Timber Valuable Resource in 1890sWritten by Dick Perue
In the late 1890s, timber was considered a valuable resource, as noted in the rare book, “Collections of the Wyoming Historical Society” by Robert C. Morris.
The following is the second in a series about Wyoming’s wood products.
There is considerable timber, mostly yellow pine, upon the Black Hills, near the Dakota line. Measurements of the timber limits of various mountains have been made, which show the height in their respective latitudes above which coniferous trees – the hardiest of any species – will not grow. The timberline line of Mount Washburn is 9,900 feet above sea level, while the altitude of that mountain is 10,388; the timber line of Mount Hayden of the Teton range is 11,000 feet, while its altitude is 13,858 feet above the sea; the timber line of the Wood River Range is 10,160 while its general altitude is 11,500 feet above the sea.
Yellow and white pine and white spruce are the principal timbers. Many regard the yellow pine as the best and most useful tree, while others think the white spruce furnishes the best timber for all purposes. Lodgepole pine is the prevailing forest tree in a wide area along the mountain range north and south of Laramie. It is also common in the northwestern and other portions of the state. It often replaces the original growth after fires. These trees have an average growth of from eight to 12 inches in diameter but are occasionally found three to four feet in diameter and 60 to 100 feet in height. Red cedar has a scattering growth along the foothills and at lower elevation the streams are fringed with cottonwood, box-elder, willow, scrub oak and other small shrubbery.
The forestlands of the Rocky Mountains are still largely owned by the general government, and its preservation is of vital importance. The principal demands upon the forests are for the manufacture of lumber for local use and railroad ties. Also large quantities of smaller timber are used for fencing and fuel. But little if any timber is exported. The consumption of railroad ties has been estimated at 500,000 per annum, and an equal amount is used for timbering the coalmines. The native lumber is similar to the eastern spruce lumber and is suitable for all ordinary purposes in building except as a finishing lumber. It has too many knots to work smoothly, and the preference is therefore given to Oregon or eastern lumber. It is estimated that between 30 and 40 percent of all lumber used along the lines of railroad is imported and is worth, planed, from $25 to $50 per thousand. The native rough lumber is worth from $10 to $25 per thousand, according to local conditions.