No satisfactory substitutes for the hickory and ash used in the handle industry have yet been found. About the only stocks of these timbers now left are in the Southern States. Even in those parts the supplies are getting short and it is necessary to cut timber in the more remote sections distant from the railroad. The ash shortage is even more serious than that of hickory timber. The supplies of ash in the Middle West States north of the Ohio River are practically exhausted. The demand for ash and hickory handles is larger even than before the World War. The entire world depends on the United States for handles made from these woods. Handle dealers are now willing to pay high prices for ash and hickory timber. Some of them prepared for the shortage by buying tracts of hardwood timber. When these reserves are cut over, these dealers will be in the same position as the rest of the trade.
Ash and hickory are in demand also by the vehicle and agricultural implement industries. They also use considerable oak and compete with the furniture industry to secure what they need of this timber. Most of these plants are located in the Middle West but they draw their timber chiefly from the South. Hickory is a necessary wood to the vehicle industry for use in spokes and wheels. The factories exert every effort to secure adequate supplies of timber from the farm woodlands, sawmills and logging camps. The automobile industry now uses considerable hickory in the wheels and spokes of motor cars.
Most of the stock used by the vehicle industry is purchased green. Neither the lumber nor vehicle industry is equipped with enough kilns for curing this green material. The losses in working and manufacturing are heavy, running as high as 40 per cent. Many substitutes for ash, oak and hickory have been tried but they have failed to prove satisfactory. On account of the shortage and the high prices of hickory, vehicle factories are using steel in place of hickory wherever possible. Steel is more expensive but it can always be secured in quantity when needed. Furthermore, it is durable and very strong.
Thus we see that our resources of useful soft woods and hard woods have both been so diminished that prompt reforestation of these species is an urgent necessity.
THE GREATEST ENEMY OF THE FOREST—FIRE
Our forests are exposed to destruction by many enemies, the worst of which is fire. From 8,000,000 to 12,000,000 acres of forest lands annually are burned over by destructive fires. These fires are started in many different ways. They may be caused by sparks or hot ashes from a locomotive. Lightning strikes in many forests every summer, particularly those of the Western States, and ignites many trees. In the South people sometimes set fires in order to improve the grazing. Settlers and farmers who are clearing land often start big brush fires that get out of their control. Campers, tourists, hunters, and fishermen are responsible for many forest fires by neglecting to extinguish their campfires. Sparks from logging engines also cause fires. Cigar and cigarette stubs and burning matches carelessly thrown aside start many forest fires. Occasionally fires are also maliciously set by evil-minded people.