National Geographic : 1890 Jul
The IrrigationProblem in Montana. 213 That irrigation enterprises will have great and rapid develop ment in Montana in the near future will be readily perceived from the facts shown later on in this article, while I am fully convinced that it is now entering on that period. The histories of both California and Colorado have shown that great mining activity have brought to them a large population who were enabled to gain a livelihood by mining pursuits, while the demand for farm products created by the miners, caused these people to turn their attention to agriculture, which is now rapidly surpassing in money value the output of the mines. In California in the " fifties " mining was the supreme and only occupation, to-day agriculture is her mainstay; in the early " seventies" the same was true of Colorado, and now agriculture is rapidly becoming her most important industry. While Mon tana is to-day in the van in mining resources and output, the time for the supremacy of agriculture within her borders has received an increased impetus by her recent accession to State hood. In Montana the irrigation problem presents some features which are scarcely encountered in any other country. Usually irrigation is practiced in semi-tropic and desert regions where though water is scarce, the climate is such that a great variety of agricultural products usually of the better paying varieties can be raised, in consequence of which enormous sums may be spent in irrigation works, thus imposing a heavy tax per acre on the land for their construction, and still, such is the pro ductiveness of these regions, that the lands will yield fair profits. In Montana the reverse is the case, water is generally abundant though sufficiently inaccessible in the larger streams to require extensive works in order to render it available, while the land though equally abundant also, will owing to the climate admit of the cultivation only of the less profitable crops, mainly hay, grain and potatoes, in consequence of which the cost of construction of the irrigation works becomes a question of vital moment, since a tax of a few cents per acre one way or the other will render the pursuit of agriculture a success or a failure, and decide the fate of the irrigation enterprises. It is probable that $10.00 per acre for a water right in per petuity, or $2.00 per acre per annum for the use of water is the maximum charge which the crops will bear.