one-half of 1 percent, while the loss on smaller area of unprotected tracts was 11.64 percent.
The Chief of the Forest Service of the United States Department of Agriculture is a native of Iowa and a graduate of Iowa State College. He entered the United States Forest Service in 1913 and has made it his career.
It is the present fashion in some quarters to belittle the Government bureaucrats, who, as everybody is supposed to know, lies awake at night thinking up new schemes to squander the taxpayer’s hard-earned money. I give you one bureaucrat whose efforts over the years have saved for us and our posterity untold millions.
Mr. Lyle F. Watts, Chief of the Forest Service. [Applause.]
Mr. Lyle F. Watts. General Fleming, ladies and gentlemen, we forest firefighters deeply appreciate the opportunity to present to this Conference some of the problems which we face. In calling this Conference the President specifically emphasized the urgent need for reducing the drain on our natural resources due to destructive forest fires.
One-third of our Nation’s total land area, more than 650,000,000 acres, is forest land, and there are more millions of acres of brush and wild grassland that as range for domestic livestock make a major contribution to the Nation’s supply of meat, wool, and leather. Much of all this forest and range land is also extremely important as watershed land. Over all of this huge area of forest and wild land fire is an annual and continuing menace.
This year our forests will be called on to yield us some 37 billion board feet of lumber for homes and other uses. They must yield some 20 million railroad cross-ties, 18 million cords of pulpwood for paper and plastics, 6 million poles for electric power and telephone lines, and a lot of other needed forest products.
We are using up in this country our saw-timber supplies, our biggest and best trees, half again as fast as they are being replaced by growth. It is of the utmost importance, then, that we do not still further upset the balance between growth and drain by inexcusable loss from forest fires, just as important as protecting the forests as a source of water and a regulator of stream flow. Municipal water supplies, hydroelectric developments, and irrigation farming are dependent on forest and wild land for their watersheds. Elimination of fires on watersheds is the basic step in reducing the menace of floods.
Then, too, the forests harbor a large part of our wildlife resources. The recreational values of the forests not only contribute to our physical and spiritual health, but they are of economic importance as the basis of a very sizable industry serving recreation and vacation needs. All of these values are constantly menaced by forest fires.
The direct danger from forest fires runs into many millions of dollars annually. In 1946 fires destroyed enough timber to build 215,000 five-room houses. They destroyed homes, farm buildings, and crops, mills, and other improvements. Ten lives were lost fighting forest fires in 1946.