Hand axes and Knives in the Forest Preserves
Nature Bulletin No. 16 May 26, 1945
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Clayton F. Smith, President
Roberts Mann, Superintendent of Conservation
HANDAXES AND KNIVES IN THE FOREST PRESERVES
Handaxes and hunting-knives may not be carried in the forest preserves.
The rangers must confiscate them wherever found. This rule is
necessary because so many people in Cook County use these tools to
damage or destroy trees and shrubs. In a county of 4 million people,
mostly city people ignorant of how to conduct themselves in the woods,
it is unfortunately necessary to make such rules to protect these forest
preserves so that they will remain wild, unspoiled and beautiful.
A real woodsman knows that he should not cut down a young tree or
sapling for firewood. Green wood will not burn. A real woodsman
knows that he should not strip the bark from a tree because then that
tree will die. He knows that if a notch or deep blaze is made through the
rough, protecting, outer bark, then there is created a place where rot and
destructive insects can enter to eventually kill that tree.
A tree is a living organism much like the human body. Just as your
body is made up of countless millions of tiny cells, so the root system,
the trunk and the foliage of a tree are composed of cells, and each of
these three groups performs a function vital to the tree.
Directly underneath the bark of a tree trunk is a layer of these tiny cells
called the "cambium layer", or the growing layer. Although no thicker
than tissuepaper, yet through this thin film passes all the food elements
which make it possible for the tree to live and grow.
If a tree is "girdled" -- the bark removed from a ring completely
encircling the trunk -- the cambium layer is either removed or exposed
to the drying effects of the air, and the tree dies. If the cambium layer is
cut by a blaze or notch hacked into the tree, a wound is made which
corresponds to a deep cut in your arm, and the cells in the cambium
cannot function until the wound has healed. This may require months,
or even years, depending upon the size of the wound. Until the wound
has healed completely, the tree is subject to attack by fungus -- wood-
rotting diseases -- just as a wound on your body is subject to infection.
Through this thin calcium layer passes all the food on which a tree
lives. Taken from the soil by the roots, the food passes upward, through
this cambium around the trunk, and out along the branches to the leaves
where it is converted by chemical change into sugar and starches to be
used by the tree for its growth and development. Each part of the tree
must function perfectly if the tree is to live and grow. If any part is
injured then the whole tree suffers.
It requires from 10 to 20 years to grow a tree 6 inches in diameter,
depending upon the kind of tree and the conditions of soil and moisture
where it is growing. A boy with a handaxe can chop it down in 10
minutes. Left alone, if might grow to be 300 years old.
Similarly, it requires from 60 to 100 years to grow a tree 24 inches in
diameter. That tree might live another 200 years. A boy with a handaxe
or hunting knife can scar its trunk so that it will surely die within a few
Some boys and men know how and when to use such tools. They know
how to conduct themselves as woodsmen in the out-of-doors. Many do
not. The rule forbidding these tools to be carried in the forest preserves
was made necessary by the careless or vicious use of them by persons
who do not. Therefore, all handaxes and hunting-knives are confiscated
and only returned when it is proven that the owner is a Person who
respects trees. respect Public property, and will obey the rules which
were made to insure permanent enjoyment of the preserves by all the
To return to the Nature Bulletins Click Here!
Update: June 2012