Oakland Travel Tours

In 1916, Maryland’S First State Forester, Fred Besley, Wrote, “The Most Important Use Of The Forest, Here, As Elsewhere, Is For Lumber.” I Would Disagree With Him, Of Course. If Asked, I Would Probably Start With Air Quality, Reminding Him That Forests Are Both The Largest Producers Of Oxygen (A Gas We Cannot Live Without, By The Way) And The Largest Sink For Carbon On The Land. I Might Also Mention Pollutants Such As Nitrogen Oxides And Sulfur Oxides That Damage Human Lungs But Are Removed From The Atmosphere By Forests. I Might Mention Water Quality, And How Forests Prevent Floods By Slowing Runoff From The Land And Prevent Water Pollution By Purifying The Runoff That Does Occur. I Might Add That Each Tree Transpires And Returns To The Atmosphere Hundreds Of Gallons Of Clean Water A Day, And That Forests Can Alter Precipitation Patterns In A Whole Area. I Might Mention Soil, Our Truest Wealth.

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Intact Forests Create Deep, Fertile, Healthy Soils, And Logging Them By The Usual Methods Often Results In This Wealth Being Literally Washed Away. I Would Stop There If I Could, But If I Were Wound Up By Then, Which Is Likely, I Would Have To Mention Beauty. “At Some Point The World’S Beauty Becomes Enough,” Wrote Toni Morrison, And I Agree, Perhaps Because Beauty Encompasses All The Things Mentioned Previously. What We Consider Beautiful In The Natural World May Be A Complex, Though Unconscious, Awareness Of What Is Healthy, Of What Is Intact And Functioning; Perhaps We Can Sense All The Energy Captured And Recycled In The Myriad Relationships And Movements Of Molecules. Lastly, I Would Remind Him, And Myself, That This Earth Is Home Not Only To Humans; It Is Also Home To Other Living Things. There Are Some Places Where The Skin Of The Earth Should Just Be Allowed To Be The Skin Of The Earth. There. I Would Probably Stop There.

Besley, Who Thought Lumber Was The Most Important Use Of The Forest, Became State Forester In 1906, After Robert And John Garrett Donated Nineteen Hundred Acres To The State Of Maryland. The Original, Ancient White Pines On Their Acreage Had Been Logged Out In The 1880s And Again In 1906, Just Before They Donated The Land To The State. Remember, These Were Dark Days For The Eastern Forests, When Tree Cover Reached Its Lowest Level. When Explorer John Smith Sailed Up The Chesapeake Bay In 1608, More Than 98 Percent Of Maryland Was Covered In Forests, But By 1920 That Had Fallen To Only 17 Percent. I Try To Imagine What Nineteen Hundred Acres Of Old-Growth White Pine And Hemlock Forest Would Be Like In Maryland Today A Dream For Sure But It Is Unlikely A Forest Like That Would Have Remained Untouched Through More Than Eighty Years Of State Management.

The Acreage In State Forests Continued To Increase As Other Lands Were Donated Or Purchased. The Federal Government Was Also Interested In Purchasing Maryland Forest Land, To Add To The Growing National Forest System, But Besley Opposed Federal Ownership Of Maryland Land. In 1927 He Convinced The State Legislature To Reverse A Law That Had Previously Granted The Federal Government “Power To Purchase Lands In The State For The Purpose Of Establishing A National Forest.” Although Besley Has Been Dead For Almost Fifty Years, His Misguided Legacy Lives On: Maryland Is One Of Only Seven States With No National Forest.

Besley Also Opposed Creating State Parks, And By 1927, Twenty-One Years Into His Reign As State Forester, Maryland Was One Of Only Thirteen States Without A Single One. Besley Was Furious When He Learned Someone Was Trying To Form A State Parks Commission. He Also Deflected Every Attempt By The Federal Government To Create National Parks In The State, Fearing That Parks Would Result In Forest Preservation Rather Than Timber Production.

But Besley Was Good At Acquiring Land. Under His Leadership, State Forest Holdings Increased From Two Thousand To Fifty Thousand, And Finally To One Hundred Thousand Acres. Some Of Those State Forests Happened To Contain Old Growth, Such As This Small Area Of Hemlock And Pine Near Swallow Falls And, Just A Few Miles Away, A Three-Hundred Acre Tract Of “Virgin” Oaks Donated To The State In 1917.

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