National Geographic : 1897 Feb
54 THE UTILIZATION OF THE VACANT PUBLIC LANDS (2) through the agency of irrigation companies; and (3) by the states controlling the waters within their respective borders. On March 20, 1888, Congress passed a joint resolution direct ing the Secretary of the Interior, through the direction of the Geological Survey, to make an examination of that portion of the arid region where agriculture is carried on by means of irri gation, as to the natural advantage of the storage of water, and the practicability and cost of construction and capacity of reser voirs, and such other facts as bear on the question of the storage of water for irrigation purposes. This resolution was followed by legislation making 'appropriations to enable the Director of the Geological Survey to make the necessary examination, and he was authorized to select sites suitable for the storage reservoirs contemplated by the resolution, which were to remain segregated and reserved from entry, occupation, and settlement until other wise provided by law. Under this authority 120 suitable sites have been selected, and the lands covered by such selections have been reserved from entry, occupation, and settlement, but to this day no provision has been made for their utilization. The plan of reclamation through the agency of land and irri gation companies would not, in my judgment, be commended by the people, and although it might be effective in putting under irrigation all the territory possibly susceptible of irriga tion by the water that could be stored, yet it would hardly be possible to make such limitations and restrictions upon a grant of such power as would absolutely protect the settler against ex tortion and oppression. The third appears to be the most feasible plan for the utiliza tion of the arid lands. The right to the use of the water being under the absolute control of the state, it would, if it controlled the land also, be enabled so to direct and govern the appropria tion of it as to secure, by a judicious selection of the lands to be irrigated, the most economical and practical use. It would en able the state to check the waste growing out of faulty construc tion of dams and imperfect systems of applying water. The settler on a tract of desert land who has acquired a right to the use of water is interested solely in the application of it to his particular tract, with no responsibility for its economical use. The land is abundant, but the water is scarce, and if we expect to reap advantages by utilizing the water to the greatest extent, it must be accomplished by reclaiming the lands before they are disposed of. This can be accomplished more effectively by the states than through the general government or other agencies.