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The preferred right of entry under the enlarged homestead act accorded applicants for undesignated lands by the amendatory act of March 4, 1915 (38 Stat., 1162), has met with a remarkable response, there having been filed under the provisions of this act up to the 1st of September 6,621 applications.
Reclamation homesteads.-Notation is made of the fact that farm units embracing areas reasonably required for the support of one family have been established in 19 of the reclamation projects.
In addition to the projects being constructed under the provisions of the general reclamation act, several other projects upon Indian reservations are being constructed, under the provisions of the act applicable to such projects alone.
Ceded Chippewa lands. There has been no opening to homestead settlement and entry of lands classified as agricultural in the ceded Chippewa Reservation since 1911, due to some necessary changes of Indian allotments.
The next opening will take place as soon as practicable, and will include about 50,000 acres of "cut-over” lands and about 4,850 acres of " pine" lands.
Minnesota drainage entries. During the past year there were approved for patent 517 entries under the Minnesota drainage law, known as the Volstead Act, as against 245 for the preceding year. Serious difficulties in the administration of this law is noted, due to differences of views entertained by the State and the department as to the provisions of the statute.
Homesteads in national forests.—In the year past notices were issued under the act of June 11, 1906 (34 Stat., 233), of the restoration of 2,838 lists of lands in national forests, by which approximately 280,000 acres of agricultural lands were opened to settlement and entry.
Chippewa Indian timber logging.--The twelfth year of logging on ceded Chippewa lands closed June 30 last, and during said year there were cut and removed 46,272,950 feet of timber, valued at $373,442.73. Some falling off in logging is noted, due to the dullness in the lumber market, on which account some of the contractors obtained extensions of time to complete their cutting.
Abandoned military reservations.-Field work in connection with the survey and classification of the lands in the Fort Assinniboine Military Reservation has been completed, but the office work will not be finished for some time, so that it is impracticable to have an opening before next spring.
Plats of the survey of Fort Grant abandoned reservation have been approved, showing about 13,000 acres. Nearly 4,000 acres are included in grants to the State of Arizona. The remainder are to be appraised prior to their public offering.
Town-site and kindred entries. Lots in 9 town sites were offered for sale at public auction during the months of June and July, 1914, resulting in the sale of more than 1,000 lots, for a sum in excess of $80,000. The sale of lots in town sites upon public lands in all cases has resulted in prices largely in excess of the appraised valuation.
The town of Anchorage, Alaska, on the Government railroad, was surveyed; 655 lots were sold in July at public sale for the sum of $148,980.
Flathead Indian lands.—The failure to secure, through congressional action, relief for settlers who were insisting upon a reappraisal of farm values, is noted, together with the fact that in the meantime action affecting these lands is suspended.
Regulations for the sale and removal of timber from lands classified as timber lands and the subsequent appraisal and opening of such lands to homestead entry have been approved.
Notices issued for the sale during August of 78,116 acres of agricultural lands under the act of April 23, 1904, and for 46,635 acres of barren and burnt-over lands.
Indian allotments.—During the past year 2,324 trust patents issued embracing 284,713.33 acres of land. During the same year 1,699 patents were issued conveying title in fee to Indians found competent to assume charge of their own affairs and to purchasers of allotted lands. The issuance of these fee patents operated to relieve 202,050 acres of land from restriction against alienation and rendered that amount of land subject to taxation.
Flathead villa sites.-Tracts set aside as villa sites under the act of April 12, 1910 (36 Stat., 296), were offered for sale at public auction during July and August. There were 889 parcels of land, not less than 2 nor more than 5 acres in area, fronting on Flathead Lake, subject to sale for the minimum price of $10 per acre. These lands, having a minimum valuation of less than $35,000, sold for approximately $125,000, some tracts bringing about $300 per acre. A general law authorizing the entry of public lands in the form of villa sites is recommended.
Railroad grants.—The total area certified and patented under railroad and wagon-road grants was 1,624,142.27 acres. In the adjustment of railroad grants, the adjudication of Carey Act propositions, and right-of-way applications, the work of the past year has been exceedingly satisfactory. There were finally adjudicated and closed 5,065 cases of all kinds, as against 4,245 cases of the year previous.
Rights of way.-Substantial progress has been made in the past year in clearing the records of approved railroad rights of way, where the roads have not been constructed, and requiring proof of construction in other cases. During the year 714 railroad right-of-way
grants have been investigated. Of these, 302 were declared to be forfeited under the several forfeiture acts; in the remainder of the cases the grantees were called upon to show cause why the grants should not be declared forfeited for failure to file evidence of construction.
In this line of work the following States have been fully covered: Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, and Wyoming.
Power-site reserves. During the past year 56 withdrawals were made for this purpose, covering 292,134 acres. Of lands theretofore withdrawn, 55,646 acres were restored. At the end of the fiscal year 2,228,105 acres were included in withdrawals for power sites and 182,653 acres as public-water reserves.
State desert-land segregation.—A marked increase of work under Carey Act segregations is noted for the past year. Applications for withdrawal under the act of March 15, 1910, covering 1,048,654.80 acres were finally disposed of, as against 315,209 acres during the year previous.
Segregation lists to the amount of 108,464 acres were acted upon, as against 15,069 acres in 1914.
Patents were issued under Carey Act projects during the past year for 146,079 acres, as against 4,244 acres the year previous.
Desert-land entries.—Radical changes were made during the past year in the regulations under which desert-land entries are allowed, by which all applications are referred for a field examination as to feasibility prior to final action. For the relief of those who had made entries but could secure no adequate water supply the Land Department recommended, and Congress passed, the act of March 4, 1915 (38 Stat., 1138). The necessity for a change in regulations and the remedial legislation is apparent from the fact that during the past two years upwards of 5,000 applications for extension of time within which to submit final proof have been considered wherein the claimants were unable to secure water for the irrigation of their lands within the period prescribed by law.
The amendment of the desert-land law by which entries shall be restricted to 160 acres is recommended.
During the past fiscal year 2,711 desert-land entries were patented, embracing 488,752.80 acres, as against 2,127 entries, embracing 346,794.74 acres during the prior year.
Irrigation projects.—Under the practice now in vogue irrigation projects alleged as sources of water supply in the case of desert-land entries are investigated in the field, wherein the examination covers all engineering features of the project involved. A study of the stream system is made, together with the adequacy and permanency of the water supply, construction and maintenance, the financial
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ability of the organizers, the feasibility of the main system, the methods for water distribution, the title of the water supply, the character of the lands to be irrigated, and the duty of the water proposed to be utilized.
This work is not only for the protection of the interests of the Government, but also that of public-land claimants, inasmuch as it discourages the construction of projects without full information on the vital matters concerned and tends to prevent the promotion of fraudulent enterprises. During the past year 253 reports of this character have been disposed of by this office, favorable action having been taken on 167 projects, adverse action on 58, and 28 cases closed without definite action.
State selections. During the past fiscal year 16,277.38 acres of indemnity school-land selections and 840,606.36 acres of selections under grants in quantity for specific purposes received departmental approval and have been certified to the States making such selections.
Swamp and overflowed lands.—A statement is submitted showing the acreage patented to the several States as beneficiaries under the swamp-land grant, amounting in total to 63,832,583.06 acres. The same States received as cash indemnity under amendatory acts the sum of $2,095,468.79 and land indemnity to the extent of 743,939.39 acres. A study of the swamp grant and the manner in which the trust has been administered by the several States by whom it was received leads to the conclusion that none of the large land grants made by Congress has more completely failed of its purpose, in this that the proceeds of this grant have not been applied to secure the reclamation of the land, as was the intent of Congress. For this reason, and the further one that with the lapse of time the adjustment of the grant becomes more and more difficult, it is recommended that Congress enact legislation declaring that after a date fixed, preferably six months after the bill becomes a law, no new claims to swamp and overflowed lands be received or recognized by the Land Department.
Patents for 19,219.63 acres of swamp and overflowed lands and 252.32 acres of swamp-indemnity lands were issued, and claims aggregating 16,639.71 acres were rejected during the past year.
National forests.—Since the issuance of the last annual report, 12 national forests have been reduced. Certain inter-forest transfers have been made involving three national forests, and the Zuni National Forest, Arizona and New Mexico, has been consolidated with the Manzano National Forest. There are now 162 national forests, embracing 184,240,596 acres, of which area approximately 89 per cent is public land. The decrease in area of national forests since the beginning of the fiscal year is 1,080,606 acres.
During the fiscal year the public lands subject to disposition in 1,277,536 acres, excluded from national forests in this and previous years, have been restored to settlement and entry.
During the past year nine administrative stations, embracing 1,742 acres and 1 right of way, have been withdrawn, and 365 withdrawals for such purposes revoked, covering 62,251 acres. There are now 25 rights of way for wagon roads and 2,777 administrative sites withdrawn, embracing 352,689 acres.
Contest work.—The gradual reduction in the area of the public domain has not resulted in the diminution of litigated claims before the Land Department. In the year past 1,421 decisions were rendered on cases coming before the office on appeal.
Repayments.—There were stated during the last fiscal year 1,689 accounts, allowing repayment of $305,310.83, and during said period there were denied 799 claims. This number of claims allowed and the amount repaid includes 42 accounts, allowing repayment of $147,825.14 received in connection with pending claims for coal lands in Alaska and repaid under section 3 of the act of October 20, 1914 (38 Stat., 741).
State development.—The commissioner submits a compilation of the public-land grants made to a number of the States, illustrative of the care taken by the National Government to secure the permanent establishment of our free institutions in the new States, on their admission to the Union.
Recent legislation.—A brief summary of the legislative enactments of the Sixty-third Congress affecting the public domain is included in the commissioner's report, together with a similar statement of proposed legislation, receiving the approval of the Land Department, but failing of enactment.
Homestead law. A study has been made in the General Land Office to determine the actual investment made by homestead entrymen prior to final proof, as well as the extent of cultivation. The requisite data was secured by a compilation from the final proofs submitted on 10 homestead entries, taken at random from each of the 95 districts of the public-land States, in comparatively recent cases, by which it was found that a total of 26,297 acres were cultivated in the entire 950 claims, and the total value of the improvements placed thereon estimated at $751,151. The average cultivation thus disclosed is 27 acres, and the average value of improvements thereon $790. This is regarded as a fair demonstration of the general good faith of claimants under the homestead law.
Needed legislation.—The commissioner invites attention to legislative needs in the matter of:
(1) A special appropriation for surveys in Alaska. (2) Repeal of the swamp grant.