After the Civil War, logging railroads penetrated previously inaccessible mountain regions. A more significant change, however, was the development of a new chemical process that enabled papermakers to make paper from softwood trees. Suddenly softwoods, especially high-altitude spruce, became valuable. Large-scale logging operations clear-cut huge swaths along steep mountain slopes.
Early in this process, Concord, New Hampshire resident and member of the state’s first forestry commission, Joseph B. Walker spoke out.
What can we do to avert the dangers that impend, for I hold that we cannot afford much longer to do nothing? … We are drifting towards a timber famine.
He called for a “thorough survey of all our forests, making known to us their varying characters, condition, and situation.” Walker was in step with outdoor enthusiasts and academics from Boston who founded the Appalachian Mountain Club in 1876. As they focused on building trails and enjoying the White Mountains scenery, they too became alarmed as loggers stripped valleys and began working on the sides of their favorite mountains.