Remarks at the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Utah

May 29, 1903

Mr. Governor, Mr. Mayor, Senator Kearns, and you, my fellow Americans:

I am particularly glad to have the chance to speak to you here in this city, in Utah, this morning, because you have exemplified a doctrine which it seems to me all-essential for our people ever to keep fresh in their minds—the fact that though natural resources can do a good deal, though the law can do a good deal, the fundamental requisite in building up prosperity and civilization is the requisite of individual character in the individual man or woman. Here in this State the pioneers and those who came after them took not the land that would ordinarily be chosen as land that would yield return with little effort. You took territory which at the outset was called after the desert, and you literally—not figuratively—you literally made the wilderness blossom as the rose. The fundamental element in building up Utah has been the work of the citizens of Utah. And you did it because your people entered in to possess the land and to leave it after them to their children and their children's children. You here whom I am addressing and your predecessors did not come in to exploit the land and then go somewhere else. You came in, as the Governor has said, as homemakers, to make homes for yourselves and those who should come after you; and that is the only way in which a State can be built up, in which the Nation can be built up. You have built up this great community because you came here with the purpose of making this your abiding home, and of leaving to your children not an impoverished, but an enriched heritage; and I ask that all our people from one ocean to the other, but especially the people of the arid and the semi-arid regions, the people of the great plains, the people of the mountains, approach the problem of taking care of the physical resources of the country in the spirit which has made Utah what it is. You have developed your metal wealth wonderfully; and your growth is not a boom growth—it is a thoroughly healthy, normal growth. During the past decade the population has doubled and the wealth quadrupled; and labor is employed at as high a compensation as is paid elsewhere in the world. Although you are not essentially a mining State, in the last year you marketed thirty millions' worth of ore; and again you showed your good sense in the way you handled it; for you paid five millions in dividends and you invested the balance in labor and surplus. The effort to make a big showing in dividends is not always healthy for the future. Here you have shown your wonderful capacity to develop the earth so as to make both irrigated agriculture, and stock-raising in all its forms two great industries. When you deal with a mine you take the ore out of the earth and take it away, and in the end exhaust the mine. The time may be very long in coming before it is exhausted, or it may be a short time; but in any event, mining means the exhaustion of the mine. But that is exactly what agriculture does not and must not mean.

So far from agriculture properly exhausting the land, it is always the sign of a vicious system of agriculture if the land is rendered poorer by it. The direct contrary should be the fact. After the farmer has had the farm for his life he should be able to hand it to his children as a better farm than it was when he had it.

In these regions, in the Rocky Mountain regions, it is especially incumbent upon us to treat the question of the natural pasturage, the question of the forests, and the question of the use of the waters, all from the one standpoint—the standpoint of the far-seeing statesman, of the far-seeing citizen, who wishes to preserve and not to exhaust the resources of the country, who wishes to see those resources come into the hands not of a few men of great wealth, least of all into the hands of a few men who will speculate in them; but be distributed among many men, each of whom intends to make his home in the land.

This whole so-called arid and semi-arid region is by nature the stock range of the Nation. One of the questions which are rising to confront us is how this range may be made to produce the greatest number and best quality of horses, cattle, and sheep, not only this year, not only next year, but for this generation and the next generation. The old system of grazing the ranges so closely as to injure the whole crop of grass was a serious detriment to the development of the West, a serious detriment to the development of our people.

The ranges must be treated as a great invested capital; and that old system tended to dissipate and partially to destroy that capital. That is something that we can not as a Nation of home makers permit. The wise man, the wise industry, the wise nation, maintains such capital unimpaired and tries to increase it; and more and more the range lands will be used in conjunction with the small irrigable areas which they include; so that the industry can take on a more stable character than ever before. It is impossible permanently, although it may be advisable for the time being, to move stock in a body from summer to winter ranges across country which can be made into homesteads, because when the country can itself be taken by actual settlers, in the long run it will only be possible to move the stock through hundreds of miles of dusty lanes where they can not graze, where they can not live. Our aim must be steadily to help develop the settler, the man who lives in the land and is growing up with it. and raising his children to own it after him. More and more here after the stock owners will have the necessity forced upon them of providing green summer pasturage within the limits of their own ranges; and so the question of irrigation is well-nigh as important to the stockmen as to the agriculturist proper.

In the same way our mountain forests must be preserved from the harm done by over-grazing. Let all the grazing be done in them that can be done without injury to them, but do not let the mountain forests be despoiled by the man who will overgraze them and destroy them for the sake of three years' use, then go somewhere else, and leave by so much diminished the heritage of those who remain permanently in the land. I believe that already the movement has begun which will make in the long run the stock-raisers—of whom I have been one myself, whose business I know, and with whom I feel the heartiest sympathies—through the enlightenment of their own self interest, become the heartiest defenders and the chief beneficiaries of the wise and moderate use of forest ranges, both within and without the forest reserves. It is and it must be the definite policy of this government to consider the good of all. its citizens-stockmen, lumber men, irrigators, and all others—in dealing with the forest reserves; and for that reason I most earnestly desire in every way to bring about the heartiest co-operation between the men who are doing the actual business of stock-raising, the actual business of irrigated agriculture, the actual business of lumbering—the closest and most inti mate relations, the heartiest co-operation between them and the government at Washington through the Department of Agriculture. Of course I do not have to say to any audience of intelligent people that nothing is, such an enemy to the stock industry as persistent over grazing. We shall have not far hence to raise the problem of the best method of making use of the public range. Our people have not as yet settled in their own minds what is that best method. In some way there will have to be formed such regulation as shall without undue restriction prevent the needless over-grazing, while keeping the public lands open to settlement through homestead entry. Such a policy would, of course, be of the most far-reaching benefit to the whole range industry. It is the same in dealing with our forest reserves. Almost every industry depends in some more or less vital way upon the preservation of the forests; and while citizens die, the government and the nation do not die, and we are bound in dealing with the forests to exercise the foresight necessary to use them now, but to use them in such way as will also keep them for those who are to come after us.

The first great object of the forest reserves is, of course, the first great object of the whole land policy of the United States—the creation of homes, the favoring of the home-maker. That is why we wish to provide for the home-makers of the present and the future the steady and continuous supply of timber, grass, and above all, of water. That is the object of the forest reserves, and that is why I bespeak your cordial co-operation in their preservation. Remember you must realize, what I thoroughly realize, that however wise a policy may be it can be enforced only if the people of the States believe in it. We can enforce the provisions of the forest reserve law or of any other law only so far as the best sentiment of the community or the State will permit that enforcement. Therefore it lies primarily not with the people at Washington, but with you, yourselves, to see that such policies are supported as will redound to the benefit of the home makers and therefore the sure and steady building up of the State as a whole.

One word as to the greatest question with which our people as a whole have to deal in the matter of internal development to-day—the question of irrigation. Not of recent years has any more important law been put upon the statute books of the Federal Government than the law of a year ago providing for the first time that the National Government should interest itself in aiding and building up a system of irrigated agriculture in the Rocky Mountains and Plains States. Here the government had to a large degree to sit at the feet of Gamaliel in the person of Utah; for what you had done and learned was of literally incalculable benefit to those engaged in framing and getting through the national irrigation law. Irrigation was first practiced on a large scale in this State. The necessity of the pioneers here led to the development of irrigation to a degree absolutely unknown before on this continent. In no respect is the wisdom of the early pioneers made more evident than in the sedulous care they took to provide for small farms, carefully tilled by those who lived on and benefited from them; and hence it comes about that the average amount of land required to support a family in Utah is smaller than in any other part of the United States. We all know that when you once get irrigation applied rain is a very poor substitute for it. The Federal Government must co-operate with Utah and Utah people for a further extension of the irrigated area. Many of the simpler problems of obtaining and applying water have already been solved and so well solved that, as I have said, some of the most important provisions of the Federal act, such as the control of the irrigating works by the communities they serve, such as making the water appurtenant to the land and not a source of speculation apart from the land, were based upon the experience of Utah. Of course the control of the larger streams which flow through more than one State must come under the Federal Government. Many of the great tracts which will ultimately so enlarge the cultivated area of Utah, which will ultimately so increase its population and wealth, are surrounded with intricate complications because of the high development which irrigation has already reached in this State. Necessarily the Federal officers charged with the execution of the law must proceed with great caution so as not to disturb present vested rights; but subject to that, they will go forward as fast as they can. They realize, and all men who have actually done irrigating here will realize, that no man is more timid than the practical irrigator regarding any change in the water distribution. He wants to look well before he leaps. He has learned from bitter experience that damage can come from well meant changes hastily made. The government can do a good deal; the government will do a good deal; but your experience here in Utah has shown that the greatest results which are accomplishing most spring directly from the sturdy courage, the self-denial, the willingness with iron resolution to endure the risk and the suffering, of the pioneers; for they were the men who sought and found a livelihood in what was once a desert, and they must be protected in the legitimate fruits of their toil. One of the tasks that the government must do here in Utah is to build reservoirs for the storage of the flood waters, to undertake works too great to be undertaken by private capital. Great as the task is, and great as its benefits will become, the government must do still more. Beside the storage of the water there must be protection of the watersheds; and that is why I ask you to help the National Government to protect the watersheds by protecting the forests upon them.

Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks at the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Utah Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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