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Christmas Tree Custom Upheld

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Thus proclaims a headline in the Jan. 1, 1909 issue of the Grand Encampment Herald. Excerpts from the article appear below.

The country’s forests have again been called upon to supply about four million Christmas trees, and again, many have asked themselves and queried the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), “Is the custom a menace to the movement for forest preservation?”

In millions of happy homes all over the country where the younger generation has made Christmas the center of play since early Friday morning, there are many mothers and fathers who have given the question more or less thought. 

From Sunday schools and other organizations also, which hold an annual celebration around a gaily trimmed evergreen for the benefit of the little ones, has come the question whether it is consistent to urge conservation of forest resources and then to cut down millions of young trees every year to afford a little joy in the passing holiday season.

“Yes, it is consistent and proper the custom should be maintained,” answers U.S. Forester Gifford Pinchot in every case. “Trees are for use, and there is no other use to which they could be put which would contribute so much to the joy of man as their use by children on this one great holiday of the year.”

He continues, “The number of trees cut for this use each year is utterly insignificant when compared to the consumption for other purposes for which timber is demanded. No more than four million Christmas trees are used each year, one in every fourth family. If planted four feet apart, trees could be grown on less than 1,500 acres. This clearing of an area equal to a good-sized farm each Christmas should not be a subject of much worry, when it is remembered that for lumber alone it is necessary to take timber from an area of more than 100,000 acres every day of the year.”

“It is true there has been serious damage to forest growth in the cutting of Christmas trees in various sections of the country, particularly in the Adirondack Mountains and parts of New England, but in these very sections, the damage through the cutting of young evergreens for use at Christmas is infinitesimal when compared with the loss of resources through fires and careless methods of lumbering. The proper remedy is not to stop using trees but to adopt wiser methods of use,” says Pinchot.

“It is generally realized a certain proportion of land must always be used for forest growth, just as for other crops. Christmas trees are one form of this crop. There is no more reason for an outcry against using land to grow Christmas trees than to grow flowers,” he adds.

The USFS upholds the Christmas tree custom, but recognizes at the same time, the indiscriminate cutting of evergreens to supply the holiday trade has produced a bad effect upon many stands of merchantable kinds of trees in different sections of the country. Waste and destruction usually result when woodlands are not under a proper system of forest management. 

Foresters say it is not by denying ourselves the wholesome pleasure of having a bit of nature in the home at Christmas that the problem of conserving the forests will only be solved, but by learning how to use the forest wisely and properly. The ravages through forest fires must be checked, the many avenues of waste of timber as it travels from the woods to the mill and then to the market must be closed, and almost numberless important problems demand attention before the Christmas tree.

Germany is conceded to have the highest developed system of forest management of any country, yet its per capita use of Christmas trees is greatest. The cutting of small trees for Christmas is not there considered in the least as a menace to the forest, but, on the contrary, as a means of improving the forest by thinning and as a source of revenue. It is therefore constantly encouraged.

There is little doubt the time will come when the Christmas tree business will become a recognized industry in this country, and as much attention will be given to it as will be given to the growing of crops of timber for other uses.

This time may not be far off, for it is already understood that only through the practice of forestry, which means both the conservation of the timber which remains, and carefully planned systems of reforestation, will it be possible to supply the country with its 40 billion feet of lumber needed each year, as well as the few million little trees used at Christmas time.

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