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PRACTICAL FORESTRY IN THE SOUTHERN

APPALACHIANS.

By OVERTON W. PRICE,
Superintendent of Working Plans, Division of Forestry.

INTRODUCTION.

The Southern Appalachians offer an excellent field for practical forestry. The need of systematic and conservative forest management is beginning to be keenly felt, both for the timber tract and the wood lot. The present desultory form of lumbering, which dates from the settlement of the region, has resulted in a serious reduction of the existing supply of timber. The unnecessary damage which has accompanied this lumbering, together with the repeated fires and excessive grazing to which the forest has been largely subjected, has greatly retarded the production of a second crop. Although there is still enough wood to fill the wants of the settlers, the cost of obtaining it is constantly increasing with the growing distance between the supply and the market. Around the towns and villages the belt of woodlands from which all merchantable timber has been culled widens every year, while fire and grazing often prevent young trees from springing up on the cut-over area.

The rapid increase now going on in the values of timber and in the cost of firewood is premature in so densely forested a country, and is the direct result of wasteful methods in the utilization of its resources. A continuance of these methods will necessarily result in a serious check to the general prosperity of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee, where the inhabitants have already to contend with the remoteness and ruggedness of the region, and with an exceedingly low percentage of arable land. These methods will, moreover, not only render it costly to obtain wood for home consumption, but will entirely destroy what is still the most important source of revenue in the Southern Appalachians--the lumbering of its valuable hardwoods to supply a steady and increasing demand in distant markets.

It is intended in this paper merely to outline the nature of the problem at hand and to suggest certain general lines of treatment that might be followed.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE REGION.

The mountain region of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee comprises an area of 15,000 square miles. It includes the Blue

Ridge on the cast and the Smoky Mountains on the west, with the high and broken plateau which lies between them. Many spurs and ridges run off at right angles from these two ranges upon the plateau, and make of it the loftiest and most rugged section east of the Rocky Mountains. The more important of these cross chains are the Black Mountains, a spur of the Blue Ridge, which contain Mitchell Peak, 6,711 feet high; the Balsam Mountains, with a mean elevation of over 5,000 feet; and the Cowee Mountains, one of the longest of the cross ranges. Beginning on the east with the spurs of the Blue Ridge, which lose themselves in the Piedmont district, the elevation increases and the character of the mountain region grows more rugged westward toward the Smokies, in which the Appalachian system culminates.

The slates, granite, and gneiss, with their intermediate forms, are the chief underlying rocks. Of these, the gneiss is most common. It is usually soft, and disintegrates rapidly, forming a sandy loam which, although not particularly rich, is loose, fresh, and of great depth, except where the grade is such as to cause excessive erosion.

Where gneiss is the surface formation the slopes are generally smooth and rounded as a result of its rapid weathering. Where the slowly disintegrating granite forms the outcrop the topography is rugged and the slopes steep and bowlder-strewn, and sometimes craggy and precipitous, particularly those which face toward the south.

With the exception of the natural meadows which occupy the summits of some of the higher peaks, the mountains are covered with forest growth. The valleys are almost entirely under cultivation. Upland farming is carried on upon the foothills, and occasionally, for lack of better ground, upon mountain slopes so steep that their thorough cultivation is impossible.

THE FOREST.

It has often been said that it is in this region that the forest trees of the North mingle with those of the South, and the statement gives but an incomplete idea of the great variety of trees which is here the result of wide local differences in soil and climate. Western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee contain over one hundred kinds of native trees. Of these, some, such as the Black Spruce and Balsam, which find in the Smokies at an elevation of 1,000 feet and over conditions similar to those of their northern habitat, are either too rare or too difficult of access to be often of commercial importance. Others, such as the Black Gum, Sourwood, Dogwood, Buckeye, and Aspen, are valueless for timber, and are used for firewood only when no better kinds are to be had. (Pl. XXXVIII.) Others again, among which are the Striped Maple, the Haw, and the Silverbell Tree, have as yet no merchantable value.

Among the commercial trees the more important hardwoods are the Yellow Poplar, the Oaks, Hickories, Chestnut, Birch, Ash, Cherry,

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