The Timber Supply of the Future

James Oliver October 1 1908

The Timber Supply of the Future

James Oliver October 1 1908

The Timber Supply of the Future

The Subject of Lumbering in Canada has Become one of Great Interest and Vital Importance, While a Powerful Sentiment for the Protection of the Forests has Been Aroused —The Possible Bearing of the Timber Supply of the Dominion on the Future of the United States Discussed.

James Oliver

SOME time ago I had an interview with the late James A. Calbick, millionaire lumberman of Chicago, then president of the Lumber Carriers’ Association, owner of the greatest lumber fleet in the world, and recognized as one of the two greatest lumbermen in America. We were on one of his own vessels, and he said to me, pointing northward over Lake Michigan, “Up there, in Canada, are the forests that will save the United States.”

We had been talking over the lum ber situation. For two hours I had listened to this timber king’s description of the havoc wrought in our forests. He had made millions, and yet he seemed to regret that they had been made. He grieved over the war of devastation in which he had so successfully played his own part, and he saw but little hope foi the future. In the end he said: ,

“Up there, in Canada, are the forests that will save the United States. They will tide over our timber famine, give us a chance to recuperate, and by the time our own forests have regained a part of what they have lost we Americans will have learned our lesson, as Germany learned hers decades ago.”

In his message to Congress, President Roosevelt voiced this same belief, in another way. He urged for the repeal of duty on wood pulp and for an agreement with Canada that there should be no export duty on Canadian pulpwood. In other words, his effort was to throw open to American manufacturers the vast wilderness regions of the Dominion; or, as one Canadian editor pointedly expressed it, “To nurse back American timber while feeding off Canadian wood.”

On the other hand, there has risen

throughout Canada a powerful sentiment for the protection of Canadian forests. Our neighbors on the north have learned their lesson from the United States, and while Americans are regarding with gloating eyes the vast tracts of timber land in the Dominion, the Canadians themselves have awakened to the fact that these forests must be preserved. While they welcome the unnumbered thousands of American farmers flocking into the fertile regions of the great west, they have not brought themselves to welcome this same people in their timber regions. In Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, Americans are helping to build the foundations of a nation; they are becoming a people in common with Canadians, their interests are in the rich acres which have been given to them, in their homes, in the future of the country, but in the forests Americans come only to “strip and destroy,” as they have done for a quarter of a century in their own country.

For these reasons, and because of the strenuous attempts at forestry legislation in the United States and the opening up of tremendous timber regions by the railroads of the Dominion, the subject of lumbering in Canada has become one of great interest and vital importance. Recently I made my fourth trip through the vast timber belts of our neighbor on the north, following in particular in this last journey the line of the new transcontinental the Grand Trunk Pacific, which is stretching itself like a tight rope through primitive wildernesses which are offering unprecedented opportunities for capital. “Some day Americans will wake up,” said Mr Calbick to me, “and then they will go over into Canada and

make%fortunes, as we made them a generation ago.” But since then sentiment in the Dominion has changed and while the forests of Canada are already invaded by Americans, and will continue to offer more and more opportunities to them, it is quite safe to say that they will, on the other hand, be protected from them.

Before going into a detailed description of the forests and lumbering camps of the north it may not be uninteresting, especially to those who have, or expect to have capital to invest, to give some sort of an idea of just what Canada possesses in timber. Much to my surprise I have found that the people of the United States are astonishingly ignorant of the forest wealth of the Dominion. In fact, not until very recently have the people of Canada themselves become aware of the vastness of their country's wooded areas, and as a consequence, it is estimated that fully eighty per cent, of Canada’s forests are still unclaimed by private interests. A complete government investigation has shown that the central forest belt begins on the mainland opposite Newfoundland, follows a southwesterly course to the south of James Bay, and then runs northwest to Alaska, stopping opposite the mouth of the Mackenzie River, the total distance being 3,700 miles. At ten almost equal intervals along the belt measurements in width have been made which show that this forest area has an average width of 700 miles, or a total area of 2,500,000 square miles, and that in fully eighty per cent, of it no axe but that of the trapper and the surveyor has ever been used. Reduced to acres, this virgin forest area gives a total of 1,600,000,000, or more than three times the 500,000,000 acres of forest land in the United States, much of which has been partly stripped, and in which are included great areas not known as densely wooded. In addition to the densely wooded belt mentioned above there are fully 500,000,000 acres of forest in the Hudson Bay and far northern country which is not officially recognized as “densely timbered.” I have been through some of this country and have found it equal to most of the

timber land still remaining in Michigan.

In Canada the white pine, as in this country, has been the first to suffer, and is fast disappearing from Southern Ontario and Quebec, though large areas of it are still standing on lands held by the Crown and in reserves. In New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario, the great forests are mostly of spruce, cedar, pine and balsam, while In British Columbia they are mostly of Douglas fir, the giant arbor-vitae, Menzies or Sitka spruce, yellow cypress and the western hemlock. Of course other trees, such as birch, poplar, etc., including a good number of hardwoods, are well represented in the forest regions.

While the great provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, in which 60,000 Americans settled last year, are calling to the farmer more than any other country in the world to-day it is not generally known that much of this Canadian timber stands upon soil which has been found to be the richest on the continent. In the three great “wheat provinces” of the west, government investigations show that fully three-fifths of the land is wooded, and that this timber land is equal, if not superior, to the prairie areas into which unnumbered thousands of farmers ^.re flocking. When I made my first trip through the Canadian west in 1899, I found most of the settlers living in crude shacks and log cabins, while last autumn my journey showed the prairies dotted with homes of the most modern kind. There is hardly a locality, even in the so-called exclusively “prairie districts,” where the settler cannot get his lumber at prices ranging from a quarter to never more than a half of what he would be compelled to pay in the States, and it is quite common for a community of settlers to establish a small sawmill, so that their lumber costs them next to nothing. It must be remembered that I am now speaking of the great farming areas, and not of the “official” timber belts. In the United States such areas as these are regarded as forest land. I cite these facts only as corroborative of the tremendous and wide-spread forest wealth of the Dominion.

The toll that Americans are beginning to demand of Canadian forests has al-

ready reached huge proportions. This year it is estimated that from Quebec alone 1.000,000 cords of pulpwood will be imported into the United States at a cost of eight million American dollars. Throughout Ontario and Quebec American interests are buying up great pulpwood and timber areas, and the opportunities opening up farther west are even greater than those that have already been taken advantage of. What these opportunities are may be seen from the fact that the exports of timber and pulpwood from Canada this year will approximate $40,000,000. It is believed that this export will increase from 20 to 30 per cent, every year for many years to come, for the United States is literally starving for paper material ; and if this material can not be secured in a way hoped for by the President, it must be secured at some other cost. Canadians are aware of this tremendous market, and they are alive to the fact that, with proper legislation, Canada’s timber and pulpwood can be doled out to its southern neighbor at great profit for perhaps generations to come. In 1880 there were only 742 paper and pulp mills in this country, producing $57,000,000 worth of material a year; in 1900 the number had increased to 1, 200 mills, and to-day there are 2,000 mills in operation, producing $200,000,000 worth of paper and pulp. And still the supply is so far below demand that the price of paper has almost created a panic among publishers.

So to-day, in Canada, well informed capital is not especially seeking out the big timber areas. It is investing itself in pulpwood lands. As Colonel Shaw, the well known timber and mining man of Toronto, said to me, the “wise ones are picking up the dense spruce and cedar.” Over unnumbered thousands of square miles it can be gotten for a song. Last autumn I struck into the Hudson Bay wilderness from Port Arthur. A few miles from the city I left all lumbering and pulpwood operations behind me. For two hundred and fifty miles northward the primitive wilderness stretched unbroken. My guides trailed for days through pulpwood forests that had not a break in them, and where for weeks

and months at a time the moose, the caribou and the wolf are startled only by occasional prospectors, those “mineral mad Canadians,” who pass through countless fortunes standing about them in their seeking for those other fortunes hid beneath their feet. Until one personally buries himself in one of these dense forests of the north it is impossible for him to realize what they are like. Spruce and cedars from six inches to a foot in diameter tower up as straight as arrows, so close in places that even the moose, who penetrates where man can hardly go, finds it difficult to pass between them. Not far from Fort William I saw an acre of stump land from which $11,000 worth of pulpwood had been taken. .This acre was one of about twenty on which the timber rights had been secured for $3,000.

Recently as three years ago men with capital hesitated at investing money in lands situated in what is commonly called “the wilderness.” They figured that it might be a generation or more before the trees could be got to civilization. But all of this is now changed. This year 9,000 miles of railroad are either projected or under contract in the Dominion. A great transcontinental is cutting through the wildest part of the American continent from ocean to ocean. More than twenty branch lines are penetrating the vast forest tracts, and another line will soon be under construction from the Canadian Northern to Hudson Bay. Within three more years there will hardly be a forest belt in Canada that cannot be “worked,” and then when they have jumped to half a dozen times their present value investors will, as Mr. Caibick said, “wake up to the situation.”

Not only from a money-making point of view is lumbering in the north filled with interest. It is there, in the primitive regions which for hundreds of years have been the heritage of the Hudson Bay hunter and trapper, that one finds the real romance of the lumberjack and the “pulp roller.” It is in these camps of the north that one comes in contact with the primitive in man as well as in beast and forest, where you eat moose meat and caribou instead of beef, and meet men such as are

never found in the camps of the United States. Whether it is in the dense forests of New Brunswick, in northern Quebec and Ontario, or among the forest giants of British Columbia, one will find that lumbering life is much different than in the States. Both the forest and prairie regions of Canada are particularly rich in rivers and lakes, and as a conr sequence timbering is in most places a “twelve month job,” as one contractor said to me. During the entire fall and winter the men work in the camps and

through the spring and summer the streams running down from the forests are made to carry the winter’s harvest. Because of this wealth of waterways throughout the Dominion timbering can be carried on more advantageously in Canada than in any other country in the world.

When one goes into the far north to study the timber situation about the first object that impresses him is the lumberjack. I was told before going into the

forests that he was the most honest man

in the world, and I found him so. He will bring your pocket-book to you if he finds it; he will divide his last biscuit with you ; you may leave your camp without guard for days and when you return nothing will be missing—but one thing. That is whisky. Whisky is every man’s property, no matter who pays for it, and the average Canadian lumberjack will go through every parcel in your camps in his search for it. If he is discovered at his work he regards the whole matter as a^ood joke. In most instances he is a composite of French and Indian blood, and if not that he is Finnish or Canadian, for the American lumberjack has not begun to emigrate much as yet. He is, in many ways, a forest nomad. He will work at timbering for a number of months, then spend a winter at trapping, and then set off with the dream of finding a silver or gold mine. He is a hard worker, loyal and honest to his employers while he works for them, and is a part of his forests, caring little for town life. West of Nipigon forest reserve I met one of these forest men coming down to Port Arthur. He had not seen a town for seven years and when he reached the city he could not be persuaded to travel upon the stone walks, but chose the middle of the streets. Neil McDougall, Indian agent at Port Arthur, told me )f another man who had not been to town for seventeen years. All of these men of the far northern woods are fiHed with the wild and picturesque stories and legends of the forests and it is hard for one with a love of nature in his heart to take himself away from their campfires.

Farther westward one meets with different timber and different men. Sweeping over the vast fertile farm lands into which our farmers are now going in thousands, Canada’s forest belt takes one among the millions of acres of forest giants in British Columbia. To-day British Columbia is by all odds the greatest timber land in the world, and by the wise government supervision which the Dominion is gradually bringing about, it will be made to enrich the nation for many generations if not centuries. In

some ways, however, the British Colum-

bia lumbermen are following in the fatal footsteps of their southern cousins. I have seen giant firs, for instance, cut so high above the ground that enough lumber was left in each stump to build a house. The “reasons” for cutting a tree from ten to twenty feet above the ground are the same as were once given in our own redwood forests, where ‘stump timbering” has now developed into an industry. The foreman of a cutting gang will say that time is saved by chopping a tree where its diameter is not more than two-thirds of what it is twenty feet down, and that “the butt is liable to have a rotten core.” Yet on an average not one in ten of these huge stumps are unsound. When cutting a British Columbia giant, from six to ten feet in diameter, two planks are fastened into the trunk from six to fifteen feet above the ground and from these planks the cutters wield their axes and saws. The crash of one of these forest monsters can, under right conditions, be heard five miles away. Near Vancouver there is one man named Sweet who makes a good living from a single tree stump which he has turned into a “dance hall,” as is shown in an accompanying illustration. The stump is the one great attraction of Sweet’s little resort and settlers and lumbermen from miles around come to the dances which are held there every evening, both winter and summer. During the winter months when the revelers come on snowshoes, huge fires give warmth and light to the picturesque scene.

In closing, I wish to say an additional word regarding the fight which the Provincial Governments have already begun for the preservation of their timber. Notwithstanding the fact that its forests have hardly been touched Canada is far ahead of the United States in this matter. Huge timber reserves have been set aside, and all of the Crown lands, which embrace the larger part of the forest areas, are more or less carefully watched. In British Columbia the timber restrictions are perhaps less enforced than in other provinces. Anyone staking timber on unlocated Crown lands is entitled to a special timber license to “cut and carry away timber” on 640 acres, but must pay an

annual fee of $140 and a royalty of fifty cents per thousand for timber cut. This forest revenue has filled the treasury of the province to overflowing, and the Government constantly holds the whip hand, as it retains the right to at any time increase both royalty and annual fee. The Provinces of Ontario and Quebec are setting the world an example in the way of forest preservation. There are already 10,437,320 acres in Ontario’s reserves and the scheme is to rapidly increase these reserves to 50,000,000 acres, which means that Ontario will remain a powerful factor in the world’s supply of timber for all time to come. It is estimated that the present reserves contain fully 10,000,000,000 (ten billion) feet of pine lumber. In the Province of Quebec 110,000,000 acres have been set aside in forest reserves, or ten times the area in

Ontario. In both provinces there is a complete system of forest patrol, the individuals of the patrols being known as “fire rangers.” These rangers are constantly on guard in the forest regions, their duty not only being to extinguish fires but to prevent them by ceaseless enforcement of the forest laws and by the course of “camp fire education,” which they are spreading among the lumbermen, trappers and Indians of the wilderness. In the words of one Canadian lumberman, “the stripping of the United States of timber has been a lesson to Canada, and throughout the Dominion there has developed, and is still growing, a mighty movement for the saving of Canada’s forests so that for all time she may retain her rank as the greatest timber country, as well as the greatest wheat country, in the world.”