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Ch3a - CHAPTER 3 $r-aeeny ed Scholars Change Among The New...

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CHAPTER 3 $r-aeeny, ed., Scholars Change Among {merica," Journal and Times and the V The New England Forest in the Seventeenth Century After several abortive attempts, English settlers established the Plymouth colony in New England in 1620 and the Massachusetts Bay Colony at Blston in 1629. Seventeenth-century New England had a reslurce-extractive economy based on the fourFs: forests, furs, fkh, and farms. England provided investors and manu- factures; the colonies, a rich reserve ofnatural resources. The southern New England Indians whom the English settlers encountered used cleared patches in the lowland forests to plant corn, beans, and squash and depended on the upland forests for hunting the animals they needed for meat and clothing. They "managed" the forests by burning them to accommodate hunting and travel and to create grassy pastures for deer. The colonists, in contrast, established settled agriculture, extracting forest resources for subsistence and trading them for much- needed manufactured goods and staples-iron tools, kettles, nails, guns, ammuni- tion, clothing, windows, paper, coffee, tea, and sugar. They also introduced new ideas about nature, grounded in a view of a transcendent God who had chosen them to use the land and to spread "His word" in the New World. From the perspectives of the beaver and the white pine tree, each extraction transformed a forest home. Beaver created complex pond ecosystems in the forests that left tree stumps and brush for grluse, rabbits, and cavity-nesting birds;watering spots for deer and moose ; and foraging sites for foxes, raccoons, bears, and wildcats. The spruce-hemlock forests of northern New England and the white pine-oak forests of the region's southern reaches sustained a variety of tree and bush species, wild- flowers, mammals, insects, and birds. The colonists simplified these ecosystems by trapping beaver for the fur trade and breaking down their dams for tillage and ptsture sites. They converted the forests into farms and extracted pines for masts, oak for barrel staves, and ash for farm implements. The colonists also added to the complexity of this eclsystem by introducing European crops (wheat, barley, oats, and rye), livestock (cows, oxen, sheep, pigs, goats, and chickens), herbs, weeds, varmints, and dise ases. These all affected the 65
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66 Major problems in American Environmental History c-,mp,sition 0f the forest. colonial s-ettled agriculture, mlreover, competed with the Indians',use of forest crearings for horticuilure and with the natiie-iiiotrr, *ro, and clothing reserves. The arrivar of Europeans aramati,iciity-ri'iiir'ikr* n"g_ land's ecotogv, undercutting the resources'that rndians *q;ir;;i;i;uisxtence. ny the late seventeenth century, the region's Indians, colonists, beaver, and forests had all been transformed.
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