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morals and politics, and how these influences will affect the destiny of the American people, are interesting subjects for speculation. It is sufficient for the present purpose to direct attention briefly to these facts and tendencies, to say that a great percentage of the American people will some time live in the arid region, and that the time has come when the nation should have at least the beginnings of a statesmanlike policy to apply to the problems of the vast material heritage that awaits her children.
The present national policy in the arid region is utterly unworthy of the occasion and the opportunity. It is not a policy at all, but a chaos of antiquated and outgrown land laws originally made for a humid region and bodily transferred to a country where natural conditions are precisely reversed. The legislation which suited the public lands of Ohio and Illinois is as useful and sensible in Idaho and California as ice-making machines would be in Greenland. In our profound and well-nigh incorrigible ignorance of our own country and its problems, we are doing unspeakable injustice to the most promising part of the United States, and deliberately saddling incalculable hardship and misery upon future generations. It is when the great West contemplates this wanton neglect of her needs that she sometimes feels that she is the stepchild of the Republic. For she is compelled to wear her sister's cast-off garments regardless of fit or appearance, and regardless of their adaptability to the peculiar conditions of the climate.
The Homestead Law is a misnomer in the arid region. It bids the citizen to go out and maintain himself for a certain period on land which, in spite of its incomparable fertility, can scarcely maintain a prairie dog or a rabbit until it has been artificially watered. The Desert Land Law is even more cruel and grotesque, because it not only bids the citizen to make a home, but to turn the course of a river, and so furnish himself with a complete system of irrigation before he can acquire title. The first law assumes that the new settler can live on climate and sagebrush. The second law assumes that he possesses a cash capital sufficient to start a national bank. Both laws would be jokes if they were not calamities. It is unquestionably true that this legislation was enacted in good faith, and supposedly in the interest of the settler, by the large majority of those whose votes put it upon the
statute book. But it was born of ignorance, and the time has come when it should die of enlightenment. The arid region is now needed as an outlet for a redundant and increasing population. Its potentialities have been demonstrated in a hundred valleys, and there is no longer excuse for delaying the formulation of a policy adapted to the peculiar condition of nearly half of the continent and quite one-third of the United States. The fact that some progress has been made under present laws is due to the supreme attractions of the arid region and to the absolute necessity of a little agriculture to feed other industries. But there can be no great development until the whole system of legislation and administration, as applied to Western resources, is radically reformed. The land laws as they stand to-day make perjury and fraud almost indispensable conditions of progress, or they prohibit progress altogether.
It is true that the Mormons in Utah have had no trouble in building irrigation canals and acquiring lands under the Homestead and Desert Land Laws. This is explained by the fact that with them the church was practically the state ; and, so far as purely industrial and commercial affairs are concerned, the Mormon church has been a kind and considerate mother to her children. In their matters of irrigation and settlement, the Mormons have had state control to the verge of socialism. It is also true that in many other parts of the arid region, in narrow valleys where conditions are particularly favorable, farmers have combined their labor and constructed works to water their lards so that they could acquire them in perfect conformity to the law. But the arid lands lie mostly in broad deserts. These can only be reclaimed by costly works. If reclamation is attempted without the absolute control of the land, the capital is almost sure to be lost. Hence, when private individuals or companies build such works they generally seek to obtain control of the land. This can only be done by having “dummies” enter the land under the law, and then transfer it to the company. Land which has been reclaimed by this method cannot be had at government prices and is no longer public land open to entry by citizens. The public land and the public water havu been acquired for speculative purposes, and the heritage which Congress intended for the homeseeker is private property, which can only be obtained by the payment of such prices as the private owner
chooses to put upon it. But that is not the worst. In appropriating the water of the public stream, and uniting it with the public land, and then transforming both into the assets of a private speculation, the irrigation company has perfected a new and dangerous monopoly to which the citizen and his descendants are expected to pay tribute, in the form of annual water rental, forever and forever. This is the practical operation of our present land laws. It impoverishes the nation without enriching the investor ; for the people will seldom pay the high prices demanded, nor will they live in peace with the water-lord when they have become his subjects. The whole system is a scandal and a disgrace to the American name. It is not worthy to be compared with the system which existed in China and Egypt a thousand years before this continent was discovered.
Our present methods are no better adapted to the requirements of forest and pasturage lands, nor to those of interstate and international rivers, than to the irrigable domain. Our so-called policy of forest “reservations” is a mockery. It is a reservation which does not reserve.
It is a name without the faintest semblance of force behind it. The forests are precious not only for timber, but yet more in their relation to the water supply. They are nature's storage reservoirs. In permitting them to be wantonly destroyed by fire and axe we are devastating great and potentially fruitful valleys for all time. Men who would scorn to steal an armful of sticks from their neighbor's wood pile do not hesitate to commit wholesale larceny upon the nation's forests. But the firebrand is worse than the thief, and our present laws and administrative system, if it can be dignified by the phrase, are perfectly impotent in the presence of both.
Much the larger portion of the public domain consists of grazing lands. These we treat as a public common. Here the Indian has been succeeded by white men more savage than he. Sheep-men and cattle-men struggle for supremacy, fighting and shedding blood in the never-ending contest for possession of property which belongs to neither. The troops are ordered out occasionally to separate the combatants, but when this has been temporarily accomplished the beneficent nation rests from its labors. In the absence of any scientific determination of the boundary between irrigable and grazing lands, the settlers and the stockmen settle it among themselves according to the relative
amount of their ammunition. In the meantime, we are industriously engaged in civilizing harmless Indians.
Our present laws make no provision for the division and control of interstate and international waters. The condition of the arid region in this respect is little less than pitiable. But the entanglements and dispute which have thus far arisen from this source are as nothing to the troubles which will arise in the future not only between states, but between nations as well. The most grievous instances at present are concerned with the waters of the Arkansas, the Rio Grande, and the Platte. Colorado claims the right under her Constitution to use every drop of water that falls upon her soil. In utilizing this right, she deprives portions of Kansas and New Mexico of water which has flowed through their territory in natural channels for ages. New Mexico, in her turn, perpetrates a similar injury upon old Mexico, our sister republic on the south. In several instances costly irrigation works in the lower states have been rendered utterly worthless, while large tracts of land which could be made fruitful remain uncultivated because deprived of their natural water supply. It is startling to contemplate the ultimate extent of the troubles which may arise over the control and distribution of interstate waters. A few years ago an engineering genius made a map of Arid America as it would appear if States had been laid out in accordance with the watershed. He found it was very feasible indeed to reconstruct the entire political system of the West-on paper--in a way which would forever dispose of the knotty problem of conflicting rights to interstate streams. But he discovered that a scientific division of this sort would make twenty-six states out of the present fourteen states and three territories. The objection to the influx of twenty-four new Western senators, to say nothing of the social, commercial, and political disarrangement in a local way, would, of course, be fatal to such a solution of the problem, if seriously proposed. But. the dangers of civil and economic conflict involved in the present situation is one of the strongest arguments in favor of the adoption of an enlightened national policy.
What policy has been proposed as a substitute for the present chacs of laws and impotence of administration in the arid region ? But one solution has been offered with the slightest prospect of success. This is the cession of all the arid lands,
except mineral lands, to the states in which they lie. This plan has been repeatedly indorsed by the trans-Mississippi Congress and other Western bodies. But many who have favored it in the past now gravely hesitate to press the proposition at a time when it apparently has the support of the national administration and many powerful newspapers. The truth is that the plan of cession has been the policy of desperation. When Western men have seen, on one hand, the utter imbecility of present laws, and, on the other, the stolid indifference of the East to the needs of intelligent legislation, they have cried in despair : “Turn the lands over to us and we will solve our own problems.' And the ready response of many Eastern public men and newspapers has been : “ Take your worthless lands and give the country a rest. But against the plan of cession there has always been a protesting minority in the West which has not dared to trust to the wisdom and integrity of the States in a matter involving public property which represents a potential value of billions of dollars. This minority has also insisted that the problems of the arid region are national in their essence, and involve so many questions which transcend the boundaries of States that nothing less than the federal power itself can deal with them satisfactorily. Even the advocates of cession have conceded that the true statesmanlike solution would be a great national policy, under which federal authority should be associated with the powers of the several States in adjusting the intricate questions at issue and in making homes for millions of American citizens.
During the past two years events have occurred which put a new face on the whole question. These events are the
passage by Congress of the “Carey law," donating to each of the desert States one million acres of arid land under certain conditions ; and, second, the evident and gratifying growth of popular interest in Arid America and its institutions on the part of the country at large. Senator Carey's bill was a very happy inspiration. It satisfied those who had faith in the plan of cession without alarming those who were afraid of the plan. One million acres are a very small drop out of a very large bucket, and yet this grant suffices as a means of showing what the States can do for themselves. It leaves unsettled the question of the forests, of the grazing lands, and of interstate streams ; but it furnishes a substitute for the Homestead and Desert Land laws and an