Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

a method of rapid clearance which was again, later on, adopted
by the Puritan army under Monk. And a similar march of
events also occurred throughout Ireland. The various coloniza-
tion schemes or “plantations’ of James I., Charles I., and
Cromwell, during the seventeenth century, all gave additional
impetus to the work of clearing away the natural forests, which
was steadily being undertaken in all those parts of the country
that were in the possession of the Anglo-Irish landowners.
From many points of view Great Britain has been mar-
vellously well endowed by Nature. We have not only
exceedingly rich coal-producing tracts and vast mineral wealth,
but we have also, owing to the beneficial influence of a portion
of the Gulf Stream, one of the finest climates in Europe for
general agricultural and pastoral purposes. Had it not been
for this last natural gift, the clearance of the primeval woods
throughout Great Britain and lieland, to such an extent that
only 3°8 per cent. of the total area may now be classed as
woodland, must inevitably have led to results that would have
been disastrous to almost any agricultural utilization of the
soil. And, apart from the prehistoric forests that produced our
existing coal-measures, it is mainly to our original or primeval
forests, and more especially to the wealth of oak timber which
grew throughout the southern counties of England from three
to five hundred years ago, that Britain owes her present proud
position. Without the wealth of oak that was produced abun-
dantly in southern England, British supremacy on the sea would
probably not have been attained.
Even so early as the time of Charles II., grave national
apprehensions were raised regarding the continuous supply of
oak timber for the king's navy. Very great importance was
from this point of view attached to the first Report of the Com-
missioners of Woods, Forests, and Land Revenues presented to
the House of Commons in 1812. The latter was reviewed
along with another Report bearing on the same subject in
No. 19 of this Review for October 1813 (vol. x. pp. 1–30).
It is curious to read with the light of our present knowledge,
the following prophecy with which that article concludes:—
“The vast quantity of fine elm that used to be buried under the
streets of this metropolis and other large cities to convey water,
is now almost wholly superseded by iron and stone—in fine,
we are now so far advanced in the iron age that, in the worst
of events, we should not absolutely despair of being able to sub-
stitute for our wooden walls, ships wholly constructed of iron.'"

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

* ‘Quarterly Review,’ Oct. 1813, vol. x. p. 30. Duri uring

ls

During the eighty-one years that have elapsed since the above was written, this prophecy has been indeed far more than sulfilled, as comparatively little of the timber used in the construction of vessels of war and ocean-going steamers now consists of oak. The use of timber has also been supplanted in very many other cases by the substitution of iron. But, on the other hand, new uses have sprung up for wood in a manner that could hardly have been dreamed of eighty years ago. Various considerations have rendered it necessary that much larger forest areas should be reserved for timber growth throughout the continent of Europe than has been the case in England. In many parts of the higher mountainous tracts of Central Europe, necessity has led to the formation of banforests in order to protect and maintain the prosperity of fertile agricultural and wine-producing tracts fringing the base of the mountains. Again, owing to the comparative poverty of most parts of the Continent with regard to coal, the retention of large wooded tracts for the express purpose of supplying the general community with fuel, has throughout most parts of the Continent been a national-economic necessity. Thus Germany is covered with forests over 26 per cent. of its total area; France has nearly 18 per cent. under woodlands; whilst Austria and Hungary have no less than 30 per cent. under forest growth. The retention of vast extents of woodlands was also a matter of necessity from a climatological point of view: for the characteristic climate of continental Europe varies from our damp, equable, insular climate by having what we may well term extremes of cold in winter and of heat in summer. And if the Governments of Central Europe had in the past Permitted an approach to anything like the same extent of clearance as has taken place with complete immunity (save as regards shelter) throughout Great Britain, the results must inevitably have proved disastrous to agriculture. The permicious effects of excessive clearance of forests on the national-economic and agricultural prosperity of a country have, only recently, been but too well exemplified in the great Russian Famine of 1892, which, as has been plainly shown in the “Edinburgh Review' (January 1893, pp. 17–19), was primarily due to the dryness of the climate in summer arising iom the extensive devastations of forest land that have taken Place within recent years. With the reduction of our woodland area to the small total of 3,005,670 acres (including all ornamental woods and nurseries), it is a matter of physical impossibility that all the N 2 British British demands for timber can be supplied. On this point Professor Endres makes the following remarks:—

‘England has only 4 per cent. of woodland, and is, in consequence of its highly developed commerce and its extensive output of coal, the most absorptive country in the world. The English timber consumption influences the timber trade all over the world, and determines the level of the timber prices. In the beginning of the year 1890, when a serious crisis occurred in the English market in consequence of enormous imports, profits fell about 10 to 15 per cent. throughout Central Europe.’”

During the year 1892, the imports of forest products into Britain were shown by the “Customs Returns’ to consist of no less than 16,679,526l. worth of timber, either in the log or in a converted state, and 1,523,180l. worth of minor forest produce in the shape of wood-pulp, rosin, and bark for tanners and dyers. As only 72,860l. worth of timber was exported, the nett excess of the imports of forest produce over the exports amounted in value to no less than 18,129,846l. This sum does not include mahogany, cutch, gambier, caoutchouc and guttapercha, which were imported to the extent of 4,551,5211 in value. It includes, however, the teak used in the lining of iron ships; Jarrah and other Australian hardwoods now largely used for street-paving in London; and similar timbers concerning which details are not given. So far as mere climatic considerations are concerned, there is no reason why the timber at present imported from Russia, Sweden, Norway, and Germany should not be grown in Britain for our own consumption. During 1892, timber in the rough was imported from these countries to the value of 2,257,4011., and converted timber to the value of 6,950,504l., or amounting to 9,207,905l. in the total value as declared to the Customs' authorities.

If our woodlands were better managed than is at present the case, and if the landed proprietors could be persuaded to study the economic facts concerning the steady relative appreciation in the value of timber-which indeed promises bright prospects for woods that may become marketable in about fifty years' time, then home competition ought to be easily created for the supply of at least about the half of our timber imports. As was pointed out by Sir Walter Scott in his criticism of the fifth edition (1812) of Evelyn's “Silva, in the March number of this Review for 1813 (vol. ix. p. 54), the price of oak timber had increased tenfold within less than two centuries. In addressing the country gentleman of England with regard to woodlands, he told him that “he will do well to remember that the price of oak has nearly quadrupled within the last thirty years; and that by adding a cypher to estimates relating to the time of Charles the First, he will do no more than raise them to the standard of his own times.’ And, throughout the course of the last half-century, the appreciation in the exchangeable value of timber—not merely of oak for shipbuilding, but of all kinds and assortments of wood in general—has been very steady. The statistics of prices of timber in Central Europe during the last fifty years prove that the mean annual increase has been from 2 to 2% per cent. There seems every reason to believe that during the next fifty years it will increase considerably in place of remaining steady or in any way tending to decrease : for, whilst the world's demands for timber are annually increasing, the productive area under forest is steadily decreasing. Intelligent landowners may therefore easily perceive that, even although the timber which they now offer in the market may not compete on anything like technical and commercial equality with the better-grown timber that arrives in enormous quantities from the Continent, yet, if they only endeavour to manage their woodlands better than is at present the case, favourable returns may be confidently anticipated from the capital represented by the soil and the growing stock of timber. If the woodlands throughout Britain were extended, as they very easily might be, and were managed on true sylvicultural Principles, it would lead to national-economic advantages of various sorts; for many of the operations of tending the woods and of harvesting the mature crops of timber may be best performed during the winter months, when so much of the labour of the country must unfortunately remain unemployed. Thus Endres states that the total quantity of labour employed in the working of the forests throughout the German empire represents an annual outlay of 4,150,000l. according to one authority, or of 8,000,000l. according to another.” This amount represents the cost of management of the forests and of preparing the raw produce for sale, before it is delivered to the buyer. These preliminary operations with reference to the woodland produce afford direct employment to between 190,000 19230,000 families throughout Germany. And, in addition to the above-named wages, there must also be taken into account the vast sums spent in the transport of the timber and the other minor kinds of forest produce by land and water. No less than $80,000 persons, or 9 per cent of all the industrial classes throughout Germany, are engaged in industries solely dependent on the forests for the supply of the requisite raw material. These 580,000 bread-winners probably represent about three million souls, or nearly one-sixteenth of the total population. Again, the State forests of Austria and those under State control amount to 2,205,317 acres, or not much more than two-thirds of the total area covered by our British woodlands; yet the former afford employment for 18,336 workmen, members of whose families are employed to the total number of 39,060 persons. It is estimated that the actual out-turn in timber from the forests of Germany amounts to 60,000,000 cubic metres (about 2,160,000,000 cubic feet), worth from 20,000,000l. to 22,500,000l. sterling, so that even taking 2 per cent, as the return yielded on the capital invested, the of value of all the German forests would be about 1,000,000,000l. sterling. The German woodlands aggregate 34,353,743 acres, i.e. they are rather more than eleven times larger than the area returnable as woodlands and nurseries throughout Great Britain and Ireland. Hence, if our forests were as economically and as well managed as the forests of Germany, they ought to yield about 2,000,000l. annually; and, even reckoning 4 per cent. as the rate of interest yielded on the capital invested, they should have a capital or marketable value of about 50,000,000l. at twenty-five years' purchase. But it is of very great importance to note that both the returns from, and consequently the estimated capital value of, the forests of Germany would be immensely higher were it not for the fact that the domestic fuel of the nation at large is wood, and not coal as in Britain. A large proportion of the 60,000,000 of cubic metres of timber annually yielded is deliberately cut up into fuel pieces to satisfy these domestic and general economic requirements, in place of being used as timber for higher technical purposes, for which they are in every way very much better suited than the badly-grown timber to be found in the vast majority of our British woodlands. There are three great faults noticeable in the treatment of woods throughout Britain:— 1. Discrimination has seldom been shown with regard to the choice of the kinds of trees for given soils and situations. 2. Plantations have not usually been formed of the best degree of density for the given kinds of trees selected for planting. 3. A sufficient density of crop has not always been maintained during the subsequent periods of the natural development of the trees. Landowners and foresters, ignorant of the economic and scientific

* “Allgemeine Forst- und Jagdzeitung,’ 1893, p. 82. he * “Allgemeine Forst- und Jagdzeitung, p. 616. throughout

« AnteriorContinuar »