A Newspaper Article From 1940 Tells The Story Of What Happened To That Grove. “Hundreds Of Mighty Oaks Are Crashing To The Ground This Summer As Lumbermen Move Through What Is Believed To Be The Last Big Stand Of Virgin Timber In Maryland’S Mountains,” The Article Begins. It Is Difficult To Continue Reading. This Was Not A Private Forest, Remember, But Public Land Donated By A Forest-Loving Citizen.
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Are We To Be Reassured That The State Foresters “Held Out For A Premium Price On The Timber,” Or That “They Thought Their Great White Oaks, Which Made Up 80 Percent Of The Timber On The Tract, Were Better For Something Else Than Railroad Ties Or Ordinary Lumber”? And What Did They Deem The Highest And Best Use For Those Trees? Whiskey Barrels. Are We To Feel Compassion For The Logger Who Told The Reporter, “A Man Ought To Put On A White Shirt To Cut Trees Like These”?
Fred Besley Retired Fourteen Years Before I Was Born, But His Decisions Still Shape The Landscape Around Me. If Someone Else Had Held That Post, There’S A Good Chance Maryland Would Have National Forests And Many More Parks. There’S A Chance Those Oaks Would Still Be Standing And I’D Be Walking Beneath Their Limbs Today. We Tend To Forget That Our Short Lives Can Have Such Long-Term Effects On The Landscape. The Past President Of My University Once Mentioned To Me That He’D Like The Sprawling Deodar Cedars Removed From The Front Of One Of The University-Owned Houses. “Blocking The View Of The Building,” He Said. I Considered Those Two Cedars The Most Beautiful Trees On The Street. “I’M Afraid I’Ll Have To Chain Myself To Them If You Try To Remove Them,” I Told Him, Only Half Joking. Not Long After That Conversation, He Was Diagnosed With Lung Cancer. He Died Before Ordering The Trees Cut And Has Been Dead Now For Twelve Years. I Really Liked The Man, But I Pass Those Trees Frequently On My Way To And From Work And A Part Of Me Is Pleased They Outlasted Him.
The Trees I Witnessed At Swallow Falls Are The Same Ones That Were Standing There Less Than Two Years Earlier When Bob Degroot Made His Video. Continuity Is Another Forest Value I Might Mention To Besley. Imagine An Organism That Can Live Three Times Longer Than The Longest-Lived Human. We Need To Recognize That In Trees, And Honor It.
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