Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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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 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 years.

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 people.

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