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November 1999


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"A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Hugh Mac Dougall <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 18 Nov 1999 17:34:32 -0500
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"A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
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        I don't have statistics, but I would imagine that New York State, like New
England, has multiplied its forested area many times since, say, 1850. My
only source immediately at hand, John H. Thompson, ed., "Geography of New
York State" (Syracuse University Press, 1966, reprinted 1977 and 1980),
states, (p. 90) "Most of the forest we have now, however, is growing either
because farm land has been abandoned and the forest has grown back, or
because lands that were cut over for lumber, but not used for farming, have
regrown.... In 1880, the year when acreage in farms reached its maximum in
the state, there were 24 million acres in farms, or almost five sixths of
the total area. Much of this land was actually cleared. By 1950 less than
13 million acres remained in farms. Much of these 11 million acres dropped
from farming in seventy years may be assumed to have reverted to forest."
According to a pie chart, dated 1962, 47 percent of the land in the state
was forested.
        In 1850 Susan Fenimore Cooper (in "Rural Hours") noted that it was very
rare to see a deer in Otsego County. I've seen a similar report from the
same general period for Davenport in northern Delaware County. Yet today
these are major deer hunting areas. Moreover, a comparison of the 1868
County Atlas with that of 1905 and with the current county road map would
suggest (to me at least) that over half the roads marked in 1868 have
disappeared. In 1921, James Fenimore Cooper II (grandson of the author)
noted ("Legends and Traditions of a Northern County" that "gradually the
rural population is shrinking to a strip of land along the better highways
in the valleys," and laments the "appalling" number of abandoned homes and
farms, and even whole hamlets, all over Otsego County. All these suggest
that much of rural New York State, at least where urban or suburban type
development has not flourished, has gone back to forests. I gather the same
is true of New England, and that where perhaps forests reached a low point
of 10% of land -- at least outside of remote mountain areas -- they have
now returned to cover 2/3 or more of the land.

Hugh C. MacDougall
James Fenimore Cooper Society
8 Lake Street, Cooperstown, NY 13326-1016
<[log in to unmask]>

> From: [log in to unmask]
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: NYS History
> Date: Wednesday, November 17, 1999 4:13 PM
> In a message dated Wed, 17 Nov 1999 10:28:33 AM Eastern Standard Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:
> > Am I to read this right.  The amount of Forest Land is increasing in
> >
> > Jim Maguire
> > [log in to unmask]
> This makes sense.  The Adirondacks and Catskills were more or less clear
cut in the 1800's.  Both have since gone back to forest.  And probably,
like the New England states, much marginal farmland was cleared by the
first settlers only to be abandoned after the Erie Canal helped to settle
the midwest.  So New York's greatest achievement of the 19th century helped
put many of its farmers out of business.
> There is a wonderful museum of forest history at the Harvard Forest in
Massachusetts.  It is located in north -central Massachuesetts near the
Quabbin Reservoir on either Route 122 or route 32 in the town of Petersham,
south of Athol.  The museum contains models of forest history from
pre-colonial times to the present, and shows the gradual clearing and then
abandonment and natural reforestation in the late 19th - 20th century.
There is also a great deal of information about the massive blowdown from
the 1938 hurricane.  I haven't been there in years, but it is a must for
people interested in forest history in the northeast.