Original Document
Original Document
Joseph Rothrock, On the Art of Forestry and the Devastation of Pennsylvania's Woods, 1895.

The art of forestry is the production of the largest crop of the most desirable timber in the least time and at the least expense on land that is unsuited for remunerative agriculture, or for profitable grazing. Such at least must be our definition for the present, in this country. It may happen, however, in the future that forest growth will be the best paying crop on lands which are also well adapted to either agriculture or grazing. The law of supply and demand will decide this. It will thus be recognized that forestry is but an extension of agriculture and that it is subject to exactly the same business laws that govern our ordinary agricultural operations involving only a longer reach of years to mature a slower growing crop....

In 1859, the region between Altoona and north to the New York line in one direction and in the other from Renova west to Warren was essentially a wooded country. It is now in the main stripped of its timber. In one of those counties (Cambria), Judge Barker has stated that it is becoming depopulated. The area was a mixed crop of white pine, hemlock and hardwoods. It has undergone two great cullings: first for white pine, second for lock, a third is underway for any salvage not burned. In those portions of Luzerne, Lackawanna, Carbon, Monroe, Pike, and Wayne counties which as a whole are in most immediate relation to each other, there exists an area of about 970 square miles (620,800 acres) which may be regarded as more of a menace to the prosperity of the Commonwealth than as an element of strength. White Haven was a log boom and lumber town years ago with millions of logs run down the streams.

There is almost no activity now except in the summer of 1894 I counted thirty six solid white stumps still standing on an acre of ground and saw second-rate shingles manufactured from the portions that lumbermen had rejected in earlier years. This area in the Pocono plateau is not soil suitable for agriculture, fires sweep across the area almost every year; the loss of the wood business will depopulate the area....

The amount of land, seated and unseated [seated land is defined as land cleared for agriculture and improvements, unseated refers to uncut forests] advertised to be sold for taxes by the county commissioners in the different counties of the Commonwealth in June of 1894, so far as heard from, was upwards of 1,500,000 acres, or 2,358 square miles. This doesn't include 5,600 small portion in cities and towns. As thirteen county treasurers didn't report, it's fair to suppose there is considerable more that will be sold for taxes. As the state contains 46,000 square miles, it appears that one mile out of every nineteen is being sold for taxes (2 or more years owed). People are cutting their trees and abandoning the land rather than pay annual taxes that exceed the land's value: 4,716 square miles is woodland which has been stripped of timber and not developed for agriculture, another 4,000 square miles has been cleared for agriculture; then exhausted and is being abandoned. This equals 8,716 square miles-5,578,000 acres which have ceased to be an element of strength, and this area is becoming constantly in worse condition.

Credit: Joseph Rothrock, "Report of the Forestry Commission of Pennsylvania," Harrisburg, PA, 1895.
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