He Remarried Late In Life, And When He Died, In 1940 At The Age Of Seventy-Two, The Land Became The Property Of His Second Wife, Beatrice. They Lived In Charleston Then, And She Was Not Interested In Spending Time In The Forest At Highlands. After Prioleau Ravenel’S Death, She Moved To Florida. In 1942, Just After The U.S. Became Involved In World War Ii, The Powell Lumber Company Approached Beatrice Ravenel And Urged Her To Sell Her Timber For The Sake Of The War Effort. (There Were Soon To Be Many Military Contracts For Pulp And Timber Products.) Beatrice Was Never Going Back To Highlands, And She Never Really Cared About That Forest Anyway. She Sold It.
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Citizens And Scientists Alike Were Outraged By The Deal That Had Been Made Hundreds Of Miles Away, But All Energy And Resources Were Going Toward The War Effort. Fathers And Sons Of Highlands’ Citizens Were Headed Off To War. No Federal Money Was Being Spent On Forests Now. The Loss Of The Precious Forest Seemed A Fait Accompli.
Ironically, The Wood Was Never Used For Military Contracts. Logging Began In 1946, After The War Was Over. Zahner Visited The Site With The Chief Forester For The Mill Just Before Logging Operations Started. I Will Let Zahner Tell It:
He Told Me That Although He Recognized The Intrinsic Value Of Preserving Such An Ancient Forest, His Company Could Not Cancel The Logging Contract….Their Chief Forester Explained To Me, A Naive Young Man About To Embark On A Career In Forestry Myself, That Champion Had Preserved Enough Forest In Other Locations, And That The Primeval Forest Here “Will Grow Back” In Time. I Believe It Was On That Day That I Understood The Difference Between A Conservation Ethic And A Business Ethic.
I Have Since Learned Much From That Statement, “The Forest Will Grow Back,” A Golden Rule Of Forestry Still Used Today To Cover The Many Ills Of Clearcutting….Certainly, Trees Grow Back, And In A Few Hundred Years We May Have The Outward Appearance Of A Forest. However, We Now Know That A Thousand Years Or More Is Required For The Biota Of Such An Ancient Forest Community To Be Restored In All Of Its Diversity, Integrity, And Beauty.
When I Compared The Data For The Joyce Kilmer Forest And Ravenel’S Woods, I Was Shocked To See That The Average Basal Area Of The Trees In Ravenel’S Woods Was Greater Than The Average For Those In The Joyce Kilmer Forest. It Was Difficult For Me To Imagine A Collection Of Trees In The East With Girths Larger Than Those I Had Witnessed In The Joyce Kilmer Forest.
Zahner Eventually Left His Tenured Professorship In Forestry At The University Of Michigan To Have More Time To Live Close To The Land, To Spend Time With His Family, And To Battle Clear-Cutting And Advocate For Old Growth. He Worked Tirelessly To Protect Forests And To Educate Others. Perhaps He Was Always Trying To Make Up For Missing The Opportunity To Save The Primeval Forest.
I Sat Among The Massive Trees To Write, And The Echo Of Children’S Laughter Could Be Heard Throughout The Forest. I Was Thinking About My Father: Dad, Your Generation Is Leaving Us; My Generation Is Next; But Today This Wonderful Forest Is Filled With The Cheerful Noise Of The Next Generation. And That Is As It Should Be.
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