Travelers through the West in summer are not likely to forget the fire-work displayed along the various railway tracks. Thoreau, when contemplating the destruction of the forests on the east side of the continent, said that soon the country would be so bald that every man would have to grow whiskers to hide its nakedness, but he thanked God that at least the sky was safe. Had he gone West he would have found out that the sky was not safe; for all through the summer months, over most of the mountain regions, the smoke of mill and forest fires is so thick and black that no sunbeam can pierce it. The whole sky, with clouds, sun, moon, and stars, is simply blotted out. There is no real sky and no scenery. Not a mountain is left in the landscape. At least none is in sight from the lowlands, and they all might as well be on the moon, as far as scenery is concerned.
There will be a period of indifference on the part of the rich, sleepy with wealth, and of the toiling millions, sleepy with poverty, most of whom never saw a forest; a period of screaming protest and objection from the plunderers, who are as unconscionable and enterprising as Satan. But light is surely coming, and the friends of destruction will preach and bewail in vain.
Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed,--chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones. Few that fell trees plant them; nor would planting avail much towards getting back anything like the noble primeval forests. During a man's life only saplings can be grown, in the place of the old trees-tens of centuries old-that have been destroyed. It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these Western woods,--trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra. Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries since Christ's time-and long before that- God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools,--only Uncle Sam can do that.
It's a curio, that the Liberal Arts education curriculum all across Colleges and Universities will have courses dedicated to the likes of Shakespeare, Milton, and groups like Emerson and
Thoreau, Poe and Melville, and omit Muir. I know somehow some of Muir got into Kerouac and the Beats via Gary Snyder, and into myself as well!, but I haven't located that! (but it's likely here:
Poets on the Peaks: Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen and Jack Kerouac Paperback
This post came about recalling Muir reporting a Sierra fire back then that was huge and burned unchecked for months. A notion has developed that Western Forests had a set routine of fires, like every five years, every twelve years, and the LA Times did a piece today about National Park fire policy.
Let it burn? Yosemite park officials won't say that, but it's policy
Unless a naturally occurring fire threatens lives or structures, Yosemite and other national parks are likely to let nature run its course.http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-0830-fire-tactics-20130830,0,5188654.story?page=2
My intention hereabout (my GG, Orange County home), if I can ever get the house squared away!, is to revisit the many hiking spots in SoCal, one on list being Cuyamaca, which is recovering from the 2003 fire in San Diego County...
Cuyamaca Peak is a mountain in San Diego County roughly 40 miles (64 km) ... In October 2003, the Cedar Fire, the largest fire in recorded California history, ...
In Muir's piece, he gives a brief history of forest management by US, which began with setting aside forests of Eastern Live Oak, and Cedar, for the Navy. Now, it was the anniversery of one of the sea battles of the USS Constitution a few days back (I follow up often the little 'this day in history' notes posted on web or newspapers, (it was one such that set me off on the USS Panay--I'm partial to ship biographies!), and preserving the USS Constitution became a dilemma after time, as there were no Live Oaks left!...brb...
Live oak wood is hard, heavy, and difficult to work with, but very strong. In the days of wooden ships, live oaks were the preferred source of the framework timbers of the ship, using the natural trunk and branch angles for their strength. The frame of USS Constitution was constructed from southern live oak wood harvested from St. Simons Island, Georgia, and the density of the wood grain allowed it to survive cannonade, thus earning it the nickname "Old Ironsides". Even today, the U.S. Navy continues to own extensive live oak tracts.[
A curio I cant pass up, on thinking on these ships, is that the USS Constitution has five sisters...brb...
The United States Congress authorized the original six frigates of the United States Navy with the Naval Act of 1794 on 27 March 1794 at a total cost of $688,888.82.
and the USS Panay had five sisters...brb...
To accommodate its increased responsibilities on the river, the Navy constructed six new gunboats in Shanghai in 1926-1927 and commissioned in 1928 to replace four craft originally seized from Spain during the Spanish-American War that had been patrolling since 1903. All were capable of reaching Chungking at high water, and two year-round. USS Luzon and Mindanao were the largest, USS Oahu and Panay next in size, and USS Guam and Tutuila the smallest.
One can look high and low in College and University History curriculums for these sisters, and be maybe lucky, as I have been, to find a 'this day in history...'
5 The frigates
5 The frigates