Page images
PDF
EPUB

than the amount of well spent money invested in the Spanish War, (and that cost but a fraction of its value) would redeem from the desert by the immemorial processes of watering the desert blisters with the Nile, half a dozen opulent Egypts. Our territory subject to this improvement is tremendous in its scope, and already invaded, bi-sected, placed within easy reach of the people at large, by all our trans-continental railroads. Those roads have been the pioneers of the popular conquests of the great States on both sides of and including the Rocky Mountains, and are going on conquering and to conquer, with the victories of peace by the policy of organization of resources the President so eloquently and earnestly recommends. His beneficent proposal must not be pushed aside on the ground that the work is of too much magnitude for us, or the assumption that we have no great deserts in our country. More caravans of Americans were lost in the deserts when pushing on from our Western borders, before the Mexican War, for California, than, according to historic records, ever perished in the lands of sand and fire of Asia or Africa. Why are the Southern shores of the Mediterranean impoverished? Why are Italy and Greece poor, and Palestine and Syria ? Why does the valley of the Euphrates decline slowly but surely and fall from the high places of Empire once so easily maintained ? It is because the people permitted the forests to perish, themselves the destroyers, so that in place of the fruitful trees of the tropics, that gave shade, and shelter and food to the people, the springs and rivulets vanished, until the deserts with a growth like cancers consumed the lands that had been those of beauty and plenty.

We of America have been losing soil through profligate ignorance in cultivation and carelessness as to the cultivation both of trees and grasses, so that we have committed to the rivers an estimable tribute, reducing the agricultural worth of farm lands in the Mississippi valley, even in the first century of their cultivation. This we must reform altogether, for it is squandering the essentials of the great hereafter, that we may promise ourselves. President Roosevelt knows the lands, many of them, where the mill streams that were once pure and glittering with food fishes, now alternate between wild torrents that wash the invaluable land away to the seas, and shrunken channels, flagrant with impurities, that are allowed to be lost to the lands they should sustain in fertility, and he has called upon the mighty National Government, established in war and expanded by peace to do a work for the people that will aid the general welfare. Such works in the enlightened lands are the surest evidence of enlightened civilization, and give the firmest .credit to the agricultural interests in its broadest sense, that has already wonderfully established itself in the more crowded continents.

The original wealth of the land has been largely reduced in proportion to population by the errors of which we are already informed. We have only to put forth our strong arms to overcome in good time and increase the capacity of our country more and more, that our lands shall be the sure foundation for the primacy of the American world power, among the Nations.

The Government is asked to help the people to their own, and do it by the potential capacities put into the hands of the Representatives of the people. The proposition is one “of the people, by the people and for the people." Forest restoration and reclamation of tillable land by irrigation are ideas formulated into policies that go together hand in hand. Those who can look back half a century upon the course of personal affairs and the messages of Presidents to Congress, would be troubled to find, if the task was imposed, a parallel to this paragraph taken from President Roosevelt's message and here presented in its breadth of view and informing force of stating truth in the public interest:

"The Department of Agriculture during the past fifteen years has steadily broadened its work on economic lines, and has accomplished results of real value in upbuilding domestic and foreign trade. It has gone into new fields until it is now in touch with all sections of our country and with two of the island groups that have lately come under our jurisdiction, whose people must look to agriculture as a livelihood. It is searching the world for grains, grasses, fruits and vegetables specially fitted for introduction into localities in the several States and Territories where they may add materially to our resources. By scientific attention to soil survey and possible new crops, to breeding of new varieties of plants, to experimental shipments, to animal industry and applied chemistry, very practical aid has been given our farming and stockgrowing interests. The products of the farm have taken an unprecedented place in our export trade during the year that has just closed.”

This utterance and that which follows has excited an interest in the policy of the President, that pervades all the States, and in the States directly concerned amounts to a pervading enthusiasm, that will make itself felt and respected. The President continues :

“Public opinion throughout the United States has moved steadily toward a just appreciation of the value of forests, whether planted or of natural growth. The great part played by them in the creation and maintenance of the National wealth is now more fully realized than ever before.

"Wise forest protection does not mean the withdrawal of forest resources, whether of wood, water or grass, from contributing their full share to the welfare of the people, but, on the contrary, gives the assurance of larger and more certain supplies. The fundamental idea of forestry is the perpetuation of forests by use. Forest protection is not an end of itself; it is a means to increase

and sustain the resources of our country and the industries which depend upon them. The preservation of our forests is an imperative business necessity. We have come to see clearly that whatever destroys the forest, except to make way for agriculture, threatens our well-being."

The President goes into details of the laws and defines the needed improvement of administration. He points out the fragments that should be united in a Bureau of Forestry. The executive power is now scattered, the protection of the forests on Government lands, the President says, rests in the reserves, and "with the General Land Office, the mapping and description of their timber with the United States Geological Survey, and the preparation of plans for their conservative use with the Bureau of Forestry, which is also charged with the general advancement of practical forestry in the United States." These various functions should be united in the Bureau of Forestry, to which they properly belong. The present diffusion of responsibility is bad from every standpoint. The President should have by law the power of transferring lands for use as forest reserves to the Department of Agriculture. He already has such power in the case of lands needed by the Departments of War and the Navy.

"The wise administration of the forest reserves will not be less helpful to the interests which depend on water than to those which depend on wood and grass. The water supply itself depends upon the forest. In the arid region it is water, not land, which measures production. The Western half of the United States would sustain a population greater than that of our whole country to-day if the waters that now run to waste were saved and used for irrigation. The forest and water problems are perhaps the most vital internal questions of the United States.

"Certain of the forest reserves should also be made preserves for the wild forest creatures. All of the reserves should be better protected from fires. Many of them need special protection because of the great injury done by live stock, above all by sheep. The increase in deer, elk, and other animals in the Yellowstone Park shows what may be expected when other mountain forests are properly protected by law and properly guarded. Some of these areas have been so denuded of surface vegetation by overgrazing that the ground breeding birds, including grouse and quail, and many mammals, including deer, have been exterminated or driven away. At the same time the water-storing capacity of the surface has been decreased or destroyed, thus promoting floods in times of rain and diminishing the flow of streams between rains.

“In cases where natural conditions have been restored for a few years, vegetation has again carpeted the ground, birds and deer are coming back, and hundreds of persons, especially from the immediate neighborhood, come each summer to enjoy the privilege of camping. Some at least of the forest reserves

[graphic][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »