THE FUTURE OF CANADIAN FORESTS.
Address by Mr. Thomas Southworth, Director of Colonization and Forestry for Ontario, on Thursday, January 26th, 1905.
While I fully appreciate the honour of being asked to contribute to the entertainment of the Empire Club, I do not flatter myself that the honour is due to the expectation that I would be apt to offer any very valuable contribution to your knowledge of the great problem of Empire-building or cementing, to which many of those present have devoted much time and thought. The aggregation we call the Empire is made up of state units, among which the Province of which I am proud to be a native is not unimportant, and it is possible that a few minutes' talk about the extent and resources of this particular member of the sisterhood of states comprising the Empire, together with some references to what has been and is being done to develop those resources may be of interest, as showing that we are building up the Empire though we may concentrate our efforts to a great extent upon only one particular part of it.
Ontario, as a chunk of territory, or as a business proposition, is a pretty large concern. The statement that the Province contains 126 million acres of land does not convey any very intelligent conception of its size, but a better idea may be had by way of comparison. Ontario is larger than Great Britain and Ireland by 78,000 square miles; it is larger than the States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio combined; it is only 4,000 square miles less than France, and 8,000 square miles less than the German Empire. Not alone in mere superficial area is Ontario vast, but as a business proposition it is a very extensive concern, doing business in a large way. In fact it is one of the biggest business corporations I know of. Its shareholders are the people of the Province, and 166 the business carried on .is extensive and varied. Very slight calls of stock have ever been made upon the shareholders, while the dividends are never passed, and have so far been paid annually in the shape of Provincial expenditures on roads, education, asylums, hospitals and for other purposes--expenditures that otherwise would have had to be borne by the shareholders from their earnings. The assets or capital of the corporation, aside from the power of taxation possessed by the Directors, or Government, consists for the most part of land, waterpowers, minerals, lakes, rivers and forests with their inhabitants.
Some of these items of capital are worked for direct cash dividends, others for the indirect benefits to the shareholders that come from the mere working of the capital. This is largely the case with the land and the mines. So far no serious attempt has been made to secure cash dividends from them, and I do not propose to discuss the wisdom or otherwise of this policy at this time. Although in the case of the land the settler, who goes into one of our new districts and takes up 160 acres of land to make a comfortable home for those who may follow him, is entitled to all he can get out of it, and I do not think that the rest of the Province, or the shareholders of this Province, ought to expect to make much cash profit from that particular land. Just what could be realized in the way of cash dividends from mines is difficult even to guess. While much money has been put into the ground, in some places never to come out, in others the process has been reversed. An instance of the latter is afforded in the recent discovery along the new Provincial Railway, where 160 acres of mineral land for which the Province received $56o, was sold in a few weeks to New York parties for $250,000, and it is reported that similar offers have been refused for other properties in the same vicinity.
Until quite recently our immense wealth in waterpower was treated in the same way. The right to use the power was sold in perpetuity to individuals for a merely nominal sum; usually included free in the sale of the land around it. The idea was that the development of the power would be of such advantage to the community in the consequent investment of capital and employment of labour as well as cheap power, as to produce sufficient indirect dividends. Unfortunately, however, it was found in practice that the expected results did not always follow. The fortunate holders of these powers in many cases not only failed to develop the power themselves, but prevented others from doing so except on payment to them of exorbitant sums for what had cost them nothing. In 1898 the evil of this policy was seen and all water-powers of 150 horse-power and over are now only leased by the Crown, subject to development, and the fixing of rates that may be charged to other users by the Directors of the Corporation--the Governor-in-Council. Still, except in the case of Niagara Falls, the policy is one of forcing development and use rather than of revenue.
In fact the one part of the Provincial assets that has been worked for cash dividends is the forest, and in this connection let me say that the policy of exploiting our timber lands in Ontario has differed from that in the rest of the continent; and now that the elections are over, I think I may add that our policy, while not perfect by any means, has been better than others. For many years--say 32--we have been receiving considerable revenue from this source, that of 1904 amounting to $2,648,000. For many years past we have been threatened with a cessation or, at least, a material falling off in this revenue. It is popularly supposed that fire and the lumberman's axe are causing our pine forests to disappear so rapidly that in a few years at best we would have to call on our shareholders to make up for this annual revenue. The dreaded day has not arrived, and I am convinced that under any kind of proper management it is not likely to, not for many years, or forever.
Our present timber system is the product of evolution, a gradual development. First when the Royal dockyard contractors alone were allowed to cut timber for sale; followed by absolute free trade in timber when any one who chose might select a territory and remove the timber from it free of dues; until the beginning of our present system which provided for the removal of the more valuable timber for public revenue before handing over the land on which it grew to the individual settler. Under that system a considerable portion of the settled part of Ontario has been developed, and is now the home of prosperous farming communities. The operations of the lumbermen in furnishing markets for the labour and supplies of the pioneer settlers made an excellent arrangement for settling up the country. Many communities in older Ontario have been settled in this way and, theoretically, no better plan could probably be devised. While affording the settlers, most of whom were poor, an excellent opportunity for establishing themselves in the districts surrounding actual lumbering operations, the pine timber was sold by auction to the highest bidder and produced a large amount of revenue each year for public purposes.
Eventually, however, it became apparent that the system was weak in some particulars. As settlement extended north towards the Laurentian back-bone of the Province, it was found that there were considerable areas of land not well suited for agricultural settlement, land that would have been of greater profit to the people as a whole if left to grow successive crops of timber than if divided up among the individual settlers who might perhaps find their undertaking profitable for a few years while the timber was being removed only to realize when too late that their time had been wasted, and that the farms they had been at pains to clear could not be made to support them. The timber licenses, as you probably know, by which certain parties secure the right to cut pine on given areas, are issued for one year only. However, under our system of disposing of timber by which the berth or limit is put up at public competition, the purchaser or licensee pays a certain sum in advance at the time of sale, paying regular dues on the timber as it is cut, the dues amounting in different cases from $i to $2 per thousand feet. This $2 per thousand stumpage nowadays represents only a part of the value of the timber on the stump; the remaining value is supposed to be included in the sum paid in cash at the time of sale. It is unreasonable to expect a man to remove all the valuable timber off a lot in one year, hence the practice arose of renewing the license to the same party from year to year until the timber for which he was supposed to have paid was removed, or until the land was required for settlement and sub-divided for that purpose.
As previously stated, a good deal of this land was found to be quite unsuited for settlement. In these cases the license is renewed from year to year until the holders seem to have a vested interest in it, and although the original timber which was taken into account at the time of the sale may have been removed, the lumbermen expect a renewal of their licenses, and are in some cases now cutting timber that was not considered at all at the time of the sale. In 1896 I had the honour to recommend to the Government the advisability of separating non-agricultural from agricultural land and placing the rough land in reserves to be permanently withdrawn from settlement and kept for the purpose of growing timber. It was also pointed out at the time the difficulty that had arisen in the matter of these old licenses. In the subsequent sales of limits that have taken place the absence of a definite limit to the terms for which licenses should be renewed was removed by definitely fixing a period during which the licensees had to remove the timber. In the first sale after that, the period was fixed at ten years, but in the sale of 1903 the term was extended to fifteen years, after which the licensee ceased to have any claim on the territory, and any timber cut upon it subsequently will bring a larger revenue to the Crown than the amount realized through the payment of the regular dues as the timber is cut.
The recommendation as to forest reserves was subsequently endorsed by the Royal Commission on Forestry, and in 1898 the Legislature passed an Act authorizing the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council to set aside, from time to time, for the purpose o£ growing timber in perpetuity, areas of non-agricultural land. The first Reserve created under this Act consisted of an old limit of small extent that had been under license for many years, but that had been burned and cut over, although at the time supporting a vigorous growth of young timber. Subsequently other Reserves were created, mostly of territory that had not been operated for timber, until we now have under reserve land approximating seven million acres, containing pine timber alone worth probably $75,000,000 at the present value of the stumpage, in addition to the spruce, cedar, birch and other timbers which are now of considerable value. These Reserves are for the most part in the Laurentian ridge above referred to, and I presume that the system of Forest Reserves will be extended to take in all the territory unsuited for agriculture on which there is at present no other claim.
Assuming that this policy is continued, I calculate that the Forest Reserves of the Province will ultimately include at least 40,000,000 acres. If an arrangement is ultimately come to between the Government and the lumbermen by which some new arrangement can be made giving the Province a greater proportion of the value of the stumpage than it now obtains under the stumpage dues, this area may be considerably increased. When this is done Ontario will have a permanent Crown Forest in excess of that of any other state of its size anywhere; and moreover, this forest estate will be of such geographical size as to provide not only the greatest source of revenue to the Province, but at the same time afford all the indirect advantages that come to a community from the presence of trees in masses, and they are many.
Stretching from Lake Temiskaming on the east of the northern part of the Province, west to the Manitoba boundary, this territory would include the sources of all the large streams flowing south into the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence, and north into James Bay. To the south of it we would have the present rich agricultural district of Southern Ontario. To the north of it we would have an agricultural territory nearly as large as the one to the south and capable of growing anything that the southern part produces with the exception o: some of the more delicate fruits. The working of this immense forest will, for all time, produce timber supplies and furnish employment for the people living to the north and south of it; while furnishing, a very handsome permanent revenue to the Province as a whole South of it the country is now well developed by railways. To the north the Grand Trunk Pacific, the transcontinental road, will traverse the farming land, while roads at different points will connect these two system from north to south running through this forest area Already one road has been built from the main line of the C. P. R. north through the Temagami Forest Reserve to the farming district at the head of Lake Temiskaming, where there is already a very prosperous agricultural community, and where numerous towns and villages have sprung up within the last three years. The Railway is being operated to the chief town in the district, and is already built for some twenty-five miles beyond, and will intersect the Grand Trunk Pacific within a year or so. Westward two other lines are projected connecting the C. P. R. with the Grand Trunk Pacific.
I will say nothing at present as to the development of the agricultural district to the north, where only about half a million acres of the sixteen millions available have yet been opened for settlement, but I would like to direct attention for a few minutes to the possibilities in the way of cash dividends, or Provincial revenues, to be derived from the Permanent Crown Forest separating the two agricultural districts. Probably the most valuable timber grown in America is white pine. For the purpose for which it is chiefly used it has no equal, and its values are rapidly increasing in the market. So much is this the case that it is doubtful if one could purchase today a thousand feet of clear white pine lumber from any one concern in the City of Toronto. I have heard it said by builders here that it was doubtful if 1,000 feet of clear pine could be obtained in the city, and if so, it would bring a price equal to that paid for black walnut a few years ago, which is more than black walnut is worth today. The reason of this scarcity of clear pine lies in the fact that it is nearly all shipped to Great Britain, where it obtains a higher price than in the American market, leaving only the inferior grades to be sold in the United States and the Canadian market.
Except in special cases and in very small quantities now, all the territory that we have referred to as likely to form the future permanent forest area, is peculiarly the home of the white pine, and there is no part of it that has not at some time grown this timber. At present, owing to repeated fires, some small areas are nearly destitute of white pine and have grown less valuable trees, but it is all white pine country, and where white pine grew once it can be made to grow again under proper management. Recently I went into the question of the probable growth of white pine for the Canadian Lumberman, and made an estimate based on figures obtained by the Washington Bureau of Forestry, and other authorities, as to what we could expect after a long term of years as the annual increment of pine forest. The Washington Bureau of Forestry has estimated, after a careful investigation, that under ordinary forest conditions an acre of land will produce 59 and a fraction cubic feet per year. Of this, however, part would be timber of little value, but under artificial plantation the yield would be very much greater. We have very few instances in this country to judge from, but an instance is afforded by a plantation made in Nebraska fourteen years ago. It was only half an acre, but it was planted on what is called the Nebraska sand plains where most people doubted if it would grow at all. Thirteen years after the planting was done accurate measurements were made by the American Bureau of Forestry and it was found that the actual growth of this small plantation of pine had produced a total annual growth of 502 cubic feet for the half acre. This, converted into board measure would be over 600 feet per year on half an acre, or 1,200 feet per acre per year. These trees, of course, were planted at regular intervals, and would have a better chance for growth than trees growing naturally in the forest, but on the other hand the soil was bad and moisture deficient.
It would be impossible, however, to apply this large yield to the territory under discussion, as there would have to be deducted some water areas and some areas that have been burnt over so severely in times gone by as to remove most of the soil; and it would take a long time and the growth of shrubs and other lower forms of plant life before it could be got back into a condition to sustain a thrifty forest of pine. However, I do not think it would be unreasonable to apply an average of 150 feet B.M. per acre per year. There are numerous instances where 50,000 feet to the acre of pine have been cut, and I know of at least one instance in this Province where the Rathbun Company removed 100,000 feet per acre from a tract of ten acres in which a wind storm had blown down all the trees. One hundred and fifty years would be sufficient to grow a pine forest equal to this, and 50,000 feet to the acre grown in 150 years would bring an annual growth of over 300 feet, so that my estimate of 150 feet per acre per year B.M. may be taken as a very conservative estimate for the pine timber alone, without taking into account the other sorts of trees. The price of pine timber per thousand feet, as stated, has been rapidly advancing and is not likely to decrease. Our neighbours to the south will very shortly experience a timber famine, and at the recent Forestry Congress in Washington the alarm was sounded by a great many public men in no uncertain way, and it is therefore safe to conclude that the present value of pine will be increased in the near future, and the same is true of all the other timbers. Applying this estimate of 150 feet B.M. per acre per year to the 40 million acres of Permanent Reserves, we have a yearly growth of six billion feet, which at $5 per thousand (and it is now worth nearer $7), would represent the sum of $30,000,000 as the value of the annual growth of timber on the expected Permanent Crown Forest of the Province.
From this, of course, would need to be deducted the cost of management and fire protection, which will be considerably in excess of the present expenditure for that purpose, but under extensive management where the whole area would come under control of properly trained foresters this gross revenue could be increased. In Germany, where a very large proportion of the Crown Forests do not produce timber at all, the net revenue, after a very expensive and semi-military management, is about $1.54 per acre per year, while in some other European countries, in Saxony for instance, the net revenue is much greater, approximating, I believe, nearly _ $4.50 per acre per year. So that while our expensive management may be increased, with it will come increased yield and better methods of harvesting and sale.
It may be stated that we have very few well-trained foresters at present. We have, however, men engaged in the lumber business quite equal in ability to men in similar employment anywhere in the world. So far they have been concerned with removing as cheaply as possible the crop already grown, and their training for that is very nearly perfect. In the Forest Reserves system, however, where successive crops are expected to be removed from the same territory, the removing of the standing crop will have to be accomplished with a view of securing the most rapid growth of the most valuable kinds of trees for the future. This will require a different training from that had by the men now engaged in the woods, but with the demand the trained men will come, I have no doubt. At any rate I think I have shown that the possibilities, in fact the probabilities, of the future--with a continuation of the system recently adopted by the Province towards the exploitation of its forest wealth--means a great deal to the future of the Province, and a guarantee of the prosperity and therefore loyalty of the individual units making up the Province of Ontario, the larger unit which forms a part of the Empire.