The Forests of the White Mountains

by F. Parkman

1888

 

NEW Hampshire is not a peculiarly wealthy State, but it has some resources scarcely equaled by those of any of its sisters. The White Mountains, though worth little to the farmer, are a piece of real estate which yields a sure and abundant income by attracting tourists and their money; and this revenue is certain to increase, unless blind mismanagement interposes. The White Mountains are at present unique objects of attraction; but they may easily be spoiled, and the yearly tide of tourists will thus be turned towards other points of interest whose owners have had more sense and foresight.

These mountains owe three-fourths of their charms to the primeval forest that still covers them. Speculators have their eyes on it, and if they are permitted to work their will the State will find a most productive piece of property sadly fallen in value. If the mountains are robbed of their forests they will become like some parts of the Pyrenees, which, though much higher, are without interest, because they have been stripped bare.

The forests of the White Mountains have a considerable commercial value, and this value need not be sacrificed. When lumber speculators get possession of forests they generally cut down all the trees and strip the land at once, with an eye to immediate profit. The more conservative, and, in the end, the more profitable management, consists in selecting and cutting out the valuable timber when it has matured, leaving the younger growth for future use. This process is not very harmful to the landscape. It is practiced extensively in Maine, where the art of managing forests with a view to profit is better understood than elsewhere in this country. A fair amount of good timber may thus be drawn from the White Mountains, without impairing their value as the permanent source of a vastly greater income from the attraction they will offer to an increasing influx of tourists. At the same time the streams flowing from them, and especially the Pemigewasset, a main source of the Merrimac, will be saved from the alternate droughts and freshets to which all streams are exposed that take their rise in mountains denuded of forests. The subject is one of the last importance to the mill owners along these rivers.