Frank Albert Fetter.

Source book in economics, selected and ed. for the use of college classes online

. (page 9 of 30)
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ing heard the report and "having fully deliberated thereon," indorsed
it "as a wise, just, and patriotic statement of the resources of the
nation, of the thoughtless and profligate manner in which some of these
resources have been and are being wasted, and of the urgent need for
their conservation in the interests of this and future generations, to
the end that the prosperity and perpetuity of the nation may be as-

The report opens with a general statement of the causes arousing
public interest in the subject. Omitting this and a number of the
recommendations of legislation contained in the report, the following
extract reproduces almost entire the remarkably compact stateni,ent of
facts regarding our national resources at the time of the report. The
complete report accompanied by Proceedings of the Joint Conservation
Conference, and by numerous scientific papers (in all nearly 1800
pages) was published as Senate Document 676, for the 60th Congress,
2d session. Vols. 10, 11, 12.]

Minerals. The mineral production of the United States for
1907 exceeded $2,000,000,000, and contributed 65 per cent, of
the total freight traffic of the country. The waste in the
extraction and treatment of mineral products during the same
year was equivalent to more than $300,000,000.

The production for 1907 included 395,000,000 tons of bi-
tuminous and 85,000,000 tons of anthracite coal, 166,000,000
barrels of petroleum, 52,000,000 tons of iron ore, 2,500,000



tons of phosphate rock, and 869,000,000 pounds of copper.
The values of other mineral products during the same year
included clay products, $162,000,000; stone, $71,000,000;
cement, $56,000,000; natural gas, $53,000,000; gold, $90,000,-
000 ; silver, $37,000,000 ; lead $39,000,000 ; and zinc, $26,000,-

The available and easily aeeessihle supplies of coal in
the United States aggregate approximately 1,400,000,000,000
tons. At the present increasing rate of production this sup-
ply "will be so depleted as to approach exhaustion before the
middle of the next century.

The known supply of high-grade iron ores in the United
States approximates 4,788,150,000 tons, which at the present
increasing rate of consumption can not be expected to last
beyond the middle of the present century. In addition to
this, there are assumed to be 75,116,070,000 tons of lower
grade iron ores which are not available for use under exist-
ing conditions.

The supply of stone, clay, cement, lime, sand, and salt
is ample, while the stock of the precious metals and of copper,
lead, zinc, sulphur, asphalt, graphite, quicksilver, mica, and
the rare metals can not well be estimated, but is clearly
exhaustible within one to three centuries unless unexpected
deposits be found.

The known supply of petroleum is estimated at fifteen billion
to twenty billion barrels, distributed through six separate
fields having an aggregate area of 8,900 square miles. The
production is rapidly increasing, while the wastes and the
loss through misuse are enormous. The supply cannot be
expected to last beyond the middle of the present century.

The known natural-gas fields aggregate an area of 9,000
square miles, distributed through twenty-two States. Of the
total yield from these fields during 1907, 400,000,000,000 cubic
feet, valued at $62,000,000, were utilized, while an equal
quantity was allowed to escape into the air. The daily waste
of natural gas — the most perfect known fuel — is over 1,000,-


000,000 cubic feet, or enough, to supply every city in the
United States of over 100,000 population.

Phosphate rock, used for fertilizer, represents the slow
accumulation of organic matter during past ages. In most
countries it is most scrupulously preserved; in this country
it is extensively exported, and largely for this reason its
production is increasing rapidly. The original supply cannot
long withstand the increasing demand.

The consumption of nearly all our mineral products is
increasing far more rapidly than our population. In many
cases the waste is increasing more rapidly than the number
of our people. In 1776 but a few dozen pounds of iron ore
were in use by the average family; now our annual consump-
tion of high-grade ore is over 1,200 pounds per capita. In
1812 no coal was used ; now the consumption is over five tons
and the waste nearly three tons per capita.

While the production is increasing enormously, the waste
and loss in mining are diminishing. At the beginning of our
mineral development the coal abandoned in the mine was two
or three times the amount taken out and used. Now the mine
waste averages little more than half the amount saved. The
chief waste is in imperfect combustion in furnaces and fire
boxes. Steam engines utilize on the average about 8 per cent,
of the thermal energy of the coal. Internal combustion en-
gines utilize less than 20 per cent., and in electric lighting far
less than 1 per cent, of the thermal energy is rendered avail-

With increasing industries new mineral resources become
available from time to time. Some lignites and other low-
grade coals are readily gasified and, through the develop-
ment of internal-combustion engines, may be made to check
the consumption of high-grade coals.

Peat is becoming important ; it is estimated that 14,000,000,-
000 tons are available in the United States. Its value is en-
hanced because of distribution through States generally
remote from the fields of coal, oil, and natural gas.


The uses of all our mineral resources are interdependent.
This is especially true of coal and iron, of which neither
can be produced or used without aid from the other, and in
the production or reduction of all other minerals both coal
and iron are employed. The same standard minerals are
necessary to the development of power, of which the use is
increasing more rapidly than that of any other commodity.

The building operations of the country now aggregate about
$1,000,000,000 per year. The dn^ect and indirect losses from
fire in the United States during 1907 approximated $450,000,-
000, or one-half the cost of construction. Of this loss four-
lifths, or an average of $1,000,000 per day, could Ije prevented,
as shown by comparison with the standards of construction
and tire losses in the larger European countries.

So far as the ores are taken from the mines and reduced to
metals, these resources are capitalized; but after thus being
changed to a more valuable form they should be so used as to
reduce to a minimum the loss by rust, electrolytic action,
and other wastes. , . .

"While the distribution and quantity of most of our im-
portant mineral substances are known in a general way, there
is imperative need for further surveys and investigations
and for researches concerning the less-known minerals.

Lands. The total land area of continental United States
is 1,920,000,000 acres. Of this but little more than two-
fifths is in farms, and less than one-half of the farm area is im-
proved and made a source of crop production. We have
nearly 6,000,000 farms; they average 146 acres each. The
value of the farms is nearly one-fourth the wealth of the
United States. There are more than 300,000,000 acres of
public grazing land. The number of persons engaged in
agricultural pursuits is more than 10.000,000. . . .

There has been a slight increase in the average yield of
our great staple farm products, but neither the increase in
acreage nor the yield per acre has kept pace with our increase
in population. Within a century we shall probably have to


feed three times as many people as now; and the main bulk
of our food must be grown on our own soil.

The area of cultivated land may possibly be doubled. In
addition to the land awaiting the plow, 75,000,000 acres of
swamp land can be reclaimed, 40.000,000 acres of desert land
irrigated, and millions of acres of brush and wooded land
cleared. Our population will increase continuously, but there
is a definite limit to the increase of our cultivated acreage.
Hence we must greatly increase the yield per acre. The av-
erage yield of wheat in the United States is less than 14 bushels
per acre, in Germany 28 bushels, and in England 32 bushels.
We get 30 bushels of oats per acre, England nearly 45, and
Germany more than 47. Our soils are fertile, but our mode
of farming neither conserves the soil nor secures full crop
returns. Soil fertility need not be diminished, but may be in-
creased. The large yields now obtained from farms in Eu-
rope which have been cultivated for a thousand years prove
this conclusively. Proper management will double our av-
erage yield per acre. The United States can grow the farm
products needed by a population more than three times as
great as our country now contains.

The greatest unnecessary loss of our soil is preventable
erosion. Second only to this is the waste, nonuse, and misuse
of fertilizer derived from animals and men.

The losses to farm products due to injurious mammals is
estimated at $130,000,000 annually; the loss through plant
diseases reaches several hundred million dollars ; and the loss
through insects is reckoned at $659,000,000. The damage by
birds is balanced by their beneficent work in destroying nox-
ious insects. Losses due to the elements are large, but no
estimate has been made of them. Losses to live stock from
these causes are diminishing because of protection and feeding
during winter. The annual losses from disease among do-
mestic animals are: Horses, 1.8 per cent; cattle 2 per cent.;
sheep, 2.2 per cent., and swine, 5.1 per cent. Most of these
farm losses are preventable.


There is a tendency toward consolidation of farm lands.
The estimated area of al)andoued farms is ]G,000 s((nare miles,
or about 3 per cent, of the improved land. The causes of
abandonment differ in different parts of the country. Where
most prevalent, it is caused principally by erosion and ex-
haustion of the soil.

The product of the fisheries of the United States has an an-
nual value of $57,000,000. Fish culture is carried on by the
nation and the States on an enormous scale. Most of the more
important food species are jDropagated, and several species are
maintained in that way. Fish from forest waters furnish
$21,000,000 worth of food yearly, a supply dependent on the
preservation of the forests.

Our wild game and fur-bearing animals have been largely
exterminated. To prevent their complete extinction the
States and the United States have taken in hand their protec-
tion, and their numbers are now increasing. Forest game
yields over $10,000,000 worth of food each year.

With game birds the story is much the same — wanton de-
struction nntil the number has been greatly reduced, followed
in recent years by wise j)rotection, which in some cases allows
the remnant to survive and even to increase.

Each citizen of the United States owns an equal undivided
interest in about 387,000,000 acres of public lands, exclusive
of Alaska and the insular possessions. Besides this there are
about 235,000,000 acres of national forests, national parks, and
other lands devoted to public use. . . .

Forests. Next to our need of food and water comes our
need of timber.

Our industries which subsist wholly or mainly upon wood
pay the wages of more than 1,500,000 men and women.

Forests not only grow timber, but they hold the soil and
they conserve the streams. They abate the wind and give
protection from excessive heat and cold. Woodlands make for
the filler, health, and happiness of the citizen and the nation.

Our forests now cover 550,000,000 acres, or about one- fourth


of the United States. The original forests covered not less
than 850,000,000 acres.

Forests publicly owned contain one-fifth of all our standing
timber. Forests privately owned contain four-fifths of the
standing timber. The timber privately owned is not only
four times that publicly owned, but is generally more valuable.

Forestry is now practised on 70 per cent, of the forests
publicly owned and on less than 1 per cent, of the forests
privately owned, or on only 18 per cent, of the total area of

The yearly growth of wood in our forests does not average
more than 12 cubic feet per acre. This gives a total yearly
growth of less than 7,000,000,000 cubic feet.

We have 200,000,000 acres of mature forests, in which yearly
growth is balanced by decay; 250,000,000 acres partly cut
over or burned over, but restocking naturally with enough
young growth to produce a merchantable crop, and 100,000,000
acres cut over and burned over, upon which young growth is
lacking or too scanty to make merchantable timber.

We take from our forests yearly, including waste in logging,
and in manufacturing, 23,000,000,000 cubic feet of wood. . . .

Since 1870 forest fires have destroyed a yearly average of
fifty lives and $50,000,000 worth of timber. Not less than 50,-
000,000 acres of forest is burned over yearly. The young
growth destroyed by fire is worth far more than the merchant-
able timber burned.

One-fourth of the standing timber is lost in logging. The
boxing of long-leaf pine for turpentine has destroyed one-fifth
of the forests worked. The loss in the mill is from one-third
to two-thirds of the timber sawed. The loss of mill product in
seasoning and fitting for use is from one-seventh to one-fourth.

Of each 1,000 feet which stood in the forest, an average
of only 320 feet of lunaber is used.

We take from our forests each year, not counting the loss
by fire, three and a half times their yearly growth. We take
40 cubic feet per acre for each 12 cubic feet grown; we take


260 cubic feet per capita, while Germany uses 37 and France
25 cubic feet.

AVe tax our forests under the general property tax, a method
abandoned long ago by every other great nation. Present tax
laws prevent reforestation of cut-over land and the perpetua-
tion of existing forests by use.

Great damage is done to standing timber by injurious in-
sects. ]\Iuch of this damage can be prevented at small ex-

To protect our farms from wind and to reforest land best
suited for forest growth will require tree planting on an area
larger than Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia combined.
Lands so far successfully planted make a total area smaller
than Rhode Island ; and year by year, through careless cutting
and fires, we lower the capacity of existing forests to produce
their like again, or else totally destroy them.

In spite of substitutes we shall always need much wood. So
far our use of it has steadily increased. The condition of the
world's supply of timber makes us already dependent upon
what we produce. We send out of our country one and a half
times as much timber as we bring in. Except for finishing
woods, relatively small in amount, we must grow our own
supply or go without. Until we pay for our lumber what it
costs to grow it, as well as what it costs to log and saw, the
price will continue to rise.

The preservation by use, under the methods of practical
forestry, of all public forest lands, either in State or federal
ownership, is essential to the permanent public welfare. In
many forest States the acquirement of additional forest lands
as State forests is necessary to the best interests of the States

The conservation of our mountain forests, as in the Appa-
lachian system, is a national necessity. These forests are re-
(juired to aid in the regulation of streams used for naviga-
tion and other purposes. The conservation of these forests is
impracticable through private enterprise alone, by any State


alone, or by the Federal Government alone. Effective and
immediate cooperation between these three agencies is es-
sential. Federal ownership of limited protective areas upon
important watersheds, effective State fire patrol, and the co-
operation of private forest owners are all required.

The true remedy for unwise tax laws lies not in laxity in
their application nor in special exemptions, but in change in
the method of taxation. An annual tax upon the land itself
exclusive of the value of the timber, and a tax upon the timber
when cut, is well adapted to actual conditions of forest in-
vestment, and is practicable and certain. It is far better that
forest land should pay a moderate tax permanently than that
it should pay an excessive revenue temporarily and then cease
to pay at all.

Forests in private ownership can not be preserved unless
they are protected from fire. We need good fire laws, well
enforced. Fire control is impossible without an adequate
force of men whose sole duty is fire patrol during the danger-
ous season.

The conservative use of the forest and of timber by Ameri-
can citizens will not be general until they learn how to practise
forestry. Through a vigorous national campaign in educa-
tion, forestry has taken root in the great body of American
citizenship. The basis already exists upon which to build
a structure of forest conservation which will endure. This
needs the definite commitment of State governments and the
Federal Government to their inherent duty of teaching the
people how to care for their forests. The final responsibility,
both for investigative work in forestry and for making its re-
sults known, rests upon the States and upon the nation.

By reasonable thrift, we can produce a constant timber sup-
ply beyond our present need, and with it conserve the useful-
ness of our streams for irrigation, water supply, navigation,
and power.

Under right management our forests will yield over four
times as much as now. We can reduce waste in the woods and


m the mill at. least oiic-lhird, with present as well as future
l>rolit. We can perpetuate the naval-stores industry. Pre-
servative treatment will reduce by one-fiith the (piautity of
timber used in the water or in the ground. We can practi-
cally stop I'oi'est fires at a cost yearly of one-fifth the value of
the merchantable timber burned.

We shall suffer for timber to meet our needs until our
forests have had time to grow again. But if we act vigorously
and at once we shall escape permanent timber scarcity.

Waters. The sole source of our fresh water is rainfall,
including snow. From this source all running, standing, and
grountl w^aters are derived. The habitability of the country
depends on these waters. Our mean annual rainfall is about
thirty inches; the quantity about 215 trillion cubic feet per
year, ecpiivalent to ten Mississippi rivers.

Of the total rainfall, over half is evaporated ; about a third
flows into the sea; the remaining sixth is either consumed or
absorbed. These portions are sometimes called, respectively,
the fly-off, the run-off and the cut-off. They are partly inter-
changeable. About a third of the runoff or a tenth of the
entire rainfall, passes through the Mississippi. The run-off
is increasing with deforestation and cultivation.

Of the 70 trillion cubic feet annually flowing into the sea,
less than 1 per cent, is retained and utilized for municipal
and community supply; less than 2 per cent, (or some 10 per
cent, of that in the arid and semiarid regions) is used for ir-
rigation; perhaps 5 per cent, is used for navigation, and less
than 5 per cent, for power.

For municipal and community water supply tliere are pro-
tected catchment areas aggregating over 1.000,000 acres, and
over $250,000,000 are invested in waterworks, with nearly as
much more in the appurtenant catchment areas and other
lands. The population so supplied approaches 10,000.000, and
the annual consumption is about 37,500,000,000 cubic feet.
The better managed systems protect the catchment areas by
forests and grass ; the water is controlled and the storm prod-


uct used, but there is large waste after the water enters the

For irrigation it is estimated that there are $200,000,000 in-
vested in dams, ditches, reservoirs, and other works for the
partial control of the waters, and that 1,500 billion cubic feet
are annually diverted to irrigable lands, aggregating some
20,000 square miles. Except in some cases through forestry,
few catchment areas are controlled, and few reservoirs are
large enough to hold the storm waters. The waste in the pub-
lic and private projects exceeds 60 per cent., while no more
than 25 per cent, of the water actually available for irriga-
tion of the arid lands is restrained and diverted.

There are in continental United States 287 streams navi-
gated for an aggregate of 26,226 miles, and as much more
navigable if improved. There are also 45 canals, aggregating
2,189 miles, besides numerous abandoned canals. Except
through forestry in recent years, together with a few reservoirs
and canal locks and movable dams, there has been little ef-
fort to control headwaters or catchment areas in the interests
of navigation, and none of our rivers are navigated to more
than a small fraction even of their effective low-water

The water power now in use is 5.250,000 horse-power; the
amount running over government dams and not used is about
1,400,00 horse-power; the amount reasonably available equals
or exceeds the entire mechanical power now in use, or enough
to operate every mill, drive every spindle, propel every train
and boat, and light every city, town, and village in the coun-
try. While the utilization of water power ranks among our
most recent and most rapid industrial developments, little ef-
fort has been made to control catchment areas or storm waters
in any large way for power, though most plants effect local
control through reservoirs and other works. Nearly all the
freshet and flood water runs to waste, and the low waters
which limit the efficiency of power plants are increasing in
frequency and duration with the increasing flood run-off.


The practical utility ol" streams for both navigation and
power is measured by the effective low-water stage. The
volume carried when the streams rise above this stage is
largely wasted and often does serious damage. The direct
yearly damage by floods since 1900 has increased steadily from
$J 5,000,000 to over $2:58,000,000. The intlirect loss through
depreciation of property is great, while a large loss arises in
impeded traffic through navigation and terminal transfers.

The freshets are attended by destructive soil erosion. The
soil matter annually carried into lower rivers and harbors
or into the sea is computed at 783,000,000 tons. Soil wash
reduces by 10 or 20 per cent, the productivity of upland farms
and increases channel cutting and bar building in the rivers.
The annual loss to the farms alone is fully $500,000,000, and
large losses follow the fouling of the waters and the diminished
navigability of the streams.

Through imperfect control of the running waters lowlands
are temporarily or permanently flooded. It is estimated that
there are in mainland United States about 75,000,000 acres of
overflow and swamp lands requiring drainage; that by sys-
tematic operation these can be drained at moderate expense,
and that they would then be worth two or three times the pres-
ent value and cost of drainage, and would furnish homes for
10,000,000 people.

It is estimated that the quantity of fresh water stored in
lakes and ponds (including the American portion of the Great
Lakes) is about 600 trillion cubic feet, equivalent to three-
years' rainfall or eight years' run-off. Some 6,000,000 of our
people draw their water supply from lakes.

A large part of that half of the annual rainfall not
evaporated lodges temporarily in the soil and earth. It is
estimated that the ground Avater to the depth of 100 feet
averages 16% per cent, of the earth volume, or over 1,400 tril-
lion cubic feet, equivalent to seven years' rainfall or twenty
years' run-off. This subsurface reservoir is the essential basis

of agriculture and other industries and is the chief natural re-


source of this country. It sustains forests and all other crops
and supplies the perennial springs and streams and wells used
by four-fifths of our population and nearly all our domestic
animals. Its quantity is diminished by the increased run-
off due to deforestation and injudicious farming. Although
the volume of the available ground water is subject to control

Online LibraryFrank Albert FetterSource book in economics, selected and ed. for the use of college classes → online text (page 9 of 30)