Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

New Forest Chief on Saving Our Forests

In 1921, the U.S. Forest Service director said he wanted to protect America’s forests. He succeeded.

The 1920s were the first decade in American history where total forest acres increased (slightly). The number has remained roughly steady ever since.

This graph from ThoughtCo., using data from the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program, tells the tale.

In this 1921 interview, William B. Greeley warned that forests shouldn’t be depleted, because demand for wood and lumber would still remain. If anything, given population growth, it would likely increase.

“This use cannot be appreciably reduced without serious injury to our agriculture, home building and manufacturing. We cannot cut per capita consumption — amounting to about 300 board feet yearly — to the level of European countries, where lumber is a luxury, if our resources are to be developed and our industrial supremacy maintained.”

The current chief of the U.S. Forest Service is Vicki Christiansen. Today the service is best known for their mascot Smokey Bear and the iconic slogan “Only you can prevent wildfires!” (Before 2001, “Only you can prevent forest fires.”)

 

New Forest Chief on Saving Our Forests (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 2, 1921

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

January 2nd, 2021 at 12:23 pm

Posted in Nature,Politics

Project to Make Great Lakes Another Mediterranean

Should the five Great Lakes be connected for transportation and navigation, like the Panama Canal? In 1920, it was being seriously debated.

Pro: the economics.

New exports would be developed. Our export of coal is in its infancy. The United States is said to have half of the world’s coal. It will be called for by the world more and more. But there is no way to get to the seaboard economically from the great producing centres. More than any other product it clogs up the railroads. With a water route open from the lakes to the ocean, our export of coal would grow by leaps and bounds.

Con: also the economics.

According to them, the… project would waste money and help cripple United States commerce. In support of the first objection they assert that the New York Barge Canal, which already exists, is the only economic and feasible method of transporting cargoes from the lake ports to the Atlantic seaboard. No matter how deep or how wide the new waterway is made, they insist that no ship will find it a sound business venture to potter through the innumerable locks and narrow waterways. The greatest speed a lake or ocean steam could make through this waterway would be four miles an hour. The expense entailed, it is asserted, would be too stupendous to make the trip pay.

Although the Great Lakes were connected naturally, it was often too shallow or difficult for ships to actually navigate in practice. Today, the Great Lakes Waterway (GLW) has now accomplished that goal. The Welland Canal, connecting Lakes Erie and Ontario, was completed in 1932. The Soo Locks, connecting Lakes Superior and Huron, was fully completed in 1943.

 

Project to Make Great Lakes Another Mediterranean: Western States Favor Plan, but Many in New York Fear Effect on Barge Canal — Improvement of St. Lawrence Would Yield 2,000,000 Horse Power — Outlet for Wheat Fields (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 28, 1920

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

March 24th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Open Season Threatens the Extinction of Deer

A New York state hunter could only kill only one deer per season, which had to be a male buck with antlers. Starting in 1919, a hunter could kill two deer, including a male buck or a female doe. Would that decimate the animal’s population?

Even some hunters were opposed to the new law, for that very reason:

Most of the real sportsmen were opposed to allowing does to be shot, for they well knew that if the does were killed off, it would not be long before the last deer would be gathered in from the Adirondacks. But the demands of promiscuous hunters had sway. The law was passed.

Those fears didn’t come to pass. In fact, the opposite occurred.

In 1919, a census found there were “not more than 50,000 deer in New York State.” But by 2018, there were about 1 million. Hunters kill about a quarter-million deer in the state each year, including 227,787 in 2018. Yet the animal’s population has remained roughly steady.

As Oak Duke wrote for the Evening Tribune in upstate New York:

Long gone is the attitude of 50 years ago when there were few deer compared to now. A sighting, let alone a successful hunt, was more of a rarity. Now deer have become ubiquitous, a common sight, if not a serious bother to motorists, farmers, and outdoors recreationists worried about ticks.

 

Open Season Threatens the Extinction of Deer: Hunters Permitted by New Law to Kill Does as Well as Bucks–Quail Still Protected, but Fight for End of Restrictions Is in Prospect (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 16, 1919

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

November 16th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Nature,Politics

National Menace of Our Depleted Forests

The hit country song Wagon Wheel, written in 1973, begins with the lyric “Headed down south to the land of the pines.”

Not exactly. A 1919 headline warned “Supplies of Southern Pine Likely to be Exhausted in Ten Years.” Today, only 3% of the supply remains.

Smithsonian Magazine interviewed Chuck Hemard, author of the 2018 book “The Pines,” about what allowed any of the Southern pines to remain, rather than going completely extinct. His answer: that the remaining pines were essentially an ecological afterthought.

Despite deforestation, many of the remaining longleaf pines you feature in your book have survived hundreds years. What do you think help accounted for their survival?

Because they’re literally remnants or leftovers, meaning at the time many of these logging sites had trees left on them that were either undesirable as merchantable timber, or located geographically on a spot that was hard to log.

 

National Menace of Our Depleted Forests: Supplies of Southern Pine Likely to be Exhausted in Ten Years, and Program of Conservation Is Needed to Protect Country and Its Industries (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 11, 1919

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

May 9th, 2019 at 12:07 pm

Posted in Nature

Blossom Time in January New York, 1919

The current polar vortex has caused temperatures to hit record lows or near-lows across much of the country, including -60° F with the wind chill in Minnesota. But 100 years ago this week, the exact opposite was happening:

For two weeks, said the [Weather Bureau] statistician last Wednesday, the average temperature has been 39 degrees. The normal temperature for March is 38 degrees. So at the end of January we were just on the verge of entering into April. It may be remembered that on Jan. 1 temperature was 50 degrees. That is four degrees above the normal temperature for a day in the middle of April.

 

Surely global warming deniers will point to the fact that temperatures were significantly warmer a century ago this week as proof that global warming is a hoax. But in the words of Stephen Colbert:

Blossom Time in January New York, 1919: Somehow the Weather Man Got His Dates Mixed This Winter, and the Trees Began to Bud Two Months Ahead Their Schedule (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 2, 1919

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

January 31st, 2019 at 1:41 pm

Posted in Nature

Hunters in Autos Exterminating Big Game

The relatively new invention of the automobile was producing unforeseen consequences for hunters. William T. Hornaday, director of the New York Zoological Park, thought that lawmakers should ban the practice:

“There is not the slightest doubt,” he said, “that if things are allowed to remain for the next three years as they have been during the last three, there will be no wild game left excepting wolves and coyotes, skunk, and weasels.” This deplorable state of things is due, according to Mr. Hornaday, to crude and ineffective game laws, which allow ridiculously liberal bag limits, open seasons which are nothing less than exterminatory, the use of automatic and pump guns, and worst of all, the automobile: swift, silent, and terrible in its efficacy as a destroying agent.

Today, New York state law says “It is illegal to take or hunt wildlife while in or on a motor vehicle,” according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. When exactly this law was passed, and whether or not it was passed shortly after this article, I couldn’t easily ascertain.

Hunters in Autos Exterminating Big Game: Unless Law Prevents Slaughter by “Sportsmen” in Motor Cars Our Wild Game Will Disappear, Says William T. Hornaday (PDF)

Published Sunday, April 1, 1917

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

April 6th, 2017 at 2:54 pm

River of Doubt Now on Brazil’s Official Maps

In 1914, Theodore Roosevelt — at that point a former U.S. president — trekked upon a previously unmapped tributary of the Amazon River in Brazil. To honor his heroism, Brazil officially named the Rio Duvida (or River of Doubt) the Rio Roosevelt. Did the new name last to the present day? Yes it has.

River of Doubt Now on Brazil’s Official Maps (PDF)

From Sunday, March 4, 1917

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

March 12th, 2017 at 6:56 am

Posted in Adventure,Nature

Scenic Surgery for “Old Man of Mountains”

From October 8, 1916

scenic-surgery-for-old-man-of-mountains

Scenic Surgery for “Old Man of Mountains” — Forehead of Famous Profile on Mount Cannon, New Hampshire, Has Been Secured by Bolts to Prevent It from Tumbling Into Space (PDF)

The famed natural formation that many believed look like the silhouette of a man was at risk of collapsing in 1916, so work was done to secure it. The inevitable was delayed by 87 years, with the formation eventually collapsing in 2003. Here are before and after photos, taken by Jim Cole of the Associated Press:

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

October 6th, 2016 at 5:49 pm

Posted in Nature

Humidity This Summer Has Broken Record

From August 13, 1916

Humidity This Summer

Humidity This Summer Has Broken Record: It’s a Notable Contrast to Just a Century Ago, Which Was “The Year Without a Summer,” When Snow Fell in June (PDF)

Ah, the days before global warming and the climate crisis.

James H. Scarr, then the head of the New York Weather bureau, stated in 1916: “The highest average mean temperature for July occurred in 1901, and was 78 degrees. The coolest July within this period of forty-five years was in 1884, when the average was 70 degrees.” If only that was still true. AccuWeather data shows that the average mean temperature in July in New York City is about 82 degrees — higher than ever the highest average ever recorded in the city a century ago.

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

August 11th, 2016 at 1:39 pm

Posted in Nature

Do Sharks Attack Humans Only When Crazed?

From July 30, 1916

Do Sharks

A full 59 years before Jaws created a generation of terrorized beachgoers, people were worried about sharks and the possibility of being attacked. In fact, the fear should go the other way around, seeing as sharks kill about 10 humans a year but humans kill about 20 million sharks a year. So to answer the title question: do sharks only attack when crazed. NOAA says they actually mostly attack humans when mistaking us for their typical prey like sea turtles or marine mammals.

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

July 28th, 2016 at 5:36 pm

Posted in Adventure,Nature