About Forest History
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Lumbermen, lumberjacks, farmers and city dwellers all knew Minnesota was running out of pine timber by 1900.
Marketable timber was harder to find and purchase, the quality of Minnesota lumber was going down, and lumber prices were going up. Yet the cutting continued, because the nation needed lumber.
The nation of 100 years ago was made of wood. Homes, factories, schools, hospitals and churches were made of wood. Railroads ran on a bed of wooden ties and across wooden bridges.
The nation ran on wood. Hard wood was burned to warm more buildings than were heated by coal.
Further, conventional wisdom held that, "after the trees were gone the land would be good farm land - after the axe follows the plow." Farmers would replace the lumberjacks.
In Northern Minnesota, conventional wisdom was wrong. Poor soils, short growing seasons, poor agricultural science and distance from markets made farming the North Woods risky.
Little thought was given to how fast the pines were cut or what happened to all the branches, needles and treetops left in the woods after logging.
Some Minnesotans, including Gen. Christopher Columbus Andrews, the state's first Chief Fire Warden [1895-1911], called for forest-management practices to make the pines last longer and provide a sustainable pine log industry. Some timber men called for laws to ease taxes on harvested timberlands and encourage replanting. The need for lumber, however, was too great and the rapid harvest continued.
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