Theodore Roosevelt established four Texas National Forests in 1936. By 1937, the
federal government had acquired more than 613,000 acres from private landowners
at an average price of $4.62 an acre.
One of the most persistent myths
concerning these acquired National Forests is that they were denuded, treeless
and barren wastelands.
Unpublished Forest Service documents describe the
entire Angelina unit (primarily in Jasper and San Augustine counties) as “cut
over” and “culled.”
A small amount of land (five percent) on the Sabine
and Sam Houston units still supported “virgin” timber while 25 percent of the
Crockett unit (Houston and Trinity counties) was in “virgin” condition with the
vast majority of the unit supporting extensive stands of second growth timber.
Some of these trees were very large. An early timber sale on the Crockett unit
included removal of a 54.5 inch diameter loblolly pine and a 40 inch shortleaf
pine. Reforestation work was planned for sites which had been almost completely
denuded by “cut-and-get-out” logging practices. Initial inventories indicated
planting needs on approximately 40,000 acres. Nearly 90 percent was in just two
counties: Jasper and Sabine.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) provided
much of the labor for early reforestation programs. Eight CCC crews of 17 men
each, based in five different camps, worked under supervision of a junior forester.
Crew members received $1.50 for each planting day.
Planting began on a
broad scale in 1936, with 3,622 acres completed. Four pines species were planted,
each in discrete plantations, with an average of 1,008 trees per acre. Seedlings
came from Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, and Arkansas.
Starting in 1936,
CCC crews began harvesting ripe cones to develop local planting stock. More than
1,000 bushels of cones were collected in 1936, nearly all from felled trees in
nearby logging operations. Thirty-nine percent were longleaf pine.
work continued in 1937 with an additional 12,287 acres planted; more than 7,000
acres were in the vicinity of Boykin Springs in Jasper County. Between 1940 and
1942, the planting job changed. There were few new plantations. Most efforts were
concentrated on restocking previously established sites with survival problems.
Examinations of existing plantations found an average of 60 percent mortality
with most losses attributed to drought, rabbits and ants. Losses to Razorback
hogs or “pineywoods rooters” were minimized by installing “hog proof” fences around
all longleaf plantations and “hog riders” who were paid to eliminate hogs inside
June 12, 2011 Column.
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers
Topic: Texas Famous Trees