Conversation of the Forests.
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/AA00000206/00024
Finding Guide: A Guide to the Peter Henry Rolfs Collection
 Material Information
Title: Conversation of the Forests.
Series Title: Writings and Speeches 1891-1920
Physical Description: Unknown
Physical Location:
Box: 1
Divider: Articles, Speeches and Other Writings
Folder: Conversation of the Forests.
Subjects / Keywords: Agricultural extension work -- Florida.
Agriculture -- Florida -- Experimentation.
Agriculture -- Study and teaching -- Brazil -- Minas Gerais.
Agriculture -- Study and teaching -- Florida.
Citrus fruit industry -- Brazil.
Leprosy -- Research -- Brazil.
Minas Gerais (Brazil) -- Rural conditions.
Escola Superior de Agricultura e Veterinaria do Estado de Minas Gerais.
Florida Cooperative Extension Service.
University of Florida. Agricultural Experiment Station.
University of Florida. Herbarium.
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: AA00000206:00024

Full Text

* -

.- .- -- ctob' r 25,
J.H.Wi-lkerson, -
826 Federal Building In
S. dChicago, Ill.

Your wires, twentleth and twventy-fif:t
.Seceived. Prof. Rolf 'now away ex-aF1i1r.
qng land "'n Levy County. ."4 4 w

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20Cth Century

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Club, O-tober 27,

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Lohg before the forests of Florida were considered a

co iauercial asset to the State we had pioneer farmers

variously I'nown as hi,:,mesteaders, squatters, and. -by othpr"

names. In the early Jays the magnificent forest trees

were not reg,.rded as a va;u",A, ajjt 4but ahr +

hindrance to the development of the State. T.io ha

o- tj; cazc lin all -f t 3tetfte W-cre t f Ambe jJLCUlM

IL) nIt is the p2a -4k reason wily Florida was some-

what baclzard in being developed froii an agricultural

standpoint. The timber first had to be cleared away

before the was a..le to nma1e a living for himself

and nis fal,,ily "-"pp'_: '^ ***' *'*-" Q nyt.rlD^ v/n^ +",. .ag

W- -t ji 1"to _r hi it. i an Ii i Wei

Ti'is was the case in nearly all of the States east

of the Mississippi river onoe ial:ing a-tid home


builxithg could be entered into it was necessary to de-

stroy the foreststss=9. -een this was a very serious

undertaking. It was not an easy matter to dig up and.

burn the immense tree/ i require a century ort

more of time to grow.

&?n the great plains of the wevst boundless acres of

fertile boil were found that were ready for the husband-

man to plow j and sow to grains. It is no wonder,

therefore, that the of these population

of t.ie United States was westward. This tide o~=t-im-

ktz has set westward until nearly all of the available

fertile lands have been taken up. While riding on the

train through the valley between the Cascade and ea

n Sf I several times saw an advertisement that

said "This is the last West", which in a general ,ray

means that nearly all of the unoccupied l2.ands that are

desirable for agricultural purposes have been ta an up

in the western part of the United States. There are


still many millions of acres that are not being used for

cropping purposes but would still maale most excellent

farm lands, V.? t. rinj' t:he United. States as well

as the Federal GovernmentA are spending millions of dol-

lars to water to lands that are + fruit-

ful, but without water are practically worthless for any


The building up of the West has not been a sudden

change, but has occurred during the last eighty years.

The West is now becoming so fully occupied that more

people from the United States emigrate to the Canadian

Northwest annually than there are white people in Florida.

= se m mi:gt it m occurs largely through a deep-seated

prejudice against Southeastern United States. The bet-

ter class of immigrants from Europe have been warned by

the immigration agents thes to keep away from B sec-

t4io.n-e f fltl nTy to avoid co,-ing into competition with

the cheap and inefficient labor n-= : s-s. The

laon speculators of the Northwest and of Canada, have nbt

been slow in thre situation.

Within the last tw decades a considerable tidgP'bf emi-

gration to the southward has set in, For the most part

these are people'who have to make a living by their own

physical efforts.

These people, together with the whites already located

in Florida have made really the pioneer development of

the State. This of course does not mean that no devel-

opment of the State occurred prior to twenty or twenty-

five years ago. As a matter of fact a very'large immi-

gration has occurred to the State since about the O40's,

but not until it was possible to combat malaria and con-

trol the yellow fever did we receive any large influx of

what we might call the middle class,.- that is people of

moderate wealth who expected to make their home the year


round in Florida.

I am giving you this rather general and hasty survey

of the situation so that we may the better understand the

question under consideration today. I am not so am-

titious as to expect to cover the field at all thoroughly

or fully. Others more familiar with the conservation

of forests have spent weeks in delivering lectures on

this subject without exhausting it. I am merely at-

tempting to give a general outline as it occurs to me

from over twenty years experience in the agricultural

line closely connected with the disadvantages that ac-

crue to us from the large forest -apy.

All of the lands in Flo ida that are not subject to

overflow and some of those that are subject to overflow

have been covered with forests; in some places we have

magnificent trees to attest to lta fertilt:t
and the genial climate. Before it was possible to pro-

duce those things necessary tor-a livelihood, it became

necessAryto remove the forests and. make a clearing _t=

t=-. Under the circumstances the State could

not become densely populated a*d. a great d.ea of muzm=,

labor d to .mv the forests and put the

land in condition for producing crops. M=r the con-

ditions as they existed up to.theO-close of the Civil War

thws possible for people of wealth to bring with them

a large amount of labor and begin to clear up large es-

tates. Throughout North Florida and as far south as

the Hanatee River these large estates flourished and. pro-

ducedv:great wealth for the plantation owners. This con-

dition, however, was interrupted, Without cheap and ef-

ficient labor it became impossible to clear up and main-

tain large estates. A large numer of ele, however,

teistate' ,mRnAmBl plantations on which only a few acres

were cultivated, was the rule up to the beginning of

the 80's. Under these conditions a large amount of

wealth was produced from the soils of Florida. The

large forests, however, were practically worthless; in

fact as late as the early 90's I saw magnificent pine

forests, as fine as any that see ever in the

State, =1 being */e 75 cents an acre.

luring the 60's, 70's and early 80's the magnificent

pine forests, the equal of which is now known anywhere

else in the world, were being cut off in the middle West.

This timber was being used tp in the development of the

East, Central West and iota. I n-agaIficeae thd trees

far exceeded even the gigantic cypress tzn=w Florida.

e, the development of the country soon depleted

this forest supply, and since the lands that had been

cut over for timber were n up for agricul-

tural purposes, no new supply of timber was produced.

The fact that it would require anywhere from one-third

AWA~e~ ~

to one-half a century to produce large saw logs of this

species, made it improbable that -the lands e=e= e be

used /for lumbering purposes again by the generation that

had talen off the best of the timirer. After the deple-

tion of the forests of the north the eyes of the lumber-

mfen were turned to other regions for a supply ad==tm Rg.

This was found to be rather remote from the place where

it was to be used. The South and the Pacific coast

were then brought into service for supplying lumber.

Florid.a being somewhat further away :romr the center of

population and more sparsely settled than other Southern

States,was not considered a profitable field for exploit-

ation in the lumbering line until about the 80'sand even

as late as in the.90's the timber on the land was con-


Beginning with about the 90's the mill men and turpen-

tine men were being crowded further southward, due to the

fact that these products in the more northerly of the

Southern States had become too scarce to supply the nmoeo

of all th. poo wlsiohin 6tc-n-fgagc-i t- ,io,

While some very large saw mills and. a considerable num-

ber of turpentine orchards occurred throughout the State

before the 90' s, the development an .exploitation

i d to-bogin with- eu t .e-eg.

The first

ard- turpen.ine industry into-the 'districts in F2.rioda

was that of nearly ruirjing.g the farming _e- asr d

b ef+Q.t4- e Baz- saw mills ,-n up e

aadry everywhere: in s=rew them the best

of the labor, leaving only the less efficient and. older

of the labor on the farms. The turpentine camps /a3s_1

-w 'and thus a passed through a

period froni which we have not entirely recovered.,

home asking g a-i.d ihoile buildingXwas a neglected and almost

forgotten art. The thousands of decaying temporary

habitations that one may see from the car windows in

travelling over the railroads in Florida, attest to the

fact that home making and home building is not consid-

ered a part of saw milDing and turpentining as carried

on in the State a. We have of course some ex-

ceptions to this general rule, which only goes to prove

that this condition e not a necessary one, bu- probably

a more profitable a to the exploiter.of the timber and

turpentine. The hundreds of saw dust heaps that we

see annually on our rounds in the Farmers' Instituter

nso* pronounce only too graphically the fact that saw

milling is a 'temporary undertaking in any particular

coiunTLity. The dilapidated buildings that remain and

the few imperfectly cleared fields, show alsotthat

those w.o have undertaken the agricultural side of the

community have not regarded a as a pernaient institution.


Lumbering and turpentining is a money making business

pure and simple. fidhere is no sentiment in connection

with it, and if we wish to accomplish anything in the

way of forestry conservation in Florida we nmst meet

this problem on a purely business basis. So long as it

is more profitable to the owner theropertyto cut

down two trees ;.'.nd waste a half of each than to cut down

one .*- save all of the wood in it, he is going to cut

down the two trees, regardless of whether succeeding

generations may be greatly in need of the %uii ber that

have been destroyed. So long as it is more profitable

to the turpentine manA* box the trees after the old

time method than to use the clay or metal cups, the old

boxing system is going to continue.


So far my lecture today has dealt entirely with the

forestry problem saeMW as it concerns the individual.

I have purposely left out of consideration the question

o.. .far -C concerns the community at large or the

State as a whole,. In all of our1, work we must begin

with the individual as that is the first unit and the

State has no right or power excepting insofar as these

collective units delegate that power to the coijil.nity

e the State. As long as our State was very sparsely

settled the individuals remained, a long distance apart,

The laws governing the behavior of the different indi-

viduals were extremely general and only few in number.

. f -- I

Timbering and turpentining as it has been carried on

in the past has resulted in /a large amount of

:..ey to comparatively few individuals, and. the revenue

to the State, as a State, has been extremely small.

Of course we cannot find fault with any person who has

had the foresight and. energy to make something of value

out of a product that formerly was jpr y worthless!

Aeven if the practice in the past has been about as

bad as it could. well be fro,, the standpoint of the State

as a whole, it has not been wholly evil. The removal

of the pine trees from the, ground has enabled grasses

to spring up and produced ranges for cattle where for-

merly only pne trees stood. It has also enabled many

small farmers to come in and. occupy the cut over lands

and put these in agricultural condition with less ex-

penditure of labor than would have been the case if th'.

forests had remained standing. We have, therefore,

numerous small farms fairly well tilled, giving us

larger crops of farm products than ever heretofDre in


the history of the State. In some cases agricultural

communities have been practically wre e but these are

rather few when compared with the number of new coJir.iu-

nities that have been established in

grr-o -^ -j'

I have now gone over the field. to show the situation

and. have also shown that the conditions as they have ex-

isted. in the past have not been wholly bad even for the

State btagin we are now coming to an acute stage where

if the work of devastation is carried on 3

.a .. con ..d.oro p.riod., we shall be negligent of the

trust that is imposed. upon us.

The individual in society lives but a short time.

On the average we may say that thirty years includes

practically his entire active life. Society or the

State, however, endures for a much longer time, and. what

may be for the individual may really be the very

worst thing that could be done for societyAas a whole.

v7hnen we speak therefore of conservation in connection

with forestry en -a series of practices put into opp-

eration which will operate to the best advantage for

succeeding generations, without at the same time inter-

fering with the good interests of te generation e=

extant. Every correctly minded community recognizes

the fact that posterity has a just t ^a gaa

claim upon us. No one really sympathizes with the money

grabber who speaks or acts as though his own generation

and himself Awere the only ones to be taken into consid-

eration. It is tersely put by some misguided

money a in the epithet, "What have I to do with

posterity? It never did anytiling for me". Such a

thought or idea is repugnant to our whole civilization.

Coming then more directly to the problem as it con-

cerns us in Florida, we find that the fire element in

connection with our forests is the most devastating

one that enters into the forestirconservation problem.

From time the legislature has attempted to pass restric.t-

ive acts and. to :ay the responsibility upon persons who

carelessly allowed fires to escape. This of course Ss

a step in the right direction, but too feeble to be of

any particular value in the question of forest conser-

v action in F lor id a e- 61 ".4 :


The legislature of 1905 passed an act appropriating

$1000 to the Experiment Station to conduct experiments

toward the betterment of our forest conditions. This

was vetoed by the Governor on the ground that the Experi-

ment Station had been abolished by the Buckman Bill.

I mention this incident to show how little our leading

law makers know about the actual laws as they are on

the Statute Books. The $1000 of course would not have

done more than to permit the collection and publishing

of certain data that would have been of great value to

the State. Since that time various attempts have been

made to write on to the Statute Books laws governing the

forests in Florida. In 1909 I took this matter up with

Dr. Nelson C. Brown, of the U. S. Forestry Service. We

spent several days in conference and working over the

laws as they exist in other-.States ai-1 in connection with

the conditions as they exist in Florida. A rather ex-

tensive law was proposed. to the legislature, and was

considered to some extent. I think, however, that it

never really came to a vote of the legislature. This

law was rather comprehensive and carried, with it a very

substantial appropriation, and I think for that reason

it failed of passage. Had the law been less comprehen-

sive and of a more general nature, carrying with it a

small appropriation for beginning I think it would have

passed the legislature at that time. Since then less

active efforts have been made to have a forestylaw wtrt

tamq t4o + __ Statut=. .s. Efforts have also been

made by Vpi fer individuals to interest the lumbermen

of the State in such a way as to have them favor the pas-

sage of a forces law. Without their active cooperation

it is not probable that any forces law would be at all


Steps gecegssary to Gorrect Bad Effect.

We have all seen the bad effects of the 'let alone'

policy in our State on the forestry question. The map

and data gotten out by Dr.-Brown in 1909 showed clearly

that we were approaching the end of our forests, as such.

in Florida, and that hereafter we must rely more largely

upon re-foresting than upon the original forests. Be-

tween pp. 8 and g5 of the pamphlet you will find a map

giving the areas in Florida in which the natural forests

* occur.A t-a3so.3s 6ews a~t the length of time that it

would take to deplete the natural forests in these regions.

( To begin this forest work it will be necessary first

for us to accumulate a large ai.ount of data in regard to

the forests in Florida. A part of this data is now in

the hands of the Forestry Service of the United States.

We need, however, more detailed information than can be

gotten directly from the U. S. Forester.

The second step can then be taken, that is the educa-

tion of the lumberman and timbermen. This is merely

bringing to their attention that there are better methods

-- both more economical of labor and more economical

of the mat-erial consumed in the forests, also in the

handling of the forests in such a way as to make them

practically perpetual sources of income.

The third step would be the passage of a law that is

at once comprehensive yet general, but one that has a

certain amount of flexibility.

This law should provide for (1) compensation enough

to employ a broad minded, well educated man. It is a

piece of work that will require all the energy and strength

of a young man with the most modern ideas in regard to

forestry and forest conservation. A law that would

provide for only half pay would be likely to secure a

man who could afford to give only a small portion of ~is

time and energy to the development of this particular


The law should give the forester power enough to en-

force the regulations necessary, and command respect

from his fellow men.

This forester should give courses of instruction at

the University to the students, and to lumbermen and

turpentine men in the field. eett 1hf ta

Without such instruction, especially the instruction to

the students of the Uhiversity, a strong conservation

sentiment could not be built up.

The forester should be located at the University, as

that would bring him in direct contact with the Agricul-

tural College, the Experiment Station and the Extension

Department, and while the work would be entirely differ-

ent in its details, the general problem is practically

the same. While this officer would have more or less

to do with the carrying out of the law, his principal

mission would be that of developing a forestry conserva-

tion sentiment. Some people think that it takes a

16ng while to arouse a sentiment of this kind. I can,

however, give you a concrete illustration of this kind,

showing that it is not so difficult as some people

imagine. In 1907 the average corn production was 9.6

bushels per acre. During that year we commenced the

Farmers' Institutes, holding these throughout various

portions of Florida. For the first year only $2500 was

expended on this work. This created an agricultural

sentiment; although corn had been grown upwards of

eighty years in Florida no sentiment for better farm-

ing had been aroused to such an extent as to really

cause people to do better farming. Since that time

the average corn production per acre has increased, un-

til it is about 15 bushels. Here we see that it took

eighty years under the old plan to get an average produce.

tion of 9.6 bushels per acre, but by creating a senti-

ment for better farming 500 was added to the crop with-

out additional outlay in labor or capa#*. Our corn

crop in Florida has developed rapidly, from a purely neg-

ligible portion of farming, until this year we will have

in the neighborhood of 10,000,000 bushesl. This de-


velopment has been so rapid that it now looks as though

corn in Florida is going to be a strong competitor of

the orange for first place in the of agricultural


Taking into consideration the general aspect of the

question as it occurs in Florida,. I J .a1 -b -L

tt the Federation of Women's Clubs has taken a

step in the right direction for the moulding of a senti-

ment to secure a forest conservation law. I believe

that the aocal women's societies all over the State have

at least one program during this year devoted to this

subject. This subject should be continued, through next

year. I believe that the Twentieth Century Club of

Gainesville should take the initiative in the next step

forward, ;and that is at the meeting of the Federated

Women's Clubs appoint a committee that is in hearty sym-

pathy with this conservation movement, being sure to

secure on the membership those ladies who are certain to

take an aggressive part in this movement. During the

next year, then, this coi.iittee would. call to their aid

a number of the ablest foresters in the country. By

making application to the Chief of the Forest Service

they would get the advantages of- advice from foresters

who have seen service in a number of different States

and under a number of different State laws. This same

committee could call to their asebee the leading men

from the lumber organizations and the turpentine organi-

zations of the State, and have formulated a law that

would at once be satisfactory and effective. Then the

question could be taken up by the Federation of Women's

Clubs at their meeting in 191 and be all prepared for

the legislature of 1915.

In meeting with different committees of ladies

on thts forestry question I have been frequently told

by the ladies that they knew nothing about this forestry

question. This is probably a decided advantage to the

comim.iiittee itself, since then they would be unbiased in

their opinions as to the problems that are presented.

Nor is it at all necessary that te shQold be graduate

foresters to know that forest conser-- action is a good

for Florida. Thousands of people are heartily in

favor of better farming who know nothing about farming

in a practical way. They know, however, that scientif-

ic agriculture has completely revolutionized crop pro-

duction. We find, therefore, that many people who

know nothing about1 scientific or practical agriculture

give us the greatest assistance, and prove to be most

valuable in furthering this work. This same illustra-

tion may be used in connection with the forest work

especially in Florida. A person well versed in for-

estry and who has been in the practical business of

lumbering or turpentining would be very certain to

view the problem from too narrow an angle. I cannot,

therefore, urge you to6 strongly to proceed directly


along the line of forest conservation, calling to your

aid not only people connected with the University but

also people connected with other Universities if need

be and and with the foresters of the U. S. Department

of Agriculture. In this connection I am here to tell

you that anything that either Dr. Murphree, the Presi-

dent of the University, or myself are able to do we shall

most cheerfully do for you. Dr. Murphree has been

looking forviard to the time when a Forestry Department

should be added to the University. His duties in con-

nection with the University as a whole are so numerous

and exacting that it is impossible for him to take up

the side of this work. In my own case

the agricultural work, especially in connection with

the Extension Department, has been very exacting, and

Will continue to require all of the time at my command.

We are, therefore, unable to take a leading part in
"- ,, '
*i' '-.'. ,

the conservation and development of our forests, as we

should In time when the University sihal be

stronger than it is at present, we will doubtless have

more leisure to give to strictly constructive work

than we have at present. The ladies of the Twentieth

Century Club and the Federation of Women's Clubs have,

however, the time and inclination to take a leading

part in this work and should therefore push ahead

with it and secure the services of as many trained

ordersers as possible.