U.S. National Forests: The Greatest Good of the Greatest Number

The Greatest Good of the Greatest Number in the Long Run

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In the cool green depths of Upper Michigan's 800,000-acre Hiawatha National Forest, amid the fragrance of sweet fern and venerable hemlock, U.S. Forest Ranger Edwin Youngblood, 38, eased his pickup truck along a sand-soft logging road one day last week. He sang out a warning to a gang of pulp cutters to take only the jack pine that rangers had paint-striped for cutting, told them to heave dead branches 50 feet back from the roadway, out of cigarette-throw range.

In the quiet blue haze of North Carolina's high Pisgah National Forest, Ranger Ted Seely, 51, brier pipe in mouth, tramped through tree-darkened groves where waterfalls trickled down slopes and an occasional deer or groundhog darted into a clearing. His top worry of the day was checking the waters of the Pigeon, Hominy, Davidson and other rivers to be sure that they were flowing silt-free; miles below three North Carolina communities and some of the state's biggest paper, cellophane, rayon and nylon plants were depending on a steady 100 million gallons daily.

In New Mexico's rugged Taos Canyon, Ranger George E. Engstrom, 47, prowled through one of Carson National Forest's 22 picnic and campgrounds. The camp site was spotless. One reason was that Ranger Engstrom has a reputation for taking litterbugs to court.

In Colorado's jagged San Juan Mountains, Ranger Steve Yurich, 34, flew off in a Cessna for a quick fire-spotting swing around his Piedra district, switched to a pickup truck to check the camp sites and flag down a logging truck, then saddled up his horse, "Buck," to inspect the grassy uplands where ranchers will graze 2,800 head of cattle and 7,000 sheep this summer under.permit from the Forest Service.

Across the U.S. last week, thousands of green-uniformed forest rangers and staffers (12,000 permanent, 10,000 temporary) were patrolling and supervising the 181 million acres of national forests that add up to one of the U.S. taxpayers' greatest assets. The 148 national forests, ranging in size and style from Alaska's 16-million-acre Tongass to California's 367-acre Calaveras Big Trees National Forest (sequoias), stretch across 39 states, occupy a massive one-twelfth of the continental U.S. land space, one-fifth of the land area of the Western states. Last year they drew 68.5 million campers and tourists, but few tourists realized that the amiable, green-clad rangers probably also had responsibility for controlled lumbering, watershed protection, grazing, wildlife control, mining, fighting forest fires (firefighting mascot: Smokey the Bear), and possibly dealing with friendly Indians.

The national forests, administered by Agriculture Secretary Ezra Taft Benson, are also one of the few Government operations to turn a profit. In fiscal 1960 the Forest Service will spend $116,575,800 on its forests—including $38 million for roads and trails—but the forests will take in $129 million from timber sales, grazing fees and other items ranging down to rentals of 18,000 private summer homes on national forest land. The national forests' land, timber and forage alone are appraised at $7 billion.

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