If you ever come out to my house, the main thing you will notice is all of the trees. There are trees everywhere, interspersed with occasional fields and houses. Most of the land around here is in fact forest, and its easy to think that it has always been that way... imagine Indians running through the same forest hundreds of years ago. Trees however are actually a rather new phenomena in this are (Corning too). Just sixty or seventy years ago, there were hardly any. Why? Logging. Around the turn of the century, the logging industry was at its peak in Pennsylvania and New York. All of the woods were chopped down and sent away to be made into boards and furniture and things. And this wasn't selective logging like you see today where people just go in and take the best trees, this was clear-cutting. Everything from two hundred year old giants to saplings were cut down. Thus, all of the trees (with the exception of a few big maples and oaks that they for some reason elected to save and can now be seen mainly in peoples yards, along roads or in parks) perished. My entire hill was bare, just grass. You know those nice long green hills the surround Corning and Gang Mills that people always go on about? Nothing but grass. Don't believe me? Just go to Wegmans and look at their collection of historic photos, they have on of Corning in 1900. If you look long enough you'll notice something different: no trees.
Fortunately this didn't last forever. The trees began to come back and in seventy or so years, nearly all of the trees that we see grew. This process is still going on. It's a fact that there are thousands more trees just in my township alone than there were when I was born. If you drive from my house to Mansfield, you can see hundreds of acers of farm and pasture land turning back into forest. This is a hill side about four miles from my house. Just a few years ago crops were growing in it. Now, as you can see, it has embarked on the path of reforestation with no hope of return (at least not without a great deal of money and effort, and the fact is, nobody is going to spend that much to grow something out here in PA when it could be grown just as well for free in Illinois or Kansas or somewhere that they don't have a great deal of trees that need to be cut down.
You always hear a great deal about the problem of deforestation (the process of all the trees being cut down) but it seems to me that at least in this small corner of the world, we have experienced all the the deforestation we are going to (at least until Bradford County is considered a Suburb of Philadelphia and Corning one of NYC, but that's a long time in the future) and our main issue is reforestation. Do you see the forest in the picture below? It's about a mile from my house, and, believe it or not, I can clearly remember a time when there was nothing there but grass and a few pricker bushes, but in the really, really short period of my life time, look at what has happened to it!
So, the next time you look outside at our hills and see all the the trees, remember that there was a time not to long ago when the view was very, and in my opinion unhappily different.
- Andrew Wilber