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Conservation of Natural Re Sources

resources, public, waste, national, methods, private, timber and exhausted

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CONSERVATION OF NATURAL RE SOURCES. The conservation movement, first clearly started in the United States in 1908, aims to protect and to develop the fullest per manent usefulness of the great national re sources — forests, lands, minerals and waters whose use has heretofore been accompanied by such great waste. Its chief principles are that the resources shall not be wasted, that the national resources shall be administered by the national government and that both public and private resources shall be administered with some reference to the interests of future gen erations. The movement is also part of a general effort to prevent the private monopoly of valuable resources. Its chief purpose is to secure by intelligent direction a wise and ca.e ful use of national resources, but not to with hold them from necessary use. In the case of some resources (as timber) its problem is to provide for renewal as used; in the case of others (as minerals) its problem is to secure more careful use or substitutes, and prevention of waste.

The American people, bred to carelessness and drifting. policy, in the midst of plenty, be came known for their wastefulness. In the long period of the settlement of new lands, the natural resources, regarded as practically un limited, were exploited with prodigal waste. The pioneers claimed the right to and the right to exterminate whatever stood in the way of occupation. They destroyed valuable timber, wild game and fur-bearing animals. They would have exhausted the fishing grounds but for the work of the State and national fish commissions. Great lumber companies used commercial methods which proved even more destructive than the acts of the pioneer. Fires, both from heedless and intentional sources, were frequently' more destructive than the wasteful methods of lumbering. Deforestation, resulting from American reckless policy, brought indirect losses even more serious than the direct loss of timber — the losses from erosion and serious depletion of soil, irregu larity of stream-flow, flood and landslides. Unrestricted by national regulations, the cattle barons, by a system of wasteful exploitation, ruthlessly and rapidly exhausted the public pasture land of the great watershed between the Mississippi and the Rockies. The sheep herders followed and completed the work of depletion, precipitating disputes with the cattle men over the public range to which neither had a legal title. The pioneer farmers by reckless exploitation and unscientific methods exhausted the farm lands. The pioneer exploiters of coal mines exhausted the mineral resources by crim inal waste. The pioneer oil men wantonly de

stroyed natural gas. The same heedless waste characterized the early stages of exploitation in the mining of precious metals. The captains of industry were no less ruthless in the ex plonation of the energy of human beings in factories, foundries and mines, and in railway service, by methods which contributed to the general industrial waste.

Americans, who until the close of the 19th century still exulted in the strength of their limitless resources, in the first decade of the 20th century began to regard the protection of the rights of the people in the public domain as more important than the immediate exploita tion of its wealth, and began to favor public control and legislative limitations on private enterprise as essential to industrial liberty and the general welfare. Fearing the exhaustion of their natural resources, they expressed their fear in a well-developed movement for con servation. They urged more careful attention the soil with a view to restoration of fer tility by scientific farming. They favored gov ernment projects for extension of irrigation begun by private enterprise. They sought to find plants and methods which would bring crops to semi-arid areas and unirrigated deserts. They sought through national apd State gov ernments and great corporations to establish forest reserves to prevent exhaustion of timber and to prevent alternate floods and droughts, and encouraged scientific study of forest prob lems. They began an agitation to prevent waste of supplies of coal and iron, and to save coal supply, by urging the importance of the pres ervation and development of latent water power to produce electricity. They were awakening to the fact that power sites should be leased, not sold or given away, and that privileges of using this natural source of wealth should be granted on terms conserving the rights of the public to adequate service at a reasonable charge. They lessened the demands on forest and iron ore by use of cement as a substitute for wood and iron. Finding that a large amount of the resources upon which the future must depend were held by a comparatively few indi viduals or corporations, they began to demand that the unappropriated resources should be ad ministered primarily for the benefit of the public, and that those already in private hands should be subject to government control. They began to urge selection of trained experts to study the economic utilization of resources, and co-operation to regulate the life of the community for the good of all.

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