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    Author(s): Ray R., Jr. Hicks
    Date: 1997
    Source: In: Pallardy, Stephen G.; Cecich, Robert A.; Garrett, H. Gene; Johnson, Paul S., eds. Proceedings of the 11th Central Hardwood Forest Conference; Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-188. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station: 1-22
    Publication Series: General Technical Report (GTR)
    Station: North Central Research Station
    PDF: View PDF  (3.45 MB)

    Description

    The Central Hardwood Forest is an oak dominated deciduous forest that stretches from Massachusetts to Arkansas and occurs in hilly to mountainous terrain. It is the largest and most extensive temperate deciduous forest in the world. During the past 20 million years or so, angiosperms have been gradually replacing gymnosperms as the dominant plant form on earth, and deciduous hardwoods are particularly adapted to the fluctuating seasonal climate and moderate rainfall associated with the Central Hardwood Region. As the glacial ice sheets retreated about 12-14 thousand years ago, forests re-invaded the region. Native peoples populated the area and practiced extensive burning to improve habitat for game and to aid in land clearing for agriculture. By the time the early Europeans arrived, about 450 years ago, the Native People had adopted a sedentary lifestyle and their population had increased to levels comparable to that of Western Europe. The first European explorers brought with them diseases that decimated the native populations, and for almost 200 years the central hardwood forest re-grew to become the "primeval forest" of legend. By the late 18th century, settlement by subsistence farmers using European methods (draft animals and metal tools) was in full swing. Much of the tillable land in the central hardwood region was cleared, including substantial areas of steep and hilly land. The industrial revolution in the post-Civil War period ushered in a trend away from subsistence farming and marginal land was abandoned to revert back to forest. The last 100 years has seen an era of exploitive logging in the central hardwood region, followed by a re-growing forest. Human influences have predominated in shaping the present forest and these include logging, burning, grazing, fire control, wildlife management and pest introductions. In the past 30 years, societal attitudes toward land and forests has had a profound effect on governmental policy as it relates to forestry. The maturing central hardwood forest, mostly owned by private individuals, is rapidly becoming a resource at the crossroads.

    Publication Notes

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    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.

    Citation

    Hicks, Ray R., Jr. 1997. A resource at the crossroads: a history of the central hardwoods. In: Pallardy, Stephen G.; Cecich, Robert A.; Garrett, H. Gene; Johnson, Paul S., eds. Proceedings of the 11th Central Hardwood Forest Conference; Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-188. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station: 1-22

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