John Muir



Download Full Text (6.1 MB)

Kimes Entry Number


Original Date


William and Maymie Kimes Annotation

Muir describes the beauty of trees in the many varied regions across America as "they appeared a few centuries ago when they were rejoicing in wildness." Relating how the ever-increasing horde of settlers had poured across the continent, Muir writes: " ... with no eye to the future, these pious destroyers waged interminable forest wars; chips flew thick and fast, trees in their beauty fell crashing by the millions ... and the smoke of their burning has been rising to heaven more than 200 years .... Every other civilized nation in the world has been compelled to care for its forests, and so must we if waste and destruction are not to go on to the bitter end." Muir enumerates the forest regulations of the principal countries of the world, and then reviews the abuses this country has allowed, detailing the fraudulent methods used by the timber thieves to gain title to thousands of forested acres. He closes his long essay with his now-famous statements: "Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would be destroyed,-chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones .... Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries since Christ's time-and long before that-God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools,-only Uncle Sam can do that.''


The Atlantic Monthly, v. 80, no. 478


pp. [145]-157

The American Forests



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.