National Geographic : 1976 Jul
Loans for 54 million dollars were guaranteed by HUD, the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Federal commit ments and outright grants-subsidizing de velopers, builders, tenants, and homeowners over the past quarter of a century-total nearly 120 billion dollars. But construction has been stalled by litiga tion; the Cedar-Riverside Environmental Defense Fund objected to too much density. Near Jamestown in North Dakota, the state most reliant on farming, I stand on the Potholes edge of the Great Plains. This is the re for ducks gion of the prairie pot or prairie holes, where farm and to be wildlife interests clash. plowed? Potholes measure a tenth of an acre to sev eral hundred acres; some are wet all year, but most hold water only during two or three months-a few inches to several feet deep. To the biologists of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service they are things of beauty, full of nourishment for nesting ducks. This glaciated pothole region-ranging from Minnesota through the Dakotas and into Canada-produces a major portion of all the waterfowl in North America. I see coots, rails, teals; a ruddy duck, a pied-billed grebe; canvasbacks; a white pelican. A biologist says that farmers plow up what's left of the mixed-grass prairie and drain the potholes. "It's the old Judeo Christian ethic, you know-man has domin ion over nature, you tame it and subdue the land. That and the free-enterprise system. Every farmer feels he can do with his land whatever he wants. "We need a strong land-use law; some of the hilly areas here should never be plowed, or erosion will take the topsoil off. They should be left for grazing." The farmers I meet are grandsons and great-grandsons of Swedes, Norwegians, Ger mans who arrived in the 1870's, when this was the end of the Northern Pacific Railroad. The Federal Government had the public domain surveyed into squares, in a grid pat tern such as proposed by Thomas Jefferson. Each section is a square mile, 640 acres. To encourage railroads to build tracks out to MOUNTAINS in New York City? Plains in the Rock ies? In this computer drawn depiction of American population growth, densely peo pled areas become mountains and sparsely settled areas show LOS ANGELES SEATTLE PORTLANDA l Al 816i Century-old F Republic shows a populated northeastern seaboard and a sprouting populace around San Francisco. Pushing the frontiers before them, some 46 million Americans occupied most of the country east of the Great Plains. 776 When the nation Swas born, nearly all of its estimated 21/2 million citizens lived within 200 miles of the Atlantic seaboard. One small isolated area, centering in Kentucky, was opened to settlement in the 1770's by Daniel Boone.