« PreviousContinue »
irrigation mostly in the Far Western States, but including rice fields in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texasaggregated 3,631,381 acres; in 1899, 7,778,904 acres; in 1902, 9,681,289 acres; in 1907, about 10,000,000 acres; and in 1909, about 13,036,700 acres. The total construction cost to 1899 was $71,226,074; to 1902, $92,731,594; to 1907, about $148,200,000. In 1909 the National Reclamation Service had 29 irrigation projects in process of construction. The work thus engaged in was planned for the ultimate irrigation of 2,700,000,000 acres. The total land in the country available for and needing irrigation was then estimated to be about 44,375,000,000 acres. The computed cost of irrigation works for this enormous territory was $110,290,000, to be spread over many years. Federal expenditure for the improvement of rivers and harbors began after 1810. To the close of the fiscal year 1908 there had been expended on this account over $511,000,000, of which about $53,000,000 had gone for a few unimportant projects then existent or for obsolete projects of earlier date long discontinued. Prior to 1880 appropriations for this purpose had been irregular and were generally regarded with disfavor.. In 1846 President Polk, and in 1854 President Pierce, vetoed such bills. upon constitutional grounds. After the Civil War, however, broader opinions concerning constitutional limitations began to prevail, and in 1870 an appropriation of $2,000,000
was made the largest up to that time, though small compared with subsequent appropriations.
A decided impetus was given to the matter by the 1874 report of the Senate Select Committee on Transportation Routes to the Seaboard. The Committee recommended that the United States undertake to improve. the mouth of the Mississippi, to open a route by the Ohio and Kanawha rivers and a railway or canal to Virginia tidewater, and another by canal or railway from the Tennessee River to the Atlantic Ocean. None of these plans was adopted, but the report of the Committee greatly influenced the future in the conclusion that the constitutional power of Congress to regulate commerce includes the power to aid and facilitate it, thus conferring upon Congress the power to improve or create channels of commerce on land or by water. This broad interpretation of the Constitution effectually fixed the policy of the Government and probably forever determined its course of action in the matter. From that time on, appropriations were more frequent and of more considerable size, and every Congress gave much attention to the subject. But the funds made available being still inadequate, the work was carried on in a manner not calculated to produce the best and the most economical results. Finally the River and Harbor bills became the subject of grave scandal, being loaded with appropriations for worthless projects
involving the expenditure of money for purely political purposes, regardless of public needs. The scandal assumed such importance that the bill of 1902 specifically provided that thereafter all projects be referred to a technical board of review and favorably passed upon before being undertaken.
In 1908 the Government was engaged upon the improvement of harbors, rivers and other waterways to the total of over 500, including even a few that were practically insignificant. Some of these works had then been under way for many years and large sums of money had been expended upon them from their inception to the close of the year 1908.
In the list were 17 harbors of refuge, upon which $14,312,000 had been expended; 24 harbors used for refuge and commerce, which cost the United States $24,083,772; 265 lake and coast commercial harbors and tidal rivers, with expenditures of $172,707,000; 76 rivers under improvement by regulation or by locks and dams, with expenditures of $204,718,500; 67 interior shallow streams under slight improvements, with expenditures of $7,200,000; 7 inland waterways and canals, with expenditures of $9,956,000; 12 cases of special work, auxiliary channels, etc., with expenditures of $11,264,432; 5 channels connecting the Great Lakes, with expenditures of $25,198,000.
Among the greatest of these enterprises was the improvement of the
CONSERVATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES.
1908 was 591,977,700 tons, a gain of 340,217,700 tons. The projects which showed an increase of tonnage, presumably on account of the improvements, were 217, while 111 showed a decrease and the rest showed no commercial effects. It was estimated that the annual cost to the United States for this increased commerce was 2.4 cents per ton. But, for various reasons, much of this commerce was reported in duplicate or even more frequently, and, after making proper allowances, it appeared that the total water-borne commerce at this time approximated 256,000,000 tons per annum. On this basis it has been
figured that the cost per ton to the United States has been about 6 cents, considering the total outlay on all improvements since the beginning of the work. What savings resulted to commerce from these improved facilities it is impossible to estimate even roughly. There have been instances. where, for certain favored localities, it has been calculated to be as high as $1 per ton. In other instances it was. little or nothing. Undoubtedly much of the benefit derived from the improvements has been of indirect character and has been entirely lost sight of in the great bulk of commercial and industrial wealth of the country.*
Early indifference to waste of natural resources The first alarm - Waste of water, agricultural lands, and mineral resources Enormity of the problem of conservation The Inland Waterways Commission of 1907 The White House Conference and the National Conservation Commission of 1908 - The National Conservation Association of 1909 Vital principles of conservation Congressional apathy to the movement The forest reserves enactment of 1891 - Federal and State reservations.
Although wastefulness of our natural resources dates from the first peopling of the continent, conservation of natural resources did not have its inception before the last quarter of the Nineteenth century.
To the pioneers the resources of the new country naturally seemed infinite. Land, forests, water, minerals and fish were so plentiful as to become in many instances obstacles to prosperity and comfortable existence. For 250 years
land was almost given away, except as it grew in value in favored localities.
E. L. Bogart, Economic History of the United States (New York, 1907); Emory R. Johnson, Ocean and Inland Water Transportation (New York, 1906); Preliminary Report of the Inland Waterway Commission (Washington, 1908): Alexander H. Weber, The Waterways of the United States: Actual Expenditures and Results to Navigation and Commerce, Doc. 15 of the National Waterways Commission (Washington, 1910); Report of the United States Industrial Commission (19 vols., Washington, 1900-1902); Transportation Routes to the Seaboard, Report of the Select Committee of the Senate, Doc. 307,
Millions of acres of woodland were burned because they were in the way or because modern industry demanded logs and lumber. That mines of coal, copper and precious metals might in course of time become exhausted was something not even dreamed of. Of course, land fertility would never fail, lakes could never dry up, and the waters of rivers could be depended upon to run forever regardless of what drafts might be made upon them.
When the country was new and the population scant, this view of the case did not much matter. Under the conditions then existing it was scarcely possible for waste, extravagance, and recklessness to progress with the work of destruction faster than nature could repair the damage. But the older the Nation grew, the faster went on depletion. The increasing population of the country, the demands of modern industry and of modern living developed new problems of supply, and these were met by draughts upon natural resources that grew heavier every year.
Long before the general public had the slightest appreciation of the situation, the scientists realized that the pace, if kept up, meant overwhelming National disaster. They studied other countries, learned the conditions which
43d Congress, 1st session (Washington, 1874); Statutes-at-Large of the United States (18651910); The Statistical Abstract (Washington, 1900-1910); N. S. Shaler, American Highways (New York, 1896); Transportation by Water in Census Report, 1906; Annual reports of the Chief of Engineers of the United States Army.
had been brought about there in the course of centuries, and raised the cry of alarm. Forestry was a subject that had engaged scientific attention in Europe, and in that the first step in the National conservation movement in the United States was taken.
Some apprehension over the rapid reduction of our forests was felt about 1870, but it was not of much moment and the public disposition was to laugh it down. But in 1873 the American Association for the Advancement of Science presented a memorial to Congress and, when nothing had been done, presented another memorial on the subject in 1890. As a result of these representations, a forestry division was established in the Department of Agriculture in 1887 and laws were passed which led to the first National reserve in 1891. In 1897 a Bureau of Forestry was established in the Agricultural Department and Gifford Pinchot was made its chief, holding that position until 1910.
Originally the forests of the United States covered 850,000,000 acres. In addition, there were about 150,000,000 acres of scrub forest and brush land. The former was all good timber material, but the latter was of little direct commercial value. In less than a century and a quarter this magnificent heritage was reduced by nearly one-half, with practically no efforts made to restore the loss. Of the original 1,000,000,000 acres of forest land, there were left at the close of
CONSERVATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES.
the first decade of the Twentieth century approximately 550,000,000 acres forest-clothed. Even in this acreage most of the best timber had been cut while the forests had been damaged by fire and otherwise. Still this remaining portion was a very considerable estate, being one-fourth of the entire area of the United States. No other nation on the face of the globe then had proportionately such a vast forest land. About four-fifths of this property was owned by private individuals, the rest still being held for the public. Properly protected and wisely conserved from further deforestation and developed with new growth, this great area may yet save the country from disaster. But the destruction that has been going on in recent years and that must be halted if there is any hope for the future, is certainly appalling. In the northwestern States an army of nearly 200,000 men is annually employed in lumbering, and it is estimated that they waste a billion feet of lumber for every five billion that they get out.
In 1880 the timber cut of the United States was 18,000,000,000 board feet; in 1890, 24,000,000,000; in 1900, 35,000,000,000; in 1906, 50,000,000. 1906, 50,000,000. The States bordering on the Great Lakes once had over 350,000,000,000 feet of standing white pine; the census of 1900 showed only 50,000,000,000 feet left. White pine had practically disappeared from the lumber market in the next decade, and yellow pine was going the same way. The census esti
mate of 1880 was 237,000,000,000 feet of standing southern yellow pine; in 1909 the amount was 137,000,000,000, with an annual cut of 12,000,000,000 feet. Oak, poplar, elm, hickory, maple, spruce, ash, birch-in fact all the woods that were in common use and plentiful in the middle of the Nineteenth century-were becoming almost rarities in the opening years of the next century. It was then estimated that the quantity of standing timber was between 1,400,000,000,000 and 2,000,000,000,000 feet and the annual cutting was 50,000,000,000. That rate of consumption would make the country timberless in from 30 to 40 years.
The sole source of our fresh water is rainfall, including snow. From this all running, standing and ground waters are derived, and upon these depends the habitability of the country. Our mean annual rainfall is about 30 inches; the quantity is about 215,000,000,000,000 cubic feet per yeara sum, altogether incomprehensible as expressed in figures, equivalent to the flowage of ten
flowage of ten Mississippi rivers. Half of this is evaporated, much flows to the sea, and only about one-sixth is consumed or absorbed. How to reduce the amount of water permitted to run to waste; how to increase the supply by increasing the forest area; how to control the rivers and lakes for navigation, irrigation and power; how to prevent the enormous yearly damage by floods which increased from $45,000,000 in 1900 to over $238,000,000