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Foresting the Prairies


When the first settlers moved into the Dakotas, they had to adjust to a land without trees for houses, fences, and fuel. They adapted, but the lack of trees made life more difficult. On this date in 1908, the Golden Valley Chronicle printed an article about the benefit of planting trees. The information came from a bulletin issued by the Forest Service. The article said that no area of the country needed forest planting greater than the prairies of Minnesota and the Dakotas. Trees could provide protection from wind and storms – “essential for the well-being of the family, the stock, and the orchard.”

But there were also other advantages. A good stand of trees would provide a farmer with wood for posts, poles, and fuel, a resource that otherwise had to be shipped in from Minnesota. The freight alone was ten cents per hundredweight, or $3.50 a cord. When the price of shipping was added to the cost of the wood, locals were paying seven to ten dollars per cord. Families could save a considerable amount of money by having their own stand of trees to harvest.

Trees could also be grown for profit, and the soil did not have to be ideal. Cottonwood and white willow grew well in the porous soil of river valleys, and the trees could start from cuttings, so there was very little expense in getting started.

Other trees had to be started with seedlings, including recommended trees such as Norway spruce, Scotch pine, and yellow pine. These coniferous trees tended to be more expensive, but they provided protection from the weather all winter long. They were resistant to heat and drought as well as snow and winter weather. They also produced high quality lumber.

The newspaper concluded that planting trees was the most economical way to improve the value of prairie land.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


Golden Valley Chronicle. “Forest Planting.” Beach, North Dakota. 22 May, 1908.