In addition to fire-fighting the rangers are required to give constant oversight to the sheep- and cattle-ranges, and to the animals that are brought there, so that the feed is not eaten out, or too many head pastured upon a given area. Seeds of forest trees must be gathered at the proper season and experiments in reforestation conducted, besides a certain amount of actual planting-out performed. The habits of seed-eating birds and animals are studied, especially in relation to reforestation. A very small number of squirrels or mice can get away with a vast number of seeds in a season. Methods of protecting the seeds without destroying too many of the wild animals must be devised.
Available areas of timber are sought for and offered for sale. Certain men are detailed to measure the trees and determine the value of the timber; they must mark the trees included in the sale, leaving out enough seed-trees for satisfactory reproduction. If it be a second sale over a cut-over area the problems are somewhat altered. Will the trees that are left suffer from wind-fall? If partially suppressed trees are left can they be depended upon to recover and make a good growth?
Then, too, the questions of natural versus artificial reforestation have to be scientifically studied and exhaustive tests made. Shall seeds be sown, or shall young trees be planted? Which trees are best suited for certain localities, and which are the more profitable when grown?
To many people it is not known that dwellers in or near National Forests can obtain free of charge timber for their domestic needs. The rangers determine where this “free area” shall be located, exactly what trees, whether dead or alive, shall be taken, and endeavor to lay down rules that shall give equal chances for all comers.
As one of the mottos of the Forest Service is “the greatest good to the greatest number,” small sales are encouraged to those who wish to make their own lumber or shakes. Settlers in remote localities are often helped in this manner.
Cases of trespass have to be guarded against, and now and again suits have had to be brought against loggers for encroaching upon the territory of the Reserve, and removing timber which they had not purchased.
In 1911 every District Ranger was appointed a Deputy Fish and Game Commissioner and thus was duly authorized to enforce the law in regard to fish and game.
Another subject of interest and importance to the ranger is the study of insect infestation. Many trees are killed annually by certain insects, and these must be discovered and their devastation prevented.
Then, too, there are diseases and parasites that affect the trees, and this branch of study demands constant attention.
Hence it will be seen that the office of the Forest Ranger is by no means a sinecure. He works hard and he works long and alone and our kindly thoughts should go out to him in his solitary patrols and vigils.