends, the problem is presented of how to work these reserves to the best advantage.

In this various problems present themselves. The first, of course, is the great one of fire protection, but this I am happy to say we are within reasonable distance of having solved. Of course in the forest, as in the city, the prevention of fires entirely is an impossibility, and in the forest there is the added difficulty not often found in well regulated cities, that a fire once under headway cannot be checked by any human agency at present known. At the same time the system of patrol adopted some years ago is proving very effective, and our losses from fires for the past few years have been inconsiderable.

Among the most serious problems confronting the Government in the permanent timber policy, is the reproduction of the right kind of species from a commercial point of view. This Province is the habitat of probably the most valuable timber tree in the world, the Weymouth or white pine, the tree that has been so great a factor in the prosperity of the Province. There are peculiar features connected with its reproduction that have to be carefully considered in any permanent forestry operations.

In the first place, I have noticed that where a forest has been operated for pine for a number of years, and where no fire has taken place, there seem to be no seedling pines coming up. True, there are pine trees still growing to take the place of the mature trees removed, but they are trees that were suppressed and stunted in their growth at the time of the previous lumbering operations, and that took on new growth after the pressure in the forest was relieved, but I cannot find that in a forest of this sort there is any new crop coming on, that is to say, trees that have seeded since the cutting of the original crop.

Why this is so is not quite clear to me, but I imagine the reason will be found in the fact that the ground and the conditions of shade are not suitable for the proper germination and growth of the pine seeds.

On the other hand, where there has been a forest fire, after lumbering operations, we nearly always find a growth of young pine coming up, at any rate if any old or seed trees have been left in the vicinity of the fire.

Assuming this condition of affairs to be general, that young pine will not come up as a second crop except under suitable conditions, it will readily be seen that if in operating an old forest, nothing but the pine trees are taken out, the result must eventually be that the character of the forest will have changed from a pine forest to one of another description, and necessarily of a less valuable character. If it is pine mixed with spruce, if the pine is removed and the spruce only allowed to reproduce, it will naturally become a spruce forest, or a hardwood forest as the case may be.

Hence it is obvious that in operating an old or virgin forest with a view of reproduction of the most valuable sorts of trees, a scientific knowledge of the growth and method of reproduction of these trees will be necessary in order to have the cutting properly executed. This must be done also with a view to the financial part of the operation, because whether in private forestry or government forestry, it must necessarily be largely a commercial proposition, and the cost of operating must be considered in its relation to the ultimate profit.

This is one of the problems confronting us. There are others of a more or less technical nature, and for their solution scientifically trained men will, in my opinion, be necessary. That we have many men engaged in the lumbering business who are highly skilled men indeed in the operation of removing the present standing crop of timber as expeditiously and economically as possible, is true, but their training is not extended to the problem of removing this timber with any regard to a future crop.

While we need scientifically trained men for this purpose, men with a knowledge of botany, plant pathology and general sylviculture, as these men would have to be employed partly by the Government, partly by lumbermen, it would be necessary that in addition to these things they should also be expert lumbermen, and have a thorough knowledge of logging, driving to market, sawing, culling lumber, etc., so that in addition to the training they could receive in the schools, their education would be utterly incomplete without the other training in the bush and in the sawmill, as well as in the lumber yard.

For the proper management of our permanent forests, well trained men will be needed and it will require the joint training of the college, the bush and the sawmill to produce them. -

It is difficult to estimate the far-reaching consequences of this policy in securing a permanent source of future supply against the time when the present demand for lumber and other forest products will have enormously increased and many now productive areas, if worked in the ordinary way, will have become depleted. The intention of the Government of the Province is that these reserves shall be /Operated in accordance with forestry principles, removing only the mature timber from time to time with as little injury as possible to the young growth and the reproductive character of the forest in order that the supply may be perpetually maintained.


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