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Wisconsin's earliest forest conservation plea, 1867

Report on the disastrous effects of the destruction of forest trees, now going on so rapidly in the state of Wisconsin

By the 1850s Wisconsin's lumber industry had penetrated far into the Chippewa and Wisconsin River watersheds. Although the forests seemed limitless to most people, Milwaukee scientist Increase Lapham (1811-1875) feared that the passionate pursuit of profits by lumber barons would cause irreparable harm to the environment. In 1854 he published an article (in the Wisconsin Agricultural Society Transactions vol. 4, pp. 195-154) urging that Wisconsin forests be carefully preserved but his warning went unheeded. In 1867 the state legislature authorized an investigation of whether the lumber industry was likely to cause harm and what, if any, actions the government ought to take to prevent it. Lapham was appointed to chair the investigation, and the report linked below is the result of his efforts. Despite his foresight about the need for conservation, his report was totally ineffective. As long as farmers wanted to clear land to grow cash crops and logging companies wanted to sell lumber clear-cut from northern forests, Lapham's arguments would fall on deaf ears. Not until after his death, when much of the north had been turned into a wasteland, would Progressive Era policy makers follow his lead.

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Related Topics: Mining, Logging, and Agriculture
The Progressive Era
Logging and Forest Products
The Conservation Movement
Creator: Lapham, Increase Allen, 1811-1875.
Pub Data: Madison, Wis.: [Commission to Ascertain Effects of the Destruction of Forest Trees]: Atwood & Rublee, state printers, 1867.
Citation: Lapham, Increase Allen. Report on the disastrous effects of the destruction of forest trees, now going on so rapidly in the state of Wisconsin. (Madison, Wis.: Atwood & Rublee, state printers, 1867). Online facsimile at Online facsimile at:; Visited on: 4/23/2014
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